POLITICS
06/29/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

'Death Panels' Debate Returns To Congress: Congressman Building Support For Proposal

The House health care provision that Sarah Palin warned would lead to "death panels" never made it into the final bill, but its backers plan to resuscitate it.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who shepherded the amendment through the Ways and Means Committee, is building House support for stand-alone passage of the legislation that would allow Medicare to reimburse health care providers for consulting with patients about end-of-life decisions.

Palin's charge that the effort amounted to a "death panel" was either a lie, willfully ignorant fear mongering, or genuine confusion. Regardless, it was false. Palin herself signed a proclamation celebrating Healthcare Decisions Day during her stint as Alaska's governor. The purpose was to "raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for health care decisions, related to end of life care and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to encourage the specific use of advance directives to communicate these important health care decisions."

Blumenauer hopes a common-sense, civil dialogue will meet his proposal -- which passed the House last year -- this time around.

"Before this got hijacked by Sarah Palin and others' talking points, it was actually bipartisan in nature," Blumenauer said. (His comments were first reported Wednesday evening in the newsletter HuffPost Hill).

Because the health care bill never went to conference, the provision could not be included in the final reconciliation package that made changes to the Senate bill. But, Blumenauer noted that the provision passed the House even after the flare up led by Palin during the summer.

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost.

And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course," Palin charged on her Facebook page. "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

Palin's quote marks do not relate to anything that exists in reality as none of those terms are present in Blumenauer's bill.

Indeed, shortly after Palin made the charge, Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson (Ga.) deemed the accusation "nuts." Under the language of the bill, no doctor or patient would be required to participate in any end-of-life consultation.

On May 13, OWL, an organization advocating for older women, hosts a forum with Blumenauer and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) on the Hill to discuss end-of-life issues.

Blumenauer hopes that with health care behind Congress, a reasonable debate can be held, although election season rarely fosters much that is reasonable. "This could probably could pass on suspension," with two-thirds support in the House, he said, "when you remove it from the heated rhetoric."