Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called President Barack Obama's health plan "downright evil" Friday in her first online comments since leaving office, saying in a Facebook posting that he would create a "death panel" that would deny care to the neediest Americans.
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome 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," the former Republican vice presidential candidate wrote.
"Such a system is downright evil," Palin wrote on her page, which has nearly 700,000 supporters. She encouraged her supporters to be engaged in the debate.
The claim that the Democratic health care bills would encourage euthanasia has been circulating on the Internet for weeks and has been echoed by some Republican leaders. Democrats from Obama on down have dismissed it as a distortion. The nonpartisan group FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania says the claim is false.
The allegation appears to be based on a provision of the House bill that would require Medicare to pay for end-of-life counseling sessions, on a voluntary basis, for beneficiaries who want the service. Medicare already covers hospice care. And legislation passed by Congress in 1990 requires that patients be asked if they have a living will.
Obama addressed the controversy during a July 28 AARP-sponsored town hall.
"Nobody is going to be forcing you to make a set of decisions on end-of-life care based on some bureaucratic law in Washington," he said.
An e-mail sent to Palin's spokeswoman to confirm authorship of the Facebook posting was not immediately returned Friday. There was no immediate reply to phone messages left late Friday with the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office seeking comment on Palin's remarks.
Republican criticism has also included claims that the reform plans will lead to rationing, or the government determining which medical procedures a patient can have.
However, millions of Americans already face rationing, as insurance companies rule on procedures they will cover. Denying coverage for certain procedures might increase under proposals to have a government-appointed agency identify medicines and procedures best suited for various conditions.
Palin resigned as Alaska governor on July 26 with 16 months left in her term. She cited not only the numerous ethics complaints that had been filed against her also her wish not to be a lame duck after the first-term governor decided not to seek re-election next year.
Palin, popular with conservatives in the Republican party, has said she wants to build a right-of-center coalition, and there is speculation she will seek the presidency in 2012. In the two weeks since she resigned, Palin has made only one public appearance, giving a Second Amendment rights speech last Saturday before a gun owners group in Anchorage.
Palin or her aides post notes on her Facebook account about once or twice a week, usually to set out policy statements, issue news releases or refute rumors circulating on the Internet.
Palin also has been largely silent before Friday's Facebook post. She was a voracious user of the social networking site Twitter, and promised to keep her supporters updated with a new private account after she left office. But that hasn't happened, leaving some of her fans begging for updates in the past two weeks.