Conservatives fearmonger that health care reform will lead to denying treatment to elderly

››› ››› LILY YAN & ZACHARY ARONOW

Media conservatives have been fearmongering over health care reform, baselessly claiming that it will result in the denial of care, or, in the words of Laura Ingraham, "death camps" for the elderly.

Media conservatives have taken to fearmongering about health care reform, baselessly claiming that reform efforts will result in the denial of care for senior citizens. Radio host Laura Ingraham warned of "death camps" for the elderly. These claims echo similar ones made after President Obama's health care forum in June; Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said Obama's plan for health care reform is "[t]o save money by killing old people."

For example:

  • On the July 17 broadcast of his radio show, Sean Hannity referred to a July 17 New York Post op-ed written by former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, in which she said that "[o]ne troubling provision" of the House bill on health care reform "compels seniors submit to a counseling session every five years ... about alternatives for end-of-life care," adding that the "mandate invites abuse, seniors could easily be pushed to refuse care." Hannity then stated: "[I]t sounds to me like they're actually encouraging seniors in the end, 'Well, you may just want to consider packing it all in here, this is -- ' what other way is there to describe this?" He continued, "So that they don't become a financial burden on the Obamacare system? I mean that's how they intend to cut cost, by cutting down on the health care we can give and get at the end of our lives and dramatically cutting it down for senior citizens? You know, welcome to the brave new world of Obamacare. We're going to encourage, you know, inconvenient people to consider 'alternatives to living.' "
  • That same day on her nationally syndicated show, Ingraham stated, "Can you imagine -- if I were doing Saturday Night Live, like, if I were producing it this weekend, and I was going to be fair about political humor, I would have a hospice chute -- like a door, a trap door that goes into a chute where the elderly would just walk up -- 'Oh, my hip hurts.' " And all of a sudden you see this leg kicking granny down the chute, and that's Obamacare." After re-enacting "the next person [who] comes up" who also gets "kick[ed] down the chute into the hospice," Ingraham concluded, "[S]ome will call them death camps, but this is the way Obamacare is gonna go for America." The previous day, Ingraham similarly asserted that Obama's "approach to health care reform" is "making sure people don't live as long."
  • On the July 17 broadcast of his radio show, after citing a provision from the House Democrats' health care bill that has been widely misrepresented by conservatives, Jim Quinn stated, "[T]here's a drop dead date, you should pardon the expression but a lot of us are going to," while co-host Rose Tennent interjected, "Are going to drop dead, yeah." Quinn later added, "For heaven's sakes. This is the death-to-old-people plan."
  • On July 17, KSFO's Lee Rodgers stated of health care reform legislation: "[I]f this thing is installed, trust me -- based on everything we know about government involvement in business -- if this thing is installed, we will never ever be able to get rid of it. As the horror stories start to accumulate about people being refused treatment because 'Well, you're so old, you're going to die anyway,' or 'Oh, that test that might detect some obscure cancer; that costs too much money.' "

Following Obama's health care forum in June, conservative media falsely claimed that comments Obama made during the forum indicated that he planned to deny treatment to the elderly in order to save money. However, during the forum Obama said cost-benefit decisions "are already being made in one way or another" and said "ultimately" decisions about end-of-life care are "going to be between physicians and patients."

At the forum, a questioner asked: "[O]utside the medical criteria for prolonging life for somebody elderly, is there any consideration that can be given for a certain spirit, a certain joy of living, quality of life? Or is it just a medical cutoff at a certain age?" Obama responded, in part:

[E]nd-of-life care is one of the most difficult sets of decisions that we're going to have to make. I don't want bureaucracies making those decisions, but understand that those decisions are already being made in one way or another. If they're not being made under Medicare and Medicaid, they're being made by private insurers.

We don't always make those decisions explicitly. We often make those decisions by just letting people run out of money or making the deductibles so high or the out-of-pocket expenses so onerous that they just can't afford the care. And all we're suggesting -- and we're not going to solve every difficult problem in terms of end-of-life care. A lot of that is going to have to be we as a culture and as a society starting to make better decisions within our own families and for ourselves.

But what we can do is make sure that at least some of the waste that exists in the system that's not making anybody's mom better, that is loading up on additional tests or additional drugs that the evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve care, that at least we can let doctors know and your mom know that, you know what? Maybe this isn't going to help. Maybe you're better off not having the surgery but taking the painkiller.

