Serial Health Care Fearmongerers Fox & Friends Attack Obama for “Scaring” Seniors

After President Obama pointed out cuts in Rep. Paul Ryan's budget to elderly care and education programs, Fox & Friends reacted by accusing Obama of “playing on the public's fear.” But Fox & Friends has relentlessly attacked the health care bill by advancing the false “death panels” myth and criticizing cuts in Medicare, whereas experts agree with Obama that Ryan's plan will hurt seniors.

Obama Argued Against Proposed GOP Cuts To Medicare, Education

Obama: “If We Believe” That Senior Care And Education Are Important, “We've Got To Make Sure That We're Paying For It.” In an April 14 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Obama pointed out the need to pay for programs that ensure care for seniors, education, and infrastructure. From ABC's interview with the president:

OBAMA: What we're now seeing is the fact that it's not enough just to say, “I'm going to keep your taxes low and make government small.” We've got to make real choices. Do we want to maintain Medicare? If we do, we've got to pay for it. Do we believe that we should have the best roads and the best airports and the best ports and the best railways in the world 'cause we're the greatest country on Earth? If we do, we've got to have a way of paying for it. If we believe that it's unacceptable for our seniors not to be able to go into a nursing home when they need care or, you know, children who are poor not to be able to get a good education. If we believe those things, and I think the vast majority of Americans do, then we've got to make sure that we're paying for it. And I think government has to be smart, it has to be lean, it has to be efficient. But ultimately the vision of society that I have is one in which we are rising together. [ABC News, 4/14/11 emphasis added]

Obama Criticized GOP's “Pessimistic” Budget Proposal That Cut Education And “Ends Medicare As We Know It.” From Obama's April 13 speech on the deficit:

Now, to their credit, one vision has been presented and championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party's presidential candidates. It's a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.

These are both worthy goals. They're worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known certainly in my lifetime. In fact, I think it would be fundamentally different than what we've known throughout our history.

A 70 percent cut in clean energy. A 25 percent cut in education. A 30 percent cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That's the proposal. These aren't the kind of cuts you make when you're trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren't the kinds of cuts that the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kinds of cuts that tell us we can't afford the America that I believe in and I think you believe in.

I believe it paints a vision of our future that is deeply pessimistic. It's a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can't afford to send them.

Go to China and you'll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. They're scrambling to figure out how they put more money into education. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but on biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the American people, the United States of America -- the greatest nation on Earth -- can't afford any of this.

It's a vision that says America can't afford to keep the promise we've made to care for our seniors. It says that 10 years from now, if you're a 65-year-old who's eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy the insurance that's available in the open marketplace, well, tough luck -- you're on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

It's a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. Who are these 50 million Americans? Many are somebody's grandparents -- may be one of yours -- who wouldn't be able to afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down's syndrome. Some of these kids with disabilities are -- the disabilities are so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we'd be telling to fend for themselves.

And worst of all, this is a vision that says even though Americans can't afford to invest in education at current levels, or clean energy, even though we can't afford to maintain our commitment on Medicare and Medicaid, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about that. [, Remarks by the President on Fiscal Policy, 4/13/11]

Fox & Friends Hypocritically Attacks The President For “Playing On The Public's Fear”

Carlson: There's “Concern” About “Whether Or Not Obama Is Stoking Some Fear.” On the April 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson claimed that “there's [also] concern about whether or not President Obama is stoking some fear in some of the comments he's been making.” Fox & Friends then aired a segment of the ABC interview while the on-screen text accused Obama of “Playing on the Public's Fear.” From Fox & Friends:

public fear

[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/15/11]

Carlson: “Can The President Scare The American People Into His Plan For Saving?” Later on Fox & Friends, Carlson asked: “Can the president scare the American people into his plan for saving?” After playing portions of Obama's interview with ABC News, Carlson asked, “So will fear sell you on the idea of raising taxes?” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/14/11]

