Here’s What Death Panels Really Killed

“Death panels” killed something after all: Republicans’ desire to evaluate whether a medicine or treatment is really worth its cost.

It’s been six years since Sarah Palin stoked political controversy over end-of-life counseling she termed “death panels.” But many GOP lawmakers still regard any cost-benefit discussions as paramount to rationing care, even as the U.S. spends more healthcare dollars per person than any other developed country.

That’s an ongoing frustration for conservative healthcare economists, who say it remains difficult to broach the topic with Republicans.

“I would love to say the word ‘cost-effectiveness’ again in policy circles,” said Stephen Parente, who at the time of the “death panel” controversy was advising Republican Sen. John McCain on his 2008 presidential campaign, which included Palin as vice presidential nominee.