And those kinds of decisions between doctors and patients, and making sure that our incentives are not preventing those good decisions, and that -- that doctors and hospitals all are aligned for patient care, that's something we can achieve. We're not going to solve every single one of these very difficult decisions at end of life, and ultimately that's going to be between physicians and patients. But we can make real progress on this front if we work a little bit harder.

Following the forum, conservatives misrepresented Obama's response to falsely claim that his health care plan entails withholding treatments for "old people" to save money include:

  • Fox News' Peter Johnson Jr. claimed on Fox & Friends that health care reform is "the government deciding who will live, who will die." He later went on to ask: "Is that what this plan is about? To save money by killing old people? That's frightening. That's absolutely frightening."
  • In a June 25 American Spectator article titled "Obama Wants to Let Those Pesky Geezers Die," Capital Research Center senior editor Matthew Vadum paraphrased an excerpt from a Los Angeles Times article as stating: "So, old people: screw you" [emphasis in original]. Vadum added, "In the future Uncle Sam will put you on an ice floe and let you float away to your heavenly reward. It gives new meaning to the Latin phrase 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.' (In English, How sweet and glorious it is to die for one's country.)"
  • On June 26, The Fox Nation linked to Vadum's American Spectator article with the headline "Obama Says We Shouldn't Treat Old Folks to Save Money! Media Silent..."

  • In a June 26 NewsBusters article titled "Obama Says We Shouldn't Treat Old Folks to Save Money And the Media Goes Deaf," Warner Todd Huston wrote, "[I]t sure seemed to me as if the most caring, most civil, most intelligent president evah just said that healthcare could be cheaper if we don't give old folks and the infirm the full measure of care they now get. It appeared that Obama said we should just let them die or suffer because they aren't worth the effort." He later added: "[W]hy has the media remained mum on the possibility that President Spock, Doctor of life, just said that old folks are too expensive to treat?"
  • On the June 27 edition of Forbes on Fox, Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard misrepresented Obama's remarks at the health care forum, stating: "[W]hat he's indicating is that government health care involves rationing. It's kind of funny that he let it slip out. It was kind of funny he signaled it by wearing a black tie, the color of funerals. There's going to be more funerals for old people going ahead." As Media Matters for America has noted, Obama's tie at the forum was not black.

From the July 17 broadcast of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: Now, it's fascinating that as you get deeper into all of this -- for example, Betsy McCaughey, who's a health care expert, former lieutenant governor of New York. Now, I've actually spent time with her, and I've recently interviewed her, and I'm telling you she spends time actually doing something very few people in Washington now do: she actually reads every -- every page of these bills. It was her 1994 analysis of Hillarycare that is long credited with blowing that proposal out of the water.

Now, she actually uncovered in this bill a particularly outrageous provision -- and by the way, there will be more to come in the Obamacare plan. According to McCaughey, she's saying under the House provision and the House version, perfectly healthy senior citizens are going to be forced to undergo, quote, "end of life counseling," apparently to encourage them to check out before their time is up.

Now, if that doesn't sound chilling I don't know what is, but it's not surprising, especially coming from a party whose president has so little respect for life that he basically voted to support infanticide as an Illinois state legislator -- that was the Born Alive Infant Protection Act that would have guaranteed health care and medical attention for a child born living outside the womb on its own -- living and breathing on its own after a botched abortion.

Now, McCaughey discovered in the Obama health care rationing bill: "One troubling provision of the House bill compels seniors to submit to a counseling session every five years (or more often if they become sick or go into a nursing home) about alternatives for end-of-life care (House bill, p. 425-430). The sessions cover highly sensitive matters such as whether to receive antibiotics and 'the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.' Now, the mandate invites abuse, seniors could easily be pushed to refuse care."

So it sounds to me like they're actually encouraging seniors in the end, "Well, you may just want to consider packing it all in here. This is -- " What other way is there to describe this? So they don't become a financial burden on the Obamacare system? I mean, that's how they intend to cut costs, by cutting down on the amount of health care that we can give and get at the end of our lives and dramatically cutting it down for senior citizens?

You know, welcome to the brave new world of Obamacare. We're going to encourage, you know, inconvenient people to consider "alternatives to living." Well, that just sounds terrific, which by the way is not uncommon and has been a source of deep concern in places like Great Britain. You know, the place where they have a government rationing body that denies women with advanced breast cancer their health care.

