[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/02/art.macpalin0802.gi.jpg caption="Sen. McCain spoke out Sunday about a controversial provision in some versions of health care reform legislation - a provision dubbed 'death panels' by his former running mate."]
(CNN) - Sen. John McCain says loose language in Democratic health-care bills fueled claims by his former running mate that the plan could lead to "death panels" for the elderly and handicapped.
"The way that it was written made it a little bit ambiguous," McCain, last year's Republican presidential nominee, told ABC's "This Week" in an interview broadcast Sunday. But he added, "I don't think they were called 'death panels,' don't get me wrong."
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate in last November's election, wrote that the bill could lead to "death panels" that would decide whether people like her parents or her infant son, who has Down Syndrome, were "worthy of health care." Though it has been found false by a number of observers, including CNN, the claim has been widely circulated by critics of the Obama administration's push to expand health care coverage to most Americans.
The claims stem from a provision in a bill before the House of Representatives that would require Medicare to reimburse doctors who counsel patients on "end-of-life issues" such as living wills. The Senate Finance Committee, which is still drafting its version of a bill, is likely to dump the provision, its ranking Republican said last week.
But McCain said the bills call for "a board that would decide the most effective measures to provide health care for people," a step he said could lead to treatments being denied.
"Doesn't that lead to a possibility, at least opens the door to a possibility of rationing and decisions made such are made in other countries?" the Arizona senator asked. And he said Democrats rejected amendments "that clarified that none of the decisions that would be made by this board would in any way affect the depriving of needed treatments for patients."
The Obama administration argues that care is already being rationed by insurance companies, which can deny procedures or coverage for a variety of reasons. There is no final health care bill in the House or the Senate, and many claims about health care surround individual lines in a version of a bill working its way through one of the chambers.