Fox misleads on Obama interview to advance "death panel" fears

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

Fox News' Bret Baier and Shannon Bream selectively cited an April interview to claim that President Obama's "own words may have contributed to the atmosphere of fear" surrounding "talk about possible government mandates in so-called end-of-life issues" or "what critics call 'death panels.' " But in the interview Bream cited, Obama made clear that an advisory panel that would issue guidance on end-of-life issues would "not [be] determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance."

Baier, Bream selectively cited Obama interview to claim he "may have contributed to the atmosphere of fear"

From the August 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BAIER: Back to our continuing coverage of health care reform now. Many seniors have been shaken by the speculation and talk about possible government mandates in so-called end-of-life issues. Correspondent Shannon Bream reports the controversy is far from over.

[begin video clip]

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): We should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on grandma.

BREAM: End-of-life issues are taking center stage at town halls across the country as angry seniors speak out about worries that government advisory boards, what critics call "death panels," will be making key decisions about what kind of treatment they'll be able to get in their later years.

OBAMA: The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately --

BREAM: And though the president wants to quell any efforts to connect reform proposals to something more sinister, his own words may have contributed to the atmosphere of fear.

He often discusses his grandmother's story. She was battling terminal cancer when she fell and needed a hip replacement. Mr. Obama has talked about the fact that he would have paid her bills out of pocket, but that whether society should be willing to pay such costs is a tougher question.

In an April interview with The New York Times Magazine, he said, quote, "So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right? I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here."

REP. THADDEUS McCOTTER (R-MI): That does not mean that we should tie the continuation and the quality of an individual's life to how much they cost the government.

[end video clip]

In the interview, Obama made clear an advisory panel is "not determinative, but ... has to be able to give you some guidance."

From Obama's New York Times Magazine interview with staff writer David Leonhardt, published on April 28:

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know how much that hip replacement [that Obama's grandmother received shortly before her death] cost. I would have paid out of pocket for that hip replacement just because she's my grandmother. Whether, sort of in the aggregate, society making those decisions to give my grandmother, or everybody else's aging grandparents or parents, a hip replacement when they're terminally ill is a sustainable model, is a very difficult question. If somebody told me that my grandmother couldn't have a hip replacement and she had to lie there in misery in the waning days of her life -- that would be pretty upsetting.

[LEONHARDT]: And it's going to be hard for people who don't have the option of paying for it.

THE PRESIDENT: So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right?

I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here.

[LEONHARDT]: So how do you -- how do we deal with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that there is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels. And that's part of why you have to have some independent group that can give you guidance. It's not determinative, but I think has to be able to give you some guidance. And that's part of what I suspect you'll see emerging out of the various health care conversations that are taking place on the Hill right now. [The New York Times Magazine; 4/28/09]

Fearmongering on rationing is a GOP strategy

Luntz memo urged Republicans to emphasize the "consequences of rationing." In a memo to Republicans outlining rhetorical strategies for opposing Obama's health care reform initiative, Republican consultant Frank Luntz wrote: "Put simply, while Americans would oppose the concept (and reality) of healthcare rationing, it is the impact of rationing -- the long waits for tests, the denial of care, the thousands of people fleeing to America to get the care they can't get in their own countries -- this is what truly frightens the public more than the word rationing itself. ... The word "rationing" does induce the negative response you want, but what you really want audiences to focus on is the "consequences of rationing."

Special Report not alone in fearmongering about end-of-life health care

Fox & Friends has repeatedly fearmongered on rationing and care of elderly. In selectively citing Obama's April interview, Baier and Bream followed a pattern of Fox News hosts and guests repeatedly invoking rationing among the elderly to fearmonger the effects of health care reform. Fox & Friends hosts and guests have repeatedly characterized advanced planning provisions in the bill as "euthanasia," "eugenics," and "an Aldous Huxley kind of world."

Fearmongering about end-of-life mandates echoes discredited right-wing smear

Claims of mandatory counseling for seniors to end their lives are false. Suggestions that health care reform will lead to the elderly being encouraged to die echo the discredited right-wing myth that a provision in the House health care reform bill would require that seniors receive "mandatory" end-of-life counseling sessions that would, in Betsy McCaughey's words, "tell them how to end their life sooner." Contrary to these assertions, the bill does not make end-of-life counseling mandatory. The relevant section of the bill amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233]. According to an analysis of the bill produced by the three relevant House committees, the section "[p]rovides coverage for consultation between enrollees and practitioners to discuss orders for life-sustaining treatment. Instructs CMS to modify 'Medicare & You' handbook to incorporate information on end-of-life planning resources and to incorporate measures on advance care planning into the physician's quality reporting initiative." [waysandmeans.house.gov, accessed 7/29/09]

PolitiFact: Claim that seniors would be told how to end lives sooner "is an outright distortion." Criticizing McCaughey's false claims, PolitiFact.com wrote that the "claim that the sessions would 'tell [seniors] how to end their life sooner' is an outright distortion. Rather, the sessions are an option for elderly patients who want to learn more about living wills, health care proxies and other forms of end-of-life planning. McCaughey isn't just wrong, she's spreading a ridiculous falsehood." [PolitiFact.com, 7/23/09]

Transcript

From the August 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BAIER: Back to our continuing coverage of health care reform now. Many seniors have been shaken by the speculation and talk about possible government mandates in so-called end-of-life issues. Correspondent Shannon Bream reports the controversy is far from over.

[begin video clip]

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA): We should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on grandma.

BREAM: End-of-life issues are taking center stage at town halls across the country as angry seniors speak out about worries that government advisory boards, what critics call "death panels," will be making key decisions about what kind of treatment they'll be able to get in their later years.

OBAMA: The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately --

BREAM: And though the president wants to quell any efforts to connect reform proposals to something more sinister, his own words may have contributed to the atmosphere of fear.

He often discusses his grandmother's story. She was battling terminal cancer when she fell and needed a hip replacement. Mr. Obama has talked about the fact that he would have paid her bills out of pocket, but that whether society should be willing to pay such costs is a tougher question.

In an April interview with The New York Times Magazine, he said, quote, "So that's where I think you just get into some very difficult moral issues. But that's also a huge driver of cost, right? I mean, the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out here."

REP. THADDEUS McCOTTER (R-MI): That does not mean that we should tie the continuation and the quality of an individual's life to how much they cost the government.

BREAM: And cost is certainly an issue. Roughly a quarter of Medicare's most recent budget, more than $100 billion, was spent on patients in their final year of life.

And there is real concern that some lawmakers pushing for health care reform could look for spending cuts by limiting, quote, "unnecessary procedures for the elderly." Would medical professionals then be urged to counsel against costly procedures during patient-doctor consultations? Supporters of those consultations say that suggestion is nothing more than a scare tactic.

JIM DAU (AARP): There's no government counselor in the room. There's no bureaucrat there waiting outside in the waiting room with a checklist. This is a conversation between you and your doctor.

[end video clip]

BREAM: The so-called end-of-life counseling meetings between doctors and patients are outlined in House Resolution 3200, the only comprehensive health care reform measure so far from Capitol Hill.

The Senate has yet to produce a bill of its own, and there's no word on whether it would contain a similar provision.

In Washington, Shannon Bream, Fox News.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Bret Baier, Shannon Bream
Show/Publication
Special Report with Bret Baier
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