Echo chamber: Bloomberg "commentary" health IT falsehood goes from Limbaugh to WSJ's Moore and Fox, back to Limbaugh

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore and Fox News anchors Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly promoted the falsehood -- which first appeared in a Bloomberg "commentary" by Betsy McCaughey and was subsequently promoted by Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge -- that the economic recovery bill includes a provision that would, in Moore's words, "hav[e] the government essentially dictate treatments." Limbaugh later took credit for spreading this story.

Wall Street Journal senior economic writer Stephen Moore and Fox News anchors Bill Hemmer and Megyn Kelly promoted on February 10 the falsehood that the economic recovery bill includes a provision that would, in Moore's words, "hav[e] the government essentially dictate treatments." Former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey apparently originated the false claim in a February 9 Bloomberg "commentary," which Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge touted that day. Indeed, Moore credited Limbaugh, saying of the provision, "I just learned of this myself yesterday. In fact, Rush Limbaugh made a big deal out of it on his radio show and it just -- it caused all sorts of calls into congressional offices." Limbaugh later took credit for spreading this story, saying during the February 10 edition of his radio show: "Betsy McCaughey writing at Bloomberg, I found it. I detailed it for you, and now it's all over mainstream media. Well, it's -- it headlined Drudge for a while last night and today. Fox News is talking about it."

As Media Matters for America documented, in the "commentary" Moore, Hemmer, and Kelly cited, McCaughey distorted a section of H.R. 1 to claim that "[o]ne new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and 'guide' your doctor's decisions." In fact, the language in the House bill that McCaughey referenced does not establish authority to "monitor treatments" or restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care but, rather, addresses establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have complete, accurate information about their patients "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."

During the February 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Moore said: "[T]his news story really has exploded on the public scene in just the last 24 hours, Bill. We've been just inundated with complaints from people about the implications of having the government essentially dictate treatments." He later claimed that the bill "especially will affect elderly people, because one of the ways, if we move more towards a nationalized health care system, as this bill would move us one step towards that, what you have to do to restrain costs -- what many other countries do, like Canada and Britain, is they essentially, Bill, ration care. And they tell patients you are eligible for this kind of care, but this is too expensive. And so what this bill would essentially do is set up a kind of pricing mechanism to tell people, yes, we can afford to treat you for this, but not that." Moore later claimed:

Well, that's why it's important for people to express their outrage over this, Bill, because, you know, starting tomorrow they are going to have this conference between the House and Senate, iron out the differences. And if there is enough outrage, I think a lot of this will be taken -- taken out. As I said, just in the last 24 hours of people have been aware of this, there have been howls of complaint all over the country. Another example, by the way, is Oregon has a system very much like this, where you basically have a system where some types of treatments are covered by the Oregon health care system, others aren't. And they just have a sys -- a pecking order. And if your treatment is too expensive, they won't allow insurance for it.

Additionally, during America's Newsroom, Kelly falsely claimed that the bill includes a provision that "promises to reduce costs and to help 'guide your doctor's decisions' so that he operates less like than a -- less like a solo practitioner and more in the spirit of uniform health care." Kelly added: "That sounds dangerously like socialized medicine," and asked Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA): "What's it doing in this bill?" Kelly also asserted that "this coordinator [the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology] is supposed to monitor your health treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the feds deem appropriate and cost effective." Similarly, Hemmer falsely said the bill contains "rules [that] appear to set the stage for health care rationing for seniors, new limits on medical research, and new rules guiding decisions your doctor can make about your health care." While Hemmer spoke, Fox News aired a graphic echoing these falsehoods:


Several hours after American Newsroom aired, Limbaugh took credit for spreading the false story, noting on his radio show that Specter was asked about it on Fox: "Even Senator Specter didn't know that it was in there, and he was questioned vigorously this morning about it on the Fox News Channel." Later Limbaugh said:

Now this health care thing -- back to this. Now, I still haven't gotten to the -- to the -- well, what's the word for this? This is -- this is major. I haven't gotten to it yet. You could say that I am teasing you. Yes, I'm going continue to tease because I gotta, you know, I've got to point out the reason [President] Obama does not want you listening to me is this health care thing that we uncovered yesterday. Betsy McCaughey writing at Bloomberg, I found it. I detailed it for you, and now it's all over mainstream media. Well, it's -- it headlined Drudge for a while last night and today. Fox News is talking about it. Some of the senators are being asked about it. They didn't know that it was in there. We will get to the details of that again shortly.

