Sarah Palin’s Plan

Sarah Palin has an editorial in the Wall Street Journal outlining her plans for health care. Cynics claim that she used a ghostwriter–that rumor should be easily debunked by comparing the syntax of that post to her other spoken and written statements. I await her vindication.

What stands out in the short piece is a surprising suggestion. Dismantling Medicare.

Instead of poll-driven “solutions,” let’s talk about real health-care reform: market-oriented, patient-centered, and result-driven. As the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon and others have argued, such policies include giving all individuals the same tax benefits received by those who get coverage through their employers; providing Medicare recipients with vouchers that allow them to purchase their own coverage; reforming tort laws to potentially save billions each year in wasteful spending; and changing costly state regulations to allow people to buy insurance across state lines. Rather than another top-down government plan, let’s give Americans control over their own health care.

Now, there’s nothing in her editorial about insurance reform, except a passing acknowledgment that it might be a good idea but no concrete proposal to make it happen. And she wants to cut seniors from Medicare and hand them a voucher–to find affordable insurance in a market that is under-regulated and profit-driven. Will this work with the Town Hall people?

I talked to some younger people at the Town Halls who thought that anyone who made the ‘bad choice’ to be uninsured just had to take the consequences. If they had not been Christians I would have suspected them of Social Darwinisim. But the older people were very clear in their message–’hands off our Medicare.’

Are they going to sign on to ex-Governor Palin’s plan to cut them loose from a government program to try their luck at reading the small print of unregulated, for-profit insurance plans? They have a lot to lose if they do. I think that’s why, needing a harder sell, she continues to claim that Medicare is about to start a Department of Death Panels. It would take serious scare tactics to get seniors to give up a program that works in favor of a gamble on which plan will accept them, be affordable, and be there when they need it.

Crime and the Politics of Sexual Assault in Alaska

The previous post, ‘Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner–SANE’is intended to explain the forensic rape exam, which is in the news lately because the town of Wasilla, Alaska billed victims for the rape exam until the practice was outlawed by Governor Tony Knowles in May, 2000. This was during Sarah Palin’s tenure as Mayor, which ran from 1996-2002.

The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, Wasilla’s local newspaper, covered a press conference on the new law and interviewed the Wasilla Police Chief, Charlie Fannon.

First, Governor Knowles…

We would never bill the victim of a burglary for fingerprinting and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence, Knowles said. Nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.

Next Chief Fannon…

Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams.
In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don’t want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer, Fannon said.

According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases.

Ultimately it is the criminal who should bear the burden of the added costs, Fannon said.

The forensic exam is just one part of the equation. I’d like to see the courts make these people pay restitution for these things, Fannon said.
Fannon said he intends to include the cost of exams required to collect evidence in a restitution request as a part of a criminals sentencing.

It’s hard to believe that the Chief of Police didn’t know that the vast majority of sexual assault cases do not end in a trial, never mind a conviction. It’s strange that he saw the rape exam as a burden on the taxpayer when his mandate is to fight crime. Losing potential evidence didn’t seem to concern him. The possibility that victims would be discouraged from seeking care because they lack health insurance, or fear being dropped from their insurance or losing their privacy–“the likelihood that rape will go unreported, doesn’t factor in.

And where was the Mayor? It’s one of the Mayor’s responsibilities to work closely with the Chief of Police. In the absence of any record of Mayor Palin publicly rebuking Chief Fannon for his statements it can only be assumed that she endorsed his view.

Why would a female Mayor not support a law that ended an unfair and harmful practice that affected mostly women? Why was she not receptive to victim’s advocate groups? One answer may be contained in the last two sentences of the news report. (As I have been cutting and pasting, I’ve put a link to the entire news story here.)

The new bill would also make law enforcement agencies that are investigating a sexual assault responsible for the costs of testing victims for sexually transmitted diseases and emergency contraception.

The Day One SANE training manual includes nine single-space pages of a Catholic review of the ethics of emergency contraception. The essay concludes that it is permissible for a woman to use emergency contraception after a rape. There are more conservative religions that consider it an act of conscience to fail to offer, or to deny access to protection from an unwanted pregnancy. Women are denied emergency contraception in hospitals and at pharmacies, and laws are proposed to shield practitioners from any responsibility for any harm resulting.

A Mayor who belongs to a very conservative church might not welcome the discomfort of having her name associated with a practice that some call abortion. She might not want to go on record as supporting state funding for the morning after pill, even for victims of rape.

And crime victims are in a place no one wants to be, faced with decisions no one wants to have to make. No simple answers, no powerful lobby, and way too close to the violent misogyny that oppresses women worldwide.