Sarah Palin on Health Care

Media take note: How about a good game of connect-the-dots?

Ordinary hockey mom, ordinary woman, ordinary American! And like ordinary folks on Main Street, she has had trouble buying health insurance. Twice in the past week, Sarah Palin told us that she and Hubby Todd were just like everyone else, sitting around the kitchen table figuring out whether to pay for catastrophic coverage or crossing their fingers and hoping that nobody would get hurt or sick. In an interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Palin said: “We’ve gone though periods of our life here with paying out-of-pocket for health coverage until Todd and I both landed a couple of good union jobs.”

During last night’s debate, she told the audience that there were times in her marriage where “we didn’t have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care. We have been there also so that connection was important.”

Journalists—and voters—need to make the connection between all those families at the kitchen table trying to buy out-of-reach coverage and John McCain’s health reform proposals, which are unlikely to help many of the people with whom Palin says she wants to connect. It’s ironic that Palin realizes life was easier when she and Todd got union jobs with health benefits while touting a health plan that will weaken and perhaps destroy the system that provided those good benefits. We at CJR have repeatedly pointed out that McCain’s plan would force people who have health insurance from their employers to pay taxes on the value of those benefits. Also, the tax credits proposed as an inducement to buy coverage in the expensive individual market might ultimately encourage companies and unions to get out of the health insurance business altogether.

It’s a good bet Palin won’t make those connections, and it’s doubtful her handlers will put her in a position where a good reporter can ask some pointed follow-up questions on the issue. So we urge the media to connect those dots on their own. And while they’ve at it, they should take note of a couple of other Palinisms that crept into the debate. She said that McCain’s tax credit plan was budget neutral, adding:

That doesn’t cost the government anything as opposed to Barack Obama’s plan to mandate health care coverage and have universal government run program and unless you’re pleased with the way the federal government has been running anything lately, I don’t think that it’s going to be real pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by the feds.

Yipes! Obama proposes mandating coverage only for children and his plan is not—we repeat—is not a government-run program. No federal takeover of health care—no government seizure of Aetna and Blue Cross. Joe Biden didn’t challenge the errors, instead using his time to hammer away at McCain’s proposed tax on health benefits. Okay, journalists, it’s time for you to connect these dots too.

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Trudy Lieberman is a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR's healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. She also blogs for Health News Review. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.