From the February 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

HEMMER: Morning, everybody. "Fox News Alert" now as we await this Senate vote on the stimulus bill. We're learning of new rules buried deep inside the bill that could change the future of health care for every American. Those rules appear to set the stage for health care rationing for seniors, new limits on medical research, and new rules guiding decisions your doctor can make about your health care. If you're asking yourself, "Where was this information before," you were just like us this morning. I'm Bill Hemmer. Welcome to America's Newsroom as we start our day.

KELLY: Hi, everybody, and I'm Megyn Kelly. And these health care changes in this bill stimulus bill were one of Washington's best-kept secrets -- until now. We have called Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office for information on exactly how these rules got in there, who exactly is responsible for this, and what they mean. What do these rules actually mean for our health care? The moment we hear back from them, we will let you know.

[...]

HEMMER: Back to that midnight health care insertion into the Senate spending plan. The new rules could lay the groundwork for sweeping reforms -- things like health care rationing for seniors, possible limits on medical research, and government guidelines for how your doctor can choose to treat you. Who's behind it? Why was this not debated in the full light of day? Good questions for the author of The End of Prosperity, Wall Street Journal senior economic writer Stephen Moore back with us. Stephen, good morning to you.

MOORE: Hi, Bill. Good morning.

HEMMER: Mike Pence is a Republican from Indiana; at the top of the hour he said this is something that slid -- was slid in there on Saturday night?

MOORE: Right.

HEMMER: I didn't quite follow that. What happened?

MOORE: Well, we don't exactly know what happened. This news story really has exploded on the public scene in just the last 24 hours, Bill, and we've been just inundated with complaints from people about the implications of having the government essentially dictate treatments. We don't know exactly how it got in the bill. We know that Tom Daschle, who you know was going to be Bill Clinton's HHS secretary, has been talking about this for many years. And all of a sudden, there it was, buried in this 800-page bill.

HEMMER: Stephen, let me point out to our viewers a woman by the name of Betsy McCaughey. Do you know the name, from Bloomberg News?

MOORE: Betsy McCaughey, right.

HEMMER: I apologize -- Betsy McCaughey. She wrote this piece, and we've all read it last night --

MOORE: Yup. Yup.

HEMMER: -- and again today. She says the bill's health rules will affect every single person in the United States.

MOORE: Yeah, especially --

HEMMER: How?

MOORE: Well, it especially will affect elderly people, because one of the ways, if we move more towards a nationalized health care system, as this bill would move us one step towards that, what you have to do to restrain costs -- what many other countries do, like Canada and Britain, is they essentially, Bill, ration care. And they tell patients you are eligible for this kind of care, but this is too expensive.

And so what this bill would essentially do is set up a kind of pricing mechanism to tell people, yes, we can afford to treat you for this, but not that. So for elderly people who may want a, let's say, a hip replacement, Bill, or someone who has diabetes who may want some kind of exotic kind of treatment that could work -- those may be off ground, and people -- and the insurers simply won't insure for it.

HEMMER: You said a hand -- a mouthful there.

MOORE: Yeah.

HEMMER: More than a handful, actually.

MOORE: Yeah.

HEMMER: Who slipped this in?

MOORE: Well, again, we don't know the details. Bill, I just learned of this myself yesterday. In fact, Rush Limbaugh made a big deal out of it on his radio show and it just -- it caused all sorts of calls into congressional offices. And now everybody's running around Capitol Hill saying, "Where did this come from?" Nobody knows how this got inserted in the bill.

HEMMER: Well, the health care industry is the largest employer --

MOORE: Yup.

HEMMER: -- in the United States. It -- it produces 17 percent of the nation's GDP.

