August 23rd, 2009
01:52 PM ET
10 years ago

McCain says 'ambiguous' health bills fuel 'death panel' claims

[cnn-photo-caption image= 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.

Filed under: Health care • John McCain • Popular Posts • Sarah Palin
soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    McCain's selection of the tragically laughable Palin convinced me his powers of judgement and discernment are nil.

    August 23, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  2. Independent

    Mr. McCain,
    Who cares what you think....As old as you are, you should be more concern about speaking the truth...GO RETIRE!!!!

    August 23, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  3. Joe Terrogano

    Sure, it's the bills vague language that is responsible for the claims of "death panels" by poor Sarah Palin. The Republicans have no responsibility in the hyperbole and fear-mongering that has gone on. How stupid does he think we are? Not stupid enough to nominate Palin as a Vice Presidential candidate!

    August 23, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. vic nashville , Tn

    Mc Cain is good man first time he lost because of Bush's lies second time because of Palin Bush and Palin scared Americans with their lies

    August 23, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  5. Richie

    Look, we need single payer. It is the only possibility for eliminating the 35% wasted overhead of the health insurance companies (some of which is spent for lobbying). What about lowering the eligibility age for Medicare 1 year per year for the next 65 years? We have to do something, folks.

    August 23, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  6. The Real Issue

    This is why Senator McCain was not voted in. He is a maverick who is out of touch. The Death Panel statements produced by several Republicans was a gross distortion. McCain should say so and correct what his party stands for. That is, they are against Health Care Reform for "All Americans". If All Americans receive the proper Health Plans then jobs will be created, people will have preventive medicinal examinations, less costs.

    The Real Issue my fellow Americans is not to listen to distortions. The Health Insurance industry runs the Health Plan. This is a different form of a monopoly. The industry raises rates whenever they want to and we are paying for this. Also, most of those grandstanding at the meetings are grandstanding to keep what they have and they will keep what they have!!!

    My fellow Americans, think for yourselves by reading the bills, and having them interpreted correctly, distortions and untruths will not prevail.

    August 23, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  7. Tony in Maine

    Walking on fences is very dangerous. You can do serious injury to your privates, should you slip.

    August 23, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. katiec

    Well, typical CNN day.
    Headline republicans and anyone who speaks out against Health
    Care Reform and our president.
    If I remember correctly, there were some Democrats on today.
    Hmmm, CNN must have "overlooked" that!
    Is everyone getting as sick as I am about CNN's obvious
    At least Fox does not try to pretend to be fair and trustworthy.

    August 23, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  9. JAY

    Lets call it ' THE END OF LIFE PANEL'.

    August 23, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  10. Michele

    It would be nice if McCain would return to his pre-Palin roots and just be honest about her...she is an idiot willing to say anything to get a headline. There are not, nor ever were, 'death panels,' excect in the behavior of the current system of insurance companies deciding who lives (the wealthy) and who dies, (the indigent.) Too bad neither one of them can stand up to those lobbies. These two self-termed mavericks are a disgrace. Obama does not support death panels...please.

    August 23, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  11. pc

    McSame is trying to scare Americans. President Obama is not deceitful, it is people like McCain and Palin who are trying their hardest to knock President Obama down and this healthcare bill. We despertely need a public option and if it weren't for people like you, McSame, we would not have to fight so hard for it!

    August 23, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  12. S M R

    John McCain keeping the lies alive. SO PATHETIC.

    August 23, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  13. DonnaLee

    News Flash ... McCain says he is too old to have any more ambition for solving the little guy's health problems. "I got mine, and it's all settled".

    Maybe Cindy McCain's booze distributorship would contribute to keep us all drunk and confused about "death panels" and other drunken health care claims until the Senate sneaks their big business contributors wishes bye us all.

    August 23, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  14. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Senator McCain is being, at best, disingenuous. He knows perfectly well that legislation as complex as health care reform is inherently "ambiguous" – especially when the bill is in the early stages of negotiation.

