Special Report misrepresented Obey to advance health IT falsehood

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Fox News' James Rosen took a quote he attributed to Rep. David Obey out of context to advance the falsehood that provisions in the bill would permit the federal government to control health care. In fact, the bill contains no such provisions.

During the February 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent James Rosen took comments he attributed to Rep. David Obey (D-WI) out of context to falsely suggest Obey claimed the economic recovery bill would bar doctors from prescribing what the federal government deemed to be less effective or too expensive medical treatments. Rosen aired a clip of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) claiming of provisions in the legislation, "That is absolute code is, 'We'll decide what -- how you will be treated, and we'll decide what drugs -- and especially in terms of new medical innovations, if they're too expensive, we will not allow those to be used.' " Rosen then reported, "Indeed, when the House Appropriations Committee reported its version of the bill to the House floor, Chairman David Obey noted that some medical treatments 'that are found to be less effective and in some cases, more expensive, will no longer be prescribed.' Democrats have sought to allay fears about the federal government making cost-based decisions."

Rosen's suggestion that the comments he attributed to Obey -- which come from a House Discussion Draft of the bill Obey submitted -- support Coburn's claim that the bill would allow the government to "decide how you will be treated" is false. In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, the discussion draft language actually states: "By knowing what works best and presenting this information more broadly to patients and healthcare professionals, those items, procedures, and interventions that are most effective to prevent, control, and treat health conditions will be utilized, while those that are found to be less effective and in some cases, more expensive, will no longer be prescribed." Similarly, the corresponding section of the bill as passed by the House does not provide that the government can intervene in doctors' treatment decisions. Media Matters has noted that a February 9 Wall Street Journal article similarly mischaracterized the same quote from the House Discussion Draft.

In addition, Rosen claimed that "[b]uried in the 736-page Senate version of the stimulus bill is a provision that creates a federal council to evaluate the effectiveness of taxpayer-funded clinical medical research. 'The council,' states the legislation, 'shall assure that research conducted or supported by relevant federal departments and agencies will be undertaken with the goal of reducing duplicative efforts and encouraging coordinated and complementary use of resources.' " In fact, the bill does not contain such a provision.

The relevant section of the legislation as passed by the Senate (as well as in the 736-page version introduced in the Senate) states that the council shall "advise the President and Congress on ... opportunities to assure optimum coordination of comparative clinical effectiveness and related health services research conducted or supported by relevant Federal departments and agencies, with the goal of reducing duplicative efforts and encouraging coordinated and complementary use of resources." The bill does not delegate to the council authority to direct how research conducted by federal agencies is undertaken.

Rosen later falsely suggested that a section of the bill stating that "[t]he national coordinator for health information technology shall undertake the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care" contradicts the argument by Democrats that the bill "will only empower, not interfere with, local doctors."

Rosen reported:

ROSEN: The bill also allocates $5 billion for the Office of National Coordinator of Health Information Technology. This individual will accelerate the digitization of medical records, an effort Democrats likewise argue will only empower, not interfere with, local doctors.

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): I tell you, I don't want the government making my health-care decisions. I don't think anybody around the country wants it this way. I think what we want is a 21st-century health-care system, similar to what the VA has.

ROSEN: But conservatives point to the specific language in the bill, which states, "The national coordinator for health information technology shall undertake the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."

McCAUGHEY: "At the time and place of care." So, in fact, this is going to be a two-way system. Your medical treatments will be stored in the database, but the government will also be communicating with your doctor at the time and place of care.

In fact, as Media Matters has documented, the provision of the bill Rosen quoted does not "interfere with" doctors. Rather, that provision -- which former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey has misrepresented in the past -- 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." Indeed, CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reported during the February 11 edition of CNN Newsroom, "I had a PDF of the bill up on my computer. I said, 'Show me where in the bill it says that this bill is going to have the government telling your doctor what to do.' And McCaughey directed me to language -- it didn't actually say that." Cohen added, "Now when we asked the folks who wrote this bill, 'Hey, is this bill going to allow the government to tell doctors what to do?" they used words like, 'preposterous' and 'completely and wildly untrue.' "

From the February 11 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BAIER: There are renewed fears of Big Brother-ism making the rounds on talk radio, the Internet, and among some lawmakers in Congress. It has to do with a portion of the stimulus package dealing with health-care issues, but some suspect a much more sinister purpose. Correspondent James Rosen looks at the rumors and the reality.

[begin video clip]

ROSEN: Buried in the 736-page Senate version of the stimulus bill is a provision that creates a federal council to evaluate the effectiveness of taxpayer-funded clinical medical research. "The council," states the legislation, "shall assure that research conducted or supported by relevant federal departments and agencies will be undertaken with the goal of reducing duplicative efforts and encouraging coordinated and complementary use of resources."

COBURN: That is absolute code is, "We'll decide what -- how you will be treated, and we'll decide what drugs -- and especially in terms of new medical innovations, if they're too expensive, we will not allow those to be used."

ROSEN: Indeed, when the House Appropriations Committee reported its version of the bill to the House floor, Chairman David Obey noted that some medical treatments that are found to be less effective -- and, in some cases, more expensive -- will no longer be prescribed. Democrats have sought to allay fears about the federal government making cost-based decisions.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): There's nothing in this the bill that will interfere with the patients -- the doctors making the decisions as to what type of treatment patients need.

ROSEN: The bill also allocates $5 billion for the Office of National Coordinator of Health Information Technology. This individual will accelerate the digitization of medical records, an effort Democrats likewise argue will only empower, not interfere with, local doctors.

TESTER: I tell you, I don't want the government making my health-care decisions. I don't think anybody around the country wants it this way. I think what we want is a 21st-century health-care system, similar to what the VA has.

ROSEN: But conservatives point to the specific language in the bill, which states, "The national coordinator for health information technology shall undertake the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that provides appropriate information to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."

McCAUGHEY: "At the time and place of care." So, in fact, this is going to be a two-way system. Your medical treatments will be stored in the database, but the government will also be communicating with your doctor at the time and place of care.

[end video clip]

ROSEN: So why are these provisions even in an economic stimulus bill? Perhaps Democrats were following the playbook of Tom Daschle, who withdrew as President Obama's nominee to run the Department of Health and Human Services and who wrote in a book about health care last year -- and I quote -- "The next president should act immediately to capitalize on the goodwill that greets any incoming administration." He added, "If that means attaching a health-care plan to the federal budget, so be it." Bret.

BAIER: James, thank you.

Posted In
Economy, Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
James Rosen
Show/Publication
Special Report with Bret Baier
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.