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Since it’s not possible to prove a negative, I am unable to “prove” that death panels don’t exist, except to point out that having read the entire law (a process that took about two weeks, and is highly recommended if you suffer from insomnia), I find no references to Death Panels, either direct or obliquely (using coded language to stand in for the death panels).

Since before the bill became law, when Sarah Palin first coined the term, I have had a standing $500 offer in place for anyone who could cite the page number(s) that the Death Panels are defined on in the legislation.

So far (big surprise, I know), no one has come forth to claim the money.

It’s still on offer, and I’m still waiting.

I suspect I’ll be waiting a very long time.

Given the above, the closest we can come to proving the negative, is to chart the history of this sad, strange conservative development, mock it for the absurdity that it is, and settle in for the long waiting game until such time as some bold conservative can point us to the page number(s) in the law, and settle the matter.

So, to begin with, let us hearken back to the days of old, when the Individual Mandate was seen as a perfectly respectable conservative position, and a viable, market-oriented alternative to the Clinton’s “Universal Healthcare” proposal. Two Republican variations were submitted on November 20, 1993, and on November 23, 1993. These were the Consumer Choice Health Security Act (SB 1743) (submitted by Senator Don Nickles (R-OK) with 24 Republican co-sponsors, and the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act (SB 1770) (submitted by Senator John Chafee (R-RI) along with 18 Republican co-sponsors.

Both of these republican sponsored bills contained an individual mandate, and why not? The idea was percolated in the hallowed republican halls of the Heritage Foundation. There was nothing provocative about it, and it certainly was not seen as “The Death of Freedom!!!” (as it later came be be called when a Democrat submitted a bill containing the same idea). Details on all of the above can be found here.

From this basic framework, Romneycare arose in the state of Massachusetts, and by all accounts, that initiative has been wildly successful.

Around the same time, another effort was made at health care reform. January 18, 2007, in the form of the Healthy Americans Act (SB 334), submitted by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and a variety of co-sponsors, 7 Democrats, an Independent, and 9 Republicans).

You might think this was the last we saw of Republican support for the individual mandate, but you would be wrong.

Not long after Obama was elected, Senator Wyden tried again, re-introducing the Healthy Americans Act (now as SB 391), on February 5, 2009, with 8 Dem, 1 Independent, and 5 Republican co-sponsors.

Both iterations of the Healthy Americans act contained…you guessed it. The Individual Mandate.

What we know then, is this. Even as late as early February, 2009, the Individual Mandate was not seen as “The Death of Freedom,” but a reasonable, responsible, market oriented solution to health care. This should lay to rest the notion that Republicans initially supported the idea, but then dropped it as being bad/unconstitutional long before the spectre was raised by the Obama Administration.

Of course, all that changed with Fox “News” and the Tea Party heard about it, and great lengths were gone to in an effort to demonize the Mandate, but it was a difficult road, given the Mandate’s long history as a Republican staple, and because of that, something…ANYTHING else was needed to vilify the newly proposed bill so that it could be defeated (because, as you will recall, by this time, the GOP was already self-identifying as “The Party of No,” vowing both that President Obama would be a one term president, and also vowing to oppose any and every proposal he made (up to, and including, as the Individual Mandate reveals) things that Republicans formerly had no trouble supporting.

That “anything else,” was delivered by none other than Alaska’s own Caribou Barbie, Sarah Palin, who coined the phrase Death Panel (we’ll call this “Death Panel 1.0″ for reasons that will become clear in a moment), and went after End of Life counselling tooth-and-claw.

The refrain was quickly picked up by conservatives nation wide, and the demonization of the health care reform initiative began in earnest.

Except that, as details about the whole end of life counselling thing came out, it turned out there wasn’t much death paneleyness in Death Panel 1.0.

All it amounted to, really, was that the government had committed to paying doctors for something they had been doing all along…just typically doing without compensation.

Further, it came to light that a fair number of prominent Republicans had long supported end of life counselling, including luminaries like Newt Gingrich (hilariously, we also discover that Palin herself endorsed end of life counseling while governor of Alaska).

(Continued, Next Page)

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