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Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009 03:36 am

Taking us for a ride on health care

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
PHOTO BY BILL ROTH/MCT
If you get a thrill from taking a white-knuckle ride on a loop-the-loop, you don’t have to wait for next year’s state fair — just hop onto the right-wing express, which is plunging into ludicrous levels of loopiness in an effort to kill Barack Obama’s health care reform plan.

You’ll shriek with astonishment as alarmist right-wing pundits and politicos hurtle you past reality, past credulity and past sanity. Their wildest twist, so far, is that the demonic Obama has included “death panels” at the core of his insidious rewrite of our health care system. Yes, they cry, buried down deep in the bill at page 425 is a bone-chilling provision to create federal review panels empowered to decide whether the old, sick and disabled are allowed to live.

Impossible, you scoff? Well, none other than Sarah Palin says it’s so, and we know she doesn’t make stuff up. Citing her own elderly parents and her baby with Down syndrome, the ex-veep contender recently wailed that they “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.”

In case you didn’t grasp the horror of these governmental grim reapers, Palin added this punctuation: “Such a system is downright evil.”

Indeed, it is. Which is one reason that Obama and the Congress have not even contemplated such a provision, much less included it in the bill. Section 1233, which Palin claims is the one containing the evil, merely allows doctors to hold voluntary consultations with their patients on such matters as a living will and other advance instructions on the care the patients choose to receive as their inevitable time of death approaches.

The section provides Medicare funding if you would like to have your doctor to help you consider such questions as whether you want to be kept alive in a permanent vegetative state.

Either Palin and her crack team of speech writers never bothered to read Section 1233, or they deliberately perverted its meaning for political purposes. It would be one thing if this were just another of her goofy flights of fantasy, but the lie about hooded bureaucrats of death whacking grandpa has also been gleefully perpetuated by the likes of Newt Gingrich, Sen. Chuck Grassley, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and a stampeding herd of other anti-Obama truth-stompers.

Rudy Giuliani even invented a new lie to keep the flimflam going. Conceding that Section 1233 does not create death panels, he insisted that forced euthanasia was an inherent part of Obama’s hellish plan. “It is natural,” opined Guiliani last week, “that some people would believe, particularly since (the Democrats) have these provisions (in the bill) for end-of-life decision-making councils, that it is natural that people would suggest that one of the ways you would do that is to cut off care for the elderly.”

Uh ... Rudy, there are no “end-of-life decision-making councils” anywhere in the legislation. And there’s nothing natural about you asserting otherwise.

The loopiest part of the right wing’s obsession with and distortion of Section 1233 is that the chief champion of putting it in the reform package was not Obama, nor even a Democrat. It was Johnny Isakson — a Republican, pro-life senator from Georgia. He has been advocating end-of-life planning for years.

“I believe it is every person’s right and responsibility to make sure their loved ones are prepared to make decisions on their behalf by discussing and documenting their wishes,” he said in 2005. That’s what Section 1233 promotes. The claim by Palin, et al. that the section hides death panels within it is, as Isakson so succinctly puts it, “nuts.”

Indeed, a similar provision for end-of-life discussions has already been included in Medicare law for some patients. Guess who added it? The 2003 Republican Congress, and the bill was signed by George W. So, in other words, Republicans were for Section 1233 before they were against it.

But such facts are inconvenient to those trying to kill heath care reform. When you get on board the right-wing loop-the-loop, reality is not permitted to interfere with a scary political ride.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.
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