Kilmeade: The President “Is Making People Say To Themselves, Are We Going To Lose Our Country If We Go Along With Budget Cuts?” Later on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said:

KILMEADE: So instead of looking at the three huge entitlements of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and moving forward in a detailed way, like the 73-page proposal Congressman Ryan put together, the president decides to say things like that and also say things in his speech where that is -- the president talks like he's -- this is not the America that I grew up in. And this is -- this budget would sacrifice the America we believe in. So that is making people say to themselves, are we going to lose our country if we go along with budget cuts? [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 4/14/11]

But Fox & Friends Has Repeatedly Invoked Scare Tactics To Misinform About Health Care Reform

Johnson: Health Care Reform “A Subtle Form Of Euthanasia.” Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said on the July 27, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends:

JOHNSON: And some people are saying, well, this is a health care reform, other people are saying -- maybe me -- that this is a subtle form of euthanasia. And when you start looking at the proposals, you say, God, what's happening?

One of the proposals, Section 1233, talks about advanced care planning consultations.

CARLSON: What's that mean?

JOHNSON: And that's a fancy term where a doctor goes to you every five years once you're 65, or more if you're chronically ill, and explains to you the benefits of so-called palliative care, of not giving active treatment. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/27/09]

Johnson: Advanced Care Provision “Is Kind Of Our 2009 Brave New World, Soylent Green, 1984, Aldous Huxley Kind Of World.” Johnson said on the July 28, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends:

JOHNSON: Advanced care planning consultation is kind of our 2009 Brave New World, Soylent Green, 1984, Aldous Huxley kind of world where you come in and see a doctor at age 65, and if you're chronically ill, you come in every year, and your doctor, who will be trained -- and they will spend billions of dollars on training doctors to be counselors -- that you have options. You don't have to go into a hospital. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/28/09]

Kilmeade Adopts “Death Panel” Terminology To Advance End-Of-Life Care Myth. On the August 10, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, Kilmeade said:

KILMEADE: [E]veryone's talking about seniors, and they're talking about the middle class and affordable health care. If the upper class is paying for the next two classes, and are seniors going to be in front of the death panel? And then just as you think, OK, that's ridiculous, then you realize there's provisions in there that seniors in the last lap of their life will be sitting there going to a panel possibly discussing what the best thing for them is. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/09]

Morris: Medicare Advisory Board “Is Really The Death Panel That Sarah Palin Was Talking About.” On the December 23, 2009, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, contributor Dick Morris said:

MORRIS: They're going to vote against it or for it, that's right. The Medicare Advisory Board you speak about is a particularly dangerous thing, because it's going to set up for Medicare only, for the elderly only, protocols and standards of care where they are going to be saying no, you can't give this person a hip replacement, they are too old, and no, you can't treat this person with colon cancer with the best drug available. I know it increases the chance of his dying, but it's beyond the cost parameters that we are prepared to allow. And this will be done by this federal board, which is really the death panel that Sarah Palin was talking about. That's an oversimplification, but the basic concept isn't far wrong. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/23/09]

Kilmeade: "[A]re Seniors Going To Be In Front Of The Death Panel?" On the August 10, 2009, edition of Fox & Friends, Kilmeade said, "[E]veryone's talking about seniors, and they're talking about the middle class and affordable health care. If the upper class is paying for the next two classes, and are seniors going to be in front of the death panel? And then just as you think, OK, that's ridiculous, then you realize there's provisions in there that seniors in the last lap of their life will be sitting there going to a panel, possibly discussing what the best thing for them is." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/09]

