WASHINGTON — Sarah Palin’s weekend admission that her family once travelled to Canada to receive treatment under the public health-care system she’s so often demonized prompted skepticism and ridicule Monday among her critics in the United States.
“My first five years of life we spent in Skagway, Alaska, right there by Whitehorse,” the former Alaska governor said Saturday night during a speech in Calgary.
“Believe it or not — this was in the ’60s — we used to hustle on over the border for health care that we would receive in Whitehorse. I remember my brother, he burned his ankle in some little kid accident thing, and my parents had to put him on a train and rush him over to Whitehorse and I think, isn’t that kind of ironic now. Zooming over the border, getting health care from Canada.”
Always a popular whipping girl among liberal blogs and news sites, Palin was swiftly derided for the comments Monday as the news reverberated through and beyond the U.S. capital.
A headline on the New York media blog Gawker.com read: “Sarah Palin Supports Government-Run Health Care, Inadvertently Uses ’Ironic’ Correctly.”
Sam Stein of the Huffington Post suggested Palin was a hypocrite.
“The irony, one guesses, is that Palin now views Canada’s health-care system as revolting, with its government-run administration and ’death-panel’-like rationing,” Stein wrote.
“Clearly, however, she and her family once found it more alluring than, at the very least, the coverage available in rural Alaska.”
There were also doubts about the veracity of her story.
In a 2007 report in the Skagway News, Palin said her family travelled south from the town by ferry to Juneau, Alaska, so that her brother could get treatment after burning his foot when jumping through a fire.
“All these years later, that’s still what people have to rely on here in some instances,” said Palin, who was Alaska governor at the time and pledging to improve the town’s ferry system.
One Alaska-based political blog, The Mudflats, wondered — tongue firmly planted in cheek — whether Palin’s brother suffered a burned foot on more than one occasion and she was simply mixing up two different but extremely similar incidents.
“Or perhaps the story was simply tweaked to tell people what they want to hear, while utilizing the perennial ’I’m one of you’ meme — a great way to ’connect to the audience’ while skirting those pesky things known as ’facts,”’ the blog reads.
An email to Palin officials requesting more information about her family’s voyages to Whitehorse for medical treatment wasn’t immediately answered on Monday.
The remarks come in the midst of a furious push by top Democrats on Capitol Hill to meet a deadline imposed by President Barack Obama to get a health-care bill signed into law in the next two weeks.
The self-styled hockey mom, who is being coy about whether she’s considering a run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has frequently vilified the Democrats for their health-care overhaul, characterizing it as socialism and accusing Obama of conspiring to do away with the elderly and the disabled with so-called “death panels.”
In November, Palin told Canadian comedian Mary Walsh — in character as Marg Delahunty during an episode of “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” — that Canada should dismantle its public health-care system and let private enterprise take over.
Republicans battling against health-care reform have long claimed that Canadians flood the U.S. to get health care because of waiting lists north of the border.
But Palin’s experience, if accurate, reflects what some studies suggest is a more common trend: Americans travelling abroad to get cheaper care.
A report last spring by Deloitte Center for Health Solutions said 750,000 Americans travelled abroad for medical care in 2007, and forecast that number would rise to six million by 2010. That trend far outpaces the number of Canadians coming to the U.S. for medical treatment.