Fox News Uses “Nuclear Option” To Revive “Death Panel” Myth

Fox News used the Senate's recent filibuster reforms to revive the long-debunked myth that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is a “death panel” that will now be staffed by Obama appointees who won't have to endure Republican obstruction efforts.

Senate Democrats changed rules on November 21 so that “judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote,” a changed referred to by critics as the “nuclear option.”

On the November 26 edition of Fox's Happening Now, co-host Jenna Lee introduced a segment claiming “new fallout from the nuclear option” could allow Obama the power to nominate candidates to “so-called death panels” without GOP input. Chief Congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel explained correctly that the IPAB “is a 15 member panel and its role is to slow the growth in Medicare spending.” But Fox's on-screen text referred to the IPAB as “Obama death panels,” referencing a right-wing myth that IPAB will have the power to ration health care in America and decide who lives and dies:

The ACA does not allow IPAB to recommend rationing health care. The text of ACA explicitly states that IPAB cannot make “any recommendation to ration health care... or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.” A Politifact analysis reported that IPAB is “forbidden from submitting 'any recommendation to ration health care.'” Washington Post's Glenn Kessler pointed out that the ACA “explicitly says that the recommendations cannot lead to rationing of health care”:

The health-care law explicitly says that the recommendations cannot lead to rationing of health care. Of course, “rationing” is in the eye of beholder, and one common complaint is that rationing is not defined. The law also limits recommendations that would change benefits, modify eligibility or increase Medicare beneficiary cost-sharing, such as deductibles, coinsurance and co-payments.

On the surface, the IPAB appears aimed at doing the same thing as the House Republican Medicare plan -- reducing the runaway costs of Medicare, except on a faster track. (The GOP plan would not kick in until 2021, just a few years before the Medicare hospital fund begins to run dry.) 

Fox News continues to revive this debunked myth to fear monger that the ACA includes death panels despite Politifact calling it the "lie of the year" in 2009. From Politifact:

Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest. 

“Death panels.”

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page. 

Her assertion -- that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care -- spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, “Death panels? Really ?”

The editors of, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times , have chosen it as our inaugural “Lie of the Year.”