Doocy Suggested That Under Health Care Reform, You'll Be Asked, “Isn't It Just Time?” During a July 29, 2009, segment on “rumors” about end-of-life care, Carlson stated that “if you were looking for a way to cut costs, some people argue -- who don't agree with this health care reform bill -- they argue that, yeah, maybe they will decide to not give elderly people the care that many people believe they deserve to continue their life.” Co-host Steve Doocy subsequently claimed, “Besides, you look at other countries that have nationalized health care situations, frequently there's a board that sits there and they go, 'OK. You're 85. You know, this $75,000 surgery just doesn't make sense. So rather than you winding up with this new life-saving thing that could extend your life, you know, isn't it just time?' ” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/29/09]

Malkin On Fox & Friends: Health Care Reform “Puts A Discount On The Lives Of Elderly People.” Discussing AARP's support for health care reform on the July 30, 2009, show, conservative columnist and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin stated, “The AARP just held a tele-town hall supporting Obama on his health care takeover plans, and this is at odds, it seems to me, with the best interests of millions of AARP members, given that that health care plan puts a discount on the lives of elderly people and would result in the redistribution of health away from the elderly and the infirm to other special favored interests and patients.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/30/09]

Johnson: Canadian Infant Debate “Could Happen Here In This Country With The Bureaucratic Bumbling Of Obamacare.” On the February 23, 2011, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Doocy reported on a story about a 1-year-old Canadian infant who is in a permanent coma and at the center of a debate over whether his life should be sustained in order to allow him to die at home. Doocy asked Peter Johnson Jr., “Is government-run health care in Canada taking away parents' rights?” Johnson responded, “Yes, and unfortunately we could have it here.” Johnson later agreed with Doocy's statements that “Canada's got that government-mandated health care” and that “could...happen in the United States.” Johnson later claimed, “It's a sad but true lesson to what could happen here in this country with the bureaucratic bumbling of Obamacare.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/23/11]

Moreover, Experts Agree That Ryan's Plan Could Hurt Seniors, While “Death Panels” Claim Was Simply False

Krugman: Ryan's Plan “Would Deprive Many And Probably Most Seniors Of Adequate Health Care.” In an April 7 New York Times column, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that Ryan's budget plan “would deprive many and probably most seniors of adequate health care.” From Krugman's column:

And then there's the much-ballyhooed proposal to abolish Medicare and replace it with vouchers that can be used to buy private health insurance.

The point here is that privatizing Medicare does nothing, in itself, to limit health-care costs. In fact, it almost surely raises them by adding a layer of middlemen. Yet the House plan assumes that we can cut health-care spending as a percentage of G.D.P. despite an aging population and rising health care costs.

The only way that can happen is if those vouchers are worth much less than the cost of health insurance. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2030 the value of a voucher would cover only a third of the cost of a private insurance policy equivalent to Medicare as we know it. So the plan would deprive many and probably most seniors of adequate health care. [The New York Times, 4/7/11]

CEPR's Baker: Ryan's Budget Would Force Seniors To Spend Much Of Their Income On Health Insurance. According to Center for Economic Policy Research co-director Dean Baker:

Representative Ryan would replace the current Medicare program with a voucher for people who turn age 65 in 2022 and later. This voucher would be worth $8,000 for someone turning age 65 in that year. It would rise in step with the consumer price index and also as people age. (Health care expenses are higher for people age 75 than age 65.)

According to the CBO analysis the benefit would cover 32 percent of the cost of a health insurance package equivalent to the current Medicare benefit (Figure 1). This means that the beneficiary would pay 68 percent of the cost of this package. Using the CBO assumption of 2.5 percent annual inflation, the voucher would have grown to $9,750 by 2030. This means that a Medicare type plan for someone age 65 would be $30,460 under Representative Ryan's plan, leaving seniors with a bill of $20,700. (This does not count various out of pocket medical expenditures not covered by Medicare.)