From the July 17 edition of The War Room with Quinn and Rose:

REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN: On page 16, you can read for yourself that no new health insurance policies can be written once this federal plan comes into effect.

QUINN: Now, see, what the word game they're playing here is, and the lie that Obama is telling is, "Oh, you'll be able to keep your doctor and your health care provider." Well, that's true until it comes time for you to leave your job and change --

TENNENT: Or doesn't some of that change 2017?

QUINN: Right.

TENNENT: That becomes obsolete.

QUINN: Yeah, there's a drop-dead date -- you should pardon the expression, but a lot of us are going to --

TENNENT: Are going to drop dead, yeah.

QUINN: Yeah. You know the people that should be running away from this health care plan as fast as possible is the AARP.

BACHMANN: Oh --

QUINN: For heaven's sakes. This is the death-to-old-people plan.

BACHMANN: Well, it really is, and I'm glad that you brought that up. It's like -- people were incredulous during Bill Clinton's Monica Lewinsky event that the National Organization for Women stood by Bill Clinton during that entire fiasco. Think of how incredulous we were during that and then apply that analogy to AARP and how they're failing their own constituency, the elderly.

From the July 17 broadcast of KSFO's Lee Rodgers Morning Show:

RODGERS: And if this thing is installed, trust me -- based on everything we know about government involvement in business, if this thing is installed, we will never, ever be able to get rid of it.

OFFICER VIC (co-host Tom Benner): That's right.

RODGERS: As the horror stories start to accumulate about people being refused treatment because "Well, you're so old, you're going to die anyway" --

OFFICER VIC: Mm-hmm.

RODGERS: -- or "Oh, that test that might detect some obscure cancer; that costs too much money."

OFFICER VIC: We don't do that anymore.

RODGERS: We can't spend money on that. As these stories accumulate, a bunch of stupid Americans who thought this was going to be a wonderful idea are going to say, "Hey, wait a minute, how did we get into this?"

Well, we won't be able to get out of it. Nothing is as permanent as an entrenched government program. And believe me, as soon as they build the bureaucracy and put people on the payroll, it is entrenched.

From Vadum's June 25 American Spectator article:

In a rare moment of candor, President Obama explained to an audience how government-run healthcare would work in America.

[...]

So, old people: screw you. In the future Uncle Sam will put you on an ice floe and let you float away to your heavenly reward. It gives new meaning to the Latin phrase "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." (In English, How sweet and glorious it is to die for one's country.)

Medical decisions should be made by patients, their families, and their doctors, not by government bureaucrats, but that's ObamaCare for you.

From Huston's June 26 NewsBusters article:

I am wondering when the euthanasia folks are going to start touting this one? I mean, it sure seemed to me as if the most caring, most civil, most intelligent president evah just said that healthcare could be cheaper if we don't give old folks and the infirm the full measure of care they now get. It appeared that Obama said we should just let them die or suffer because they aren't worth the effort. Imagine if Bush had said something like this? The left wouldn't have hesitated to call him any manner of names. Oddly, though, the Old Media have not had so much as a raised eyebrow over his statements on Wednesday.

Obama said during the ABC Special on Wednesday night that a way to save healthcare costs is to abandon the sort of care that "evidence shows is not necessarily going to improve" the patient's health. He went on to say that he had personal familiarity with such a situation when his grandmother broke her hip after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Obama offered a question on the efficacy of further care for his grandmother saying, "and the question was, does she get hip replacement surgery, even though she was fragile enough they were not sure how long she would last?"

But who is it that will present the "evidence" that will "show" that further care is futile? Are we to believe that Obama expects individual doctors will make that decision in his bold new government controlled healthcare future? If he is trying to make that claim it is a flat out untruth and he knows it.

[...]

Let's hope none of us are ever in a position to find out if Obamacare deems our grandmothers worth saving.

And what ever happened to the left's mantra that healthcare is a "right" and that money should never enter into a life or death decision? Now The One is saying it's just too darn expensive to save the old and infirm? Will our friends on the left now disown Obama the "murderer"?

Even worse, why has the media remained mum on the possibility that President Spock, Doctor of life, just said that old folks are too expensive to treat? Hello, CNN, NBC, New York Times... anyone?

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