The Hill Rehabs Palin's “Death Panels”

There are no death panels. There never was a death panel. There never will be a death panel. The Affordable Care Act does not provide for state-assisted euthanasia, so there's absolutely no reason for a newspaper to casually refer to any part of it as a “death panel.”

And yet, here's The Hill's “Healthwatch” blog doing just that in an article on the ACA's Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which is designed to reduce the growth rate of spending in Medicare, under the headline, “ObamaCare 'death panel' faces growing opposition from Dems”:

ObamaCare's cost-cutting board -- memorably called a “death panel” by Sarah Palin -- is facing growing opposition from Democrats who say it will harm people on Medicare.


Public awareness of the board shot up last year when Palin called it a “death panel,” connecting the IPAB to her previous attacks on a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning in the Affordable Care Act.

“Though I was called a liar for calling it like it is, many of these accusers finally saw that ObamaCare did in fact create a panel of faceless bureaucrats who have the power to make life and death decisions about healthcare funding,” Palin wrote on Facebook.

This claim experienced a revival on the right after Dean published his op-ed, which argued that the board would ultimately ration care for Medicare patients.

“The IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them,” Dean wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“Getting rid of the IPAB is something Democrats and Republicans ought to agree on.”

The piece quickly went viral, prompting conservative bloggers and Fox News hosts to cheer: “Dean confirms that Sarah Palin was right!”

Sarah Palin was not right. Sarah Palin was never right. And The Hill certainly shouldn't be giving the impression that Palin's “death panel” nonsense has somehow been vindicated. 

Palin's first deployment of “death panel” in August 2009 was in reference to the Advanced Care Planning provision of the House health care bill, and she said it would “decide” whether senior citizens and the disabled were “worthy of health care.” This was a lie, and Palin got called out on it, earning herself Politifact's “Lie of the Year” award.

In December of 2009, Palin switched it up and tried claiming that IPAB (which originated in the Senate's health care bill) was what she was talking about all along and that “this type of rationing” was “precisely what I meant when I used that metaphor.” This was also a lie; the law does not allow for the IPAB to make “any recommendation to ration health care... or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.”

Everything Sarah Palin has said about “death panels” and the health care law has been wrong. The whole “death panel” fiasco is a case study in how ignorant and inflammatory garbage can derail an important policy debate. And The Hill should know better than to treat it as anything but that.