MOORE: It -- well, you're right, and it's the one industry that's growing. I heard from a lady yesterday in Arizona who told me a story about how she has diabetes, and she had tried various kind of treatments, had been to many doctors, and she finally found a doctor who literally saved her legs from being amputated. That's the kind of treatment she was saying you would -- she wouldn't have been able to shop around for health care under this kind of system, so people are pretty outraged over the idea --

HEMMER: You -- you mentioned --

MOORE: -- of a kind of health care triage system.

HEMMER: You mentioned Tom Daschle.

MOORE: Yup.

HEMMER: He is -- his candidacy is no longer because of the tax issue.

MOORE: Right.

HEMMER: He wrote a book about this?

MOORE: That's right.

HEMMER: And apparently he was quoted -- I guess it was two years ago, according to this article -- if that means attaching a health care plan to the federal budget, so be it. That appears to be what is happening in the Senate version.

MOORE: That's right.

HEMMER: Now once we go to conference on the House committee, do we have any indication as to whether or not this thing lives or dies?

MOORE: Well, that's why it's important for people to express their outrage over this, Bill, because, you know, starting tomorrow they're going to have this conference between the House and Senate, iron out the differences. And if there's enough outrage, I think a lot of this will be taken -- taken out.

As I said, just in the last 24 hours of people have been aware of this, there have been howls of complaint all over the country. Another example, by the way, is Oregon has a system very much like this, where you basically have a system where some types of treatments are covered by the Oregon health care system, others aren't. And they just have a sys -- a pecking order. And if your treatment is too expensive, they won't allow insurance for it.

HEMMER: Is that right? Wow, state of Oregon, you say?

MOORE: Yes.

HEMMER: Just to read from Betsy McCaughey's article one more time: "The stimulus bill will affect every part of health care, from medical and nursing education, to how patients are treated to how much hospitals get paid." This is enormous.

[...]

KELLY: Good morning, Senator.

ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA): Morning, Megyn.

KELLY: All right, so I have to ask you about this news we've been -- we've been talking about all morning. And this is this health care business that's been put in this bill. According to Bloomberg, the bill allocates more funding to this health care program than it does to the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined. According to Bloomberg, this thing promises to reduce costs and to help "guide your doctor's decisions" so that he operates less like than a -- less like a solo practitioner and more in the spirit of uniform health care. That sounds dangerously like socialized medicine, Senator. What's it doing in this bill?

SPECTER: Well, it is intended to provide technology. And you may rest assured, Megyn, that we will not allow that provision to be broadened to look to the government to make decisions on what the treatment is or to be a coordinating faction, but just to provide information on technology. And listen, one of the big problems with this bill, which I cited at the very outset -- the first question I asked President Obama when he came to speak to the Republican senators is: Why the rush? Why are we wedded to February 13? We have not followed regular order, and this is one of a number of provisions which has popped up that we have to revise and be very careful about.

KELLY: So, you do want to take a second look at this. You do think a revision may be in order, if, in fact, as this report claims, the bill creates, and I quote, a "National Coordinator of Health Information Technology" designed to "monitor your treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective." I know you've been through the health care system more times than you'd like. You don't want the federal government monitoring what your doctor does and whether it's appropriate and cost-effective, do you?

SPECTER: We are not going to let the federal government monitor what doctors do. We fought that out with the Clinton health care plan more than a decade ago, when I had the famous chart which showed the complexities of it. We're not going to put the government between the doctor and the patient under any circumstances. And Bloomberg has pointed out a potential problem, and there will be clarification to avoid having the government meddle in what doctors do.

KELLY: Senator, how do you -- who put this in there? I mean, this -- health care, as you know, is a huge, huge issue in this country. It's a huge voting issue; you get tons of calls when a bill comes up in the Senate. How could something as important as this have been stuck in this bill and tried to be crammed down the throats of the American people in a way where even the president is threatening us with economic collapse if you guys don't sign off on it instantly?

SPECTER: Well, when you want to find out who put provisions in bills which are hundreds of pages long, it's a constant battle. And, candidly, that's why you need more time to have hearings. We've never had hearings on this bill. We've never had a markup where senators go over it line by line. And we are rushing to judgment, which I have protested about, and the only answer we get is that the situation is so dire and such an emergency we have to act. But we will review these provisions, and we will make sure that these harmful effects about having the government interfere with what doctors do doesn't take effect.