According to the Social Security trustees, the benefit for a medium wage earner who first starts collecting benefits at age 65 in 2030 would be $32,200. (This adjusts the benefit projected by the Social Security trustees [$19,652 in 2010 dollars] for the 2.5 percent annual inflation rate assumed by CBO.) For close to 70 percent of seniors, Social Security is more than half of their retirement income. Most seniors will get a benefit that is less than the medium earners benefit described here since their average earnings are less than that of a medium earner and they start collecting Social Security benefits before age 65. [, 4/6/11]

AP: “CBO Said Over Time Future Retirees Would Pay Much More.” The Associated Press reported on April 6:

Most future retirees would pay considerably more for health care under the new budget proposed by House Republicans, according to an analysis by nonpartisan experts for Congress that signals problems ahead for the plan.

The fiscal blueprint would put people now 54 and younger in a different kind of health care program when they retire, unlike the Medicare that their parents and grandparents have known. Instead of coverage for a set of benefits prescribed from Washington, they'd get a federal payment to buy private insurance from a choice of government-regulated plans.

“A typical beneficiary would spend more for health care under the proposal,” the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in an analysis released late Tuesday.

The CBO said over time future retirees would pay much more, partly because the Medicare benefits package would be more expensive to deliver through private insurers. By 2030, the government payment would cover only about one-third of the typical retiree's total health care costs, the budget office said.

The sweeping fiscal plan by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would reduce total federal spending, deficits and debt, saving money for federal taxpayers. But it would be tempered by a cost shift to future retirees. [The Associated Press, 4/6/11]

Economist Blog: “Ryan's Plan Ends The Guarantee That All American Seniors Will Have Health Insurance.” An April 5 post on The Economist's Democracy in America blog stated:

PAUL RYAN'S plan to replace Medicare with a system of vouchers for seniors to buy health care on the private market has only been vaguely described, as of this writing. But there is one thing about it that's fairly clear, regardless of what's in the details Mr Ryan will announce today: Mr Ryan's plan ends the guarantee that all American seniors will have health insurance. The Medicare system we've had in place for the past 45 years promises that once you reach 65, you will be covered by a government-financed health-insurance plan. Mr Ryan's plan promises that once you reach 65, you will receive a voucher for an amount that he thinks ought to be enough for individuals to purchase a private health-insurance plan. (Mr Ryan insists that his plan doesn't entail a “voucher”, but there is no meaningful distinction between getting a voucher with which to pay for insurance, and having the government send a payment to the insurer you choose.) If that voucher isn't worth enough for some particular senior to buy insurance, and that particular senior isn't wealthy enough to top off the coverage, or is a bit forgetful and neglects to purchase insurance, there's no guarantee that that person will be insured. It's up to you; you carry the risk.


Mr Ryan's proposal to privatise and voucherise Medicare attempts to reintroduce the incentive to cut costs by dumping that risk back onto individual seniors. And the greatest risks will fall on the poorest, sickest, or least savvy elderly; they will be the ones most at risk of going uncovered. ['s Democracy in America blog, 4/5/11]

CBPP's Van De Water: Ryan's Plan Shifts “Large Health Care Costs Onto Seniors.” In an April 13 podcast, Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), stated:

[T]he Ryan plan would gradually replace traditional Medicare with a system of cash-vouchers, which seniors and persons with disabilities could use to help them to purchase private health insurance coverage. While this would save the government money, it would do so by shifting large health care costs onto seniors.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that when this program goes into effect in 2022, a typical 65-year-old, who would now be in the new system, would have to pay about $12,000 out-of-pocket for his or her health care spending rather than just about $6,000 as would be the case if traditional Medicare were to continue.

I might add that these costs would continue to rise even more in later years because the value of the vouchers would gradually shrink as years go by in comparison to the rising costs of health coverage. [CBPP, 4/13/11]

By Contrast, Right-Wing's "Death Panel" Claims Are Simply False. In December 2009 PolitiFact called “death panels” the 2009 Lie of the Year. As PolitiFact wrote in August 2009, the “death panels” claim is “Pants on Fire” false:

We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no 'death board' that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. ... [Palin] said that the Democratic plan will ration care and 'my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.' Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire! [, 12/18/09, 8/10/09]