AP reported on town hall disruptions, ignored conservative strategy

The Associated Press cited an Arkansas town hall meeting hosted by two Democratic congressmen that was disrupted by protestors as an example of how "[l]awmakers across the country are encountering growing public doubts" about health care reform. But the AP did not note that conservative organizations opposed to the Democrats' proposals are conducting a campaign to pack those events with their supporters.

Organized effort by conservative groups seeks to pack town halls

From the August 5 AP article:

An unruly Little Rock crowd heckled and shouted at two Arkansas Democratic congressmen Wednesday, accusing them of supporting a government-backed health plan that would take away Americans' personal choice and freedom.

At one point, U.S. Rep. Mike Ross sat with his head in his hands while the crowd shouted. He and fellow Democratic Rep. Vic Snyder told audience members at a forum at Arkansas Children's Hospital that they wouldn't support a completely government-run, single-payer health insurance plan.

“But that's what Obama wants!” an audience member shouted, leading to more heckling.


Lawmakers across the country are encountering growing public doubts about President Barack Obama's push to remake the system for providing medical care, evident in polls that find confidence in Obama's handling of the issue has fallen since January.

Several conservative groups are engaged in efforts to encourage their members to attend town halls. Conservative organizations opposed to health care reform -- including FreedomWorks, Americans for Prosperity, and Conservatives for Patients' Rights -- are conducting a campaign to turn out their supporters to attend those events. CPR has reportedly “confirmed that it has undertaken a concerted effort to get people out to the town hall meetings to protest reform,” while FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity have reportedly “organized” the town hall protestors and are “harnessing social networking Web sites to organize their supporters in much the same way Mr. Obama did during his election campaign.” [Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, 8/4/09; The New York Times, 8/3/09]

America's Health Insurance Plans reportedly deploying employees to “track[] where local lawmakers hold town-hall meetings,” “rebut” Democrats. On July 30, The Wall Street Journal reported: "[I]nsurers continue to wage an aggressive campaign against Democrats' proposals to create a public health-insurance plan. America's Health Insurance Plans has stationed employees in 30 states who are tracking where local lawmakers hold town-hall meetings." And on August 5, the paper reported: “The health-insurance industry said Tuesday it is launching an effort to send insurance-company employees to public meetings nationwide this month to rebut increasing criticism of the industry from the White House and top Democrats.” [The Wall Street Journal; 7/30/09, 8/5/09]

Fox News follows up “tea party” promotion with promotion of town hall disruptions. Just as it promoted the April 15 “tea party” protests, Fox News is now promoting the disruptions of Democratic town hall events by protesters opposed to health care reform, protests that are being touted by Republican leaders and supported by conservative groups. Following the August 2 disruption of a town hall event hosted by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Fox News personalities -- including Sean Hannity, Peter Johnson, Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, and Neil Cavuto -- have lauded such protesters or urged viewers to take similar action.

Conservative media birthers also pushing town hall disruptions. Conservative media figures who have promoted conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate -- including Lou Dobbs, Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Jim Quinn -- have recently used their radio shows to promote the anti-health care reform disruptions of congressional town hall events. Indeed, the disruptions resemble similar efforts by birthers to disrupt town halls.

“Concerns” over “end-of-life provisions” stoked by conservative fearmongering

From the August 5 AP article:

Lawmakers across the country are encountering growing public doubts about President Barack Obama's push to remake the system for providing medical care, evident in polls that find confidence in Obama's handling of the issue has fallen since January. Concerns are growing about government-run health plans, a growing federal deficit, and the impact on small businesses and end-of-life provisions.

Media echo serial misinformer McCaughey's false end-of-life counseling claim. Since former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that the House health care reform bill would “absolutely require” end-of-life counseling for seniors “that will tell them how to end their life sooner,” numerous media figures have echoed McCaughey's claim -- even after the falsehood was debunked and McCaughey herself backtracked.

Advance care planning is not mandatory in the House health care bill. Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 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]

AARP Executive VP: McCaughey's commentary “rife with gross -- and even cruel -- distortions.” In a July 28 press release, AARP executive vice president John Rother stated that “Betsy McCaughey's recent commentary on health care reform column in various media outlets is rife with gross -- and even cruel -- distortions.” Criticizing McCaughey's “distortions” with regard to comparative effectiveness research and end-of-life counseling, Rother added that AARP will “fight the campaign of misinformation that vested interests are using to try to scare older Americans in order to protect the status quo.”

Numerous eldercare groups support the provision. According to the fact sheet distributed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer's (D-OR) office, the provision is “Endorsed By: AARP, American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, American College of Physicians, American Hospice Foundation, Center to Advance Palliative Care, Consumers Union, Gundersen Lutheran Health System, Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association, Medicare Rights Center, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, National Palliative Care Research Center, Providence Health and Services, and Supportive Care Coalition.”