Fox News' Hemmer allowed former CEO of scandal-plagued hospital firm to spread stimulus health care falsehood

On America's Newsroom, Bill Hemmer allowed Richard Scott, whom Hemmer did not note resigned as chairman of HCA, Inc. amid a federal investigation, to falsely claim that a provision in the stimulus bill allows the federal government to “take away” some of patients' health care “choices.” In fact, the provision in question allocates funds for the research of “the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies,” but in no way does the law empower the council to dictate which treatments may or may not be prescribed.

During the March 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer allowed Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR) chairman Richard Scott to falsely claim that in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, “there was a federal -- national board that's going to look at treatments, look at drugs, and have an impact on what your doctor's going to prescribe or what treatment. So they're going to take away, likely, some of your choices.” Scott's claim echoed misrepresentations of a provision in the recovery act that establishes a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research and calls for funding to “be used to accelerate the development and dissemination of research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies” and for the Health and Human Services secretary to “consider any recommendations” by the council. But the law in no way empowers the council to dictate which treatments may or may not be prescribed.

Indeed, the act makes this point explicitly:


(1) COVERAGE. -- Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Council to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer.

(2) REPORTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS. -- None of the reports submitted under this section or recommendations made by the Council shall be construed as mandates or clinical guidelines for payment, coverage, or treatment.

Additionally, Hemmer failed to note that Scott resigned as chairman of the nation's largest for-profit health care company in 1997 amid a federal investigation into the company's Medicare billing, physician recruiting, and home-care practices. According to a July 26, 1997, Los Angeles Times article, Scott resigned “as chairman of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. amid a massive federal investigation into the Medicare billing, physician recruiting and home-care practices of the nation's largest for-profit health care company.” On December 15, 2000, Forbes reported that HCA -- The Heathcare Company, formerly Columbia/HCA Healthcare -- “pleaded guilty to a variety of fraud charges. It admitted to bilking various government programs and agreed to pay a total of $840 million in fines and penalties.” Forbes also reported that “Scott was forced to resign in the wake of the initial fraud charges in 1997.”

Hemmer identified Scott only as the chairman of CPR, and the on-screen text stated:


The March 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report similarly failed to note Scott's scandal-plagued history while also spreading misinformation about Democratic health care legislation. Fox News has also frequently promoted the falsehood that the recovery act will lead to government restrictions on medical treatments.

From the March 5 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

HEMMER: Hey, there's a major event this afternoon at the White House, when the president unveils his plans for remaking health care. Meanwhile, there's a group called Conservatives for Patients' Rights, and they are ready to respond -- this week launching a multimillion-dollar web, TV, and ad campaign in opposition to what you'll hear later today. Listen up.

[begin video clip]

SCOTT: With Congress starting on health care, let's remind the politicians: Americans know what works. Choice: that means choosing your own doctor. Competition: disclose prices and performance up front. Accountability: to give you the same tax breaks for insurance employers get. And personal responsibility: reward healthy choices. Let's have real reform that puts patients first.

NARRATOR: Conservatives for Patients' Rights: defending your choice in health care.

[end video clip]

HEMMER: And today the arguments begin. The group's leader -- you saw him in the ad -- he's my guest now: CPR chairman Rick Scott. Rick, good morning to you.

SCOTT: Good morning, Bill. Thanks for the invitation.

HEMMER: Lay out your case -- lay out your case. Why are you against this?

SCOTT: Well, we're not against it, because we don't know what the bill is. We don't know the plan. What we know is they raised $634 billion in taxes, and we know in -- but we don't know plan. And we know that in the stimulus bill, surprisingly, there was a federal -- national board that's going to look at treatments, look at drugs, and have an impact on what your doctor's going to prescribe or what treatment. So they're going to take away, likely, some of your choices.

HEMMER: All right, you wrote a letter --

SCOTT: Now what --

HEMMER: You wrote a letter --

SCOTT: -- if you think about what --

HEMMER: I'm sorry, there's a bit of an interrupt here on the satellite, my apologies. You wrote a letter to the president -- on-screen, you can see it there. This is what the White House is going to say. They're going to come out today and say, look, the economy is a mess; health care is a mess. If we improve health care, we will help improve the economy.

In part, the president will say the following -- and [Fox News White House correspondent] Major Garrett shared this 30 minutes ago: “The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. Making investments and reform now won't add to our budget deficits but, rather, it is one of the best ways to reduce them.” Your response?

SCOTT: Well, if you want to fix health care, the problem is purely cost. Every -- every problem in health care is based on cost. We know that every time the government gets involved in anything, costs go up. So, if you want cost to come down, you've got to rely on the free market -- the free market, things like choice. You choose your doctor; choose your health plan. You need competition. You need to know what things cost. You need outcomes. You need accountability. You ought to have the same benefit for taxes that a company has, so people own their own health plan.

And, finally, if you want cost to come down, you've got to reward people for taking care of themselves -- for not smoking, for exercising, for eating right. It'll drive health care costs way down. There's no reason health care costs what it does.

HEMMER: Rick, is your -- is your basic argument about choice, or is it about economic concerns?

SCOTT: Well, clearly, the most important thing in health care is what -- how it impacts you and your family, your kids, your parents -- everything. It -- the first thing we have to do it is fix it for patients. We have to worry about what happens to the patient. Now if you want to do that, you rely on free market principles to do that.

The free market does everything better than the government does it. Every time the government gets involved, costs go up, access goes down. If you look at the Canadian system or you look at the U.K. system, they're moving to what we have. They're moving to choice; they're moving to competition. They're getting away from more and more government involvement.

HEMMER: Well, Rick Scott, thank you for your time today.