KELLY: You know, Senator, it's disconcerting, because you're going to review it line by line, but you, along with [Sen.] Olympia Snowe [R] and [Sen.] Susan Collins [R] of Maine, could stop this. You three -- really only need two of you to put a stop to this bill. So is there a chance that you and perhaps one or more of those women -- senators from Maine -- will sit down and slow this thing down or stop it all together if things like this remain in this bill?

SPECTER: We can be sure that provisions like this do not have the harmful effects which you have mentioned. Listen, this legislation is a bitter pill to swallow, but we're facing a situation where the current economic problems could turn into another depression like 1929. The economists tell us that unless we act promptly and decisively that there could be a catastrophe.

KELLY: I understand that. But people, as you know, do -- they don't want health care decisions rammed down their throats in the name of stimulus. So, are you saying here that if this provision remains in this bill, you might change your vote?

SPECTER: We will get this provision clarified. I've made a commitment, Megyn, and I'm not going to go back on my word and on a commitment. But when we find problems of this potential, they can get -- we can cure them without upsetting the whole apple cart.

KELLY: Well, it'll be interesting. And I know you always give it to us straight, and so I'd be interested to find out who's behind it. According to the report, this is the brainchild, most likely, of Tom Daschle, who was going to be our Health and Human Services secretary but basically got bounced because of his tax problems.

SPECTER: Well --

KELLY: But it looks like it's a page directly out of his book. So I'd be interested to find out who's behind it.

SPECTER: Whosever idea it is, it's a bad idea, and we will get it corrected.

KELLY: Sen. Arlen Specter --

SPECTER: I just wish we could correct a lot of other things, too. We'll get it corrected.

KELLY: Well get on it. Come on. You're a U.S. senator. Do that and get back to us.

SPECTER: OK, it'd be a pleasure to get back to you, Megyn. I'll do that.

KELLY: All right. Thank you, sir. Always nice speaking to you.

SPECTER: Good talking to you. Thanks.

[...]

KELLY: All right, so [Fox News chief political correspondent] Carl [Cameron], all this morning we've been talking about this health care provision that seems to have been stuck in this bill that apparently allocates more money to this National Coordinator of Health Information Technology than it does to the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force combined. It has not gotten virtually any press except now and over the past 18, 24 hours.

We asked Arlen Specter about it. This -- this -- this coordinator is supposed to monitor your health treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the Feds deem appropriate and cost-effective. You can see the controversy over it.

CAMERON: Right.

KELLY: Senator Specter, who is key to this vote -- and the other two women who are voting with him also say that if certain things are in and certain things are out, they may not end up supporting it -- says he's gonna go back and review it.

Now, he would not say that he's not gonna vote for it. He said he committed to vote for it, but he said he's gonna go back and review it, and he wants the American people to be satisfied that that's not -- no bill allowing the feds to monitor your health treatments are going to be in here. So how do we get to that point, if he's gonna vote for it, but he's gonna review it -- how does this provision come out?

From the February 10 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: And now you know, ladies and gentlemen, now you know why President Obama does not want you or anybody else listening to me. The story that we had on the stealth health care reforms in the stimulus bill -- we did it at 2 o'clock afternoon hour yesterday afternoon -- has now become mainstream news. It's all over the place. Even Senator Specter didn't know that it was in there, and he was questioned vigorously this morning about it on the Fox News Channel. Great to have you here. Rush Limbaugh.

[...]

LIMBAUGH: Now this health care thing -- back to this. No, I still haven't gotten to the -- to the -- well, what's the word for this? This is -- this is major. I haven't gotten to it yet. You could say that I am teasing you. Yes, I'm going continue to tease because I gotta, you know, I've got to point out the reason Obama does not want you listening to me is this health care thing that we uncovered yesterday.

Betsy McCaughey writing at Bloomberg, I found it. I detailed it for you, and now it's all over mainstream media. Well, it's -- it headlined Drudge for a while last night and today. Fox News is talking about it. Some of the senators are being asked about it. They didn't know that it was in there. We will get to the details of that again shortly.

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