Fox News is questioning a $5.9 million grant awarded to a University of Chicago health initiative from the Department of Health and Human Services, alleging that the White House is the reason the Chicago initiative received the grant. Fox anchor Bill Hemmer described the program as "run by President Obama's longtime friend and frequent golf buddy, Eric Whitaker" adding:
HEMMER: This initiative is connected to the University of Chicago medical center. Michelle Obama has a connection there; Valerie Jarrett has a connection there; David Axelrod has a history as well.
Fox contributor Alfonse D'Amato took it even further, saying, "They'd have you believe that out of the thousands of applicants ... that they won this on the merits. That's a lot of nonsense." He continued: "It really cries out to be investigated. If you really believe that they won this grant without the White House," then "you'd have to believe in the tooth fairy." He later stated that this "cries out to be investigated and really, Congressman [Daryl] Issa investigations subcommittee, they should really have a hearing on this."
While Hemmer did note that "the reporting suggests there's no specific evidence that links the organization directly to the permission to award the money," he nevertheless claimed the "appearance, however, is a ... different thing."
But as Hemmer noted during the segment, the Chicago program was one of 26 health initiatives that won awards from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation Center. And the Chicago grant wasn't even the highest award given: Duke University received $9.8 million; Emory University got $10.8 million; Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, $10.4 million; University hospitals of Cleveland, $12.8 million.
Absent from the Fox News report were any facts concerning these grants, which, according to the University of Chicago, "were selected for their innovative solutions to deliver high quality medical care efficiently and enhance the health care workforce." The university further added: "The awardees announced today expect to reduce health spending by $254 million over the next three years."
The Chicago Sun-Times reported:
The grant will be used to create an electronic database, called a "Community Rx system," to assist potentially about 200,000 South Side residents -- on Medicare, Medicaid or who gets health insurance through the State of Illinois -- get linked up with doctors and clinics and other health services near where they live. About 90 jobs are expected to be created through the program for residents of the area.
When Mrs. Obama was an executive at the U. of C. medical center, one of her projects was to find ways to steer uninsured neighborhood patients away from the U. of C. hospital emergency room who were using it for health problems treatable at community health centers.
HHS said in a release that one of the hoped-for outcomes was "fewer avoidable visits to the emergency room with estimated savings of approximately $6.4 million."
Dr. Stacey Tessler Lindau reportedly stated that the program "helps people stay healthy and manage disease by connecting them to businesses and support organizations in their community," adding, "The outcome will be better and more efficient health care delivery and stronger, more vital communities."
As an August 2011 study found, "The south and southwest sides of Chicago suffer the most in terms of residents' health and access to basic health resources."