    Senator McCain would better serve Arizonans and the American people in general if he was more critical of his Republican colleagues (including his running mate) who are intentionally and actively misrepresenting the truth about health care reform.

    Bottom line, Mr. McCain, apparently you have sided with those who would intentionally spread lies instead of assisting in the process of gaining greater clarity and truth.

    August 23, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. John Foland

    For nothing more than political expedience, McCain accepted Palin as his running mate in the recent election. They both crashed, yet both continue to lend support to one another's ridiculous "ambiguous" statements. A pathetic comedy pair.

    August 23, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. catmom

    No, Republicans like Sarah Palin, Chuck Grassley and you are what spurred the death panel claims. Couple that with right wing radio and television who have gone into 24/7 fear mongering overdrive mode just to defeat the President. Even listening to Fox News Sunday where they took what the VA is doing with end of life counseling so totally out of context. Republicans are doing everything in their power to defeat health care reform and it is a shame that they would use fear mongering and lies as a means to do so. Shows you how much they really care about the American people. The death panel claims would have stopped if Republicans wanted it to, espicially considering how Republicans voted for similar end of life counseling in 2003.

    August 23, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. Lion

    We all notice, everything is ambiguous about Mr. Obama, even his past life, morality, reasoning, logics, scare tatics and outrageous myths.

    August 23, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  18. mw

    Bunk. Just typical repug scare tactics. Bunch of jerks.

    August 23, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. Patrick

    "Ambiguous"? Give me a break. It's the same language that's in the Medicare laws now. These people have no shame. Lie, lie, and lie some more.
    And did the host (Stephanopoulos) contradict the claim? Probably not. If he did, then CNN doesn't bother mentioning it in their "story".
    Real journalism is dead. Long live propaganda, innuendo, insinuation, rumor, faith, belief, gut feeling, or just plain creative writing in our news media.

    August 23, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. Common sense

    Who's mccain? WHy don't they ask someone important?

    August 23, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  21. Kilia

    I am so ashamed and angry of my party, I will NOT vote for them ever again!!

    August 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  22. Jeff

    You have to wonder if the real reason that fear-mongers like Palin, and those who are like-minded, are creating these "death panel" myths, is that they feel that patients shouldn't have any say in "end-of-life issues". To those on the extreme right, it doesn't matter how much pain a person who is dying is in, or if that person doesn't wish to be kept alive in a vegetative state by machines. Because they believe that those issues should be left up to God (which IS their right), they feel that everyone else should be forced to abide by the same set of principals.

    August 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. terry, va

    Death panels, veterans death book, abortion under the public option. What's next? If Obama and his liberals buddies put anything out there subject to interruption, it's their fault. Know what you are saying and leave nothing open to interruption!!!! They want to leave stuff open to interruption so they can go whichever they want to in the future. Too bad Hurricane Bill didn't blow them out to sea.

    August 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  24. Geoduck

    Myths? Myths?
    There has to be some substance in order to create a good myth. Bad myths abound because the so call "bill" has no detail, no substance. You can say anything you wish about it and there is no offsetting argument because one can't argue air.

    Where does it say no death panels?" Where does it say, no paid abortions? Where does it say anything positively?

    All we hear is, "Trust us, we'll fill in the blanks when we come to them."

    WE DON'T TRUST ANYONE for good reason. We can trust government to make a muck out of anything it designs and attempts to run.

    August 23, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. T'SAH from Virginia

    Here's TWO more CENTS to an issue that has long been ruled as NOT TRUE!! Rationing is done EVERY day – before surgery I was asked – during a time where a patient is not responding to treatment, the doctor suggest to stop and ".. make them as comfortable as possible..." and the result is shooting them with morphine to ease the pain – YES – it happens NOW...

    The REPUBLICANS are trying to FOOL the nation and ENCITE fear into seniors with their DEATH PANEL suggestions and
    SARAH PA ' IN started it and the PARTY of NO sense NO suggestions & NO solutions will continue it..... WATCH OUT FOR THE BACKFIRE!!!

    August 23, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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