Fox provides forum for Luntz's talking points

Megyn Kelly and Fox News medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel echoed talking points from a recent memo by conservative pollster Frank Luntz that is intended to help defeat President Obama and congressional Democrats' health-care reform initiative.

During a May 14 discussion of health care reform between host Megyn Kelly and Dr. Marc Siegel, Fox News medical contributor, on Fox News' America's Newsroom, both Kelly and Siegel echoed conservative pollster Frank Luntz's health-care talking points. Luntz's recently released memo, “The Language of Healthcare 2009: The 10 Rules for Stopping the 'Washington Takeover' of Healthcare,” is intended to help conservatives defeat President Obama and congressional Democrats' health-care reform initiative. As The Huffington Post noted in a May 14 post about this segment, “Conservatives are getting the memo.”

Moreover, Kelly identified Siegel as a “Fox News medical contributor,” but did not note that he is affiliated with a group that is funded in part by the pharmaceutical industry. Siegel is a senior fellow at the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest (CMPI). During an interview that aired on the February 7, 2008, broadcast of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, senior correspondent Jeffrey Brown introduced CMPI director Peter Pitts by stating that the group “receives funding from the pharmaceutical industry.” Pitts did not dispute Brown's statement. Indeed, in a July 7, 2008, profile of CMPI's “campaign to illustrate the problems with government-provided care in Europe and Canada,” Politico reported that the group's “biggest contributors in 2006 were drug maker Pfizer and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, according to tax filings.”

The on-screen text that ran throughout the segment appropriated Luntz's phrase “Washington Takeover,” which was among his “BEST words” for “maximiz[ing] your attacks on the Democratic plan.”

From Luntz's memo [emphases in original]:

Maximize your attacks on the Democratic plan by choosing the BEST words. For instance, calling it the “Democratic plan” isn't your best bet; doing so makes it political in the wrong way. It makes the issue Republicans vs. Democrats -- which doesn't favor you. The issue needs to be Americans vs. Washington. So here are the words to use:


“Washington Takeover” beats “Washington Control.” Takeovers are like coups -- they both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom. What Americans fear most is that Washington politicians will dictate what kind of care they can receive.

Additionally, Kelly and Siegel echoed Luntz's emphasis on “delayed” care. Siegel stated, “You've been waiting in waiting rooms. The wait in waiting rooms is going to get longer.” Similarly, Kelly said, “You talk about the waiting lists. A lot of people have suggested that if we go down this path, we're going to look a little bit more like Canada than perhaps we want to when it comes to health care.” In his memo, Luntz repeatedly emphasized the idea of “waiting” for care or receiving “delayed” care. From his memo [emphases in original]:

“Time” is the government healthcare killer. As Mick Jagger once sang, “Time is on Your Side.” Nothing else turns people against the government takeover of healthcare than the realistic expectation that it will result in delayed and potentially even denied treatment, procedures and/or medications. “Waiting to buy a car or even a house won't kill you. But waiting for the healthcare you need -- could. Delayed care is denied care.”


“Delayed care is denied care.” While this comes towards the end of the analysis, it may well be the single most important language finding in our work to date. Of the roughly 30 distinct messages we tested, nothing turns people against what the Democrats are trying to do more immediately and intensely than the specter of having to wait for tests and treatment thanks to a government takeover of healthcare by nameless, faceless bureaucrats.

From the May 14 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:

KELLY: Fox News Alert. We are getting reports from Washington -- the House Democrats are looking at very big health care changes including federal aid to families making under $88,000 a year to help pay for health insurance. Now, the Associated Press is also reporting that it has a copy of a plan that shows the feds developing an insurance program that will compete with private companies.

Besides costing American taxpayers trillions of dollars, what can you expect as Washington pushes to reform our health care system? Well, our next guest has a few ideas on it. He is Dr. Marc Siegel. You know him well. He's a Fox News medical contributor. Doctor, good morning.

SIEGEL: Morning, Megyn.

KELLY: I look at your points of what we expect if, in fact, the government gets more involved in health care under these plans, Barack Obama's plan or these lawmakers' plans, and I feel a little depressed. You are not forecasting good things first when it comes to costs.

SIEGEL: Well, I gotta tell you, Megyn, I want to say one good thing. We have currently the best health care in the world. I'm convinced of that. We have high technology. We can offer treatments that no one else can. That's why people come across the borders here from Canada.

KELLY: Yeah.

SIEGEL: I don't want to see that sacrificed. I don't want to see it diluted. I'm a practicing primary care physician. Our group is in trouble. His plan, Obama's plan and what's being pushed through the House, has an idea in mind that I'm concerned about. They seem to think that prevention is key, but primary doctors, internists, and general practitioners are running away.

Where are we going to get the doctors that are going to take care of this big load of patients? It's a mandatory system. They're talking about mandating health care. Everyone's going to have to sign up. But just because you have insurance doesn't mean you're going to get care if there are not the doctors to take care of you. Doctors are already overwhelmed.

KELLY: But he's going to spend all of our taxpayer money trying to fund this program. So won't that pay for you doctors?

SIEGEL: Well, it's going to pay for something. I think it's going to pay for MRIs, and it's going to pay for more and more technology, and it's going to pay for insurance companies and maybe prescription drugs. Doctors are going to get under the bus here for sure. Reimbursements to doctors are going to be cut. Reimbursements to hospitals are going to be cut.

I'll tell you, I'm actually worried about that, too, because the Medicaid dollars that goes to hospitals -- there's networks within hospitals to take care of Medicaid patients. Private physicians are not really set up to do that. If you keep cutting hospitals, you're not going to be able to take care of our poorest and sickest patients.

KELLY: And what a lot of people don't realize right now is, you think somebody's a doctor, you think, “Oh, he or she, they must be rich.” Doctors are not rich.

SIEGEL: Not at all.

KELLY: Very few doctors are making a lot of money these days because of these cutbacks in insurance already that you're dealing with. Primary care physicians -- with all due respect to my guest -- don't make a lot of dough. They do it because they want to help people. Because they can't afford to have costs cut at the moment.

SIEGEL: Oh, and so you're going to mandate electronic medical records. You're going to have more and more paperwork. You're going to have them seeing more and patients. Primary care doctors -- and I should tell people out there -- they're already seeing too many patients. You know it. You've been waiting in waiting rooms. The wait in waiting rooms is going to get longer.

So, before we hastily pass all of this -- I am not, you know, forecasting doom and gloom. I want us to be out in front of this. And let's talk about the real questions. Let's get the system reoriented towards prevention, get more primary care doctors, give them incentives, get more of them in medical school to go into primary care.

KELLY: You talk about the waiting lists. A lot of people have suggested that if we go down this path, we're going to look a little bit more like Canada than perhaps we want to when it comes to health care. In Canada, they're -- the waiting list for GYN surgery is 12 weeks. For cataract removal, 12 to 18 weeks. For a tonsillectomy, it can be up to 36 weeks. For neurosurgery, it can be up to 30 weeks. You have to wait under their system, which people think he's pushing us closer to.

I want to ask you, are we going to be seeing those kind of waits, and are we going to be seeing a decrease in the level of care?

SIEGEL: You know, that's a great point, Megyn. I'm glad you got to that. Yes, we're going to be seeing those waits. More importantly, Americans pride ourselves on having access. We like freedom here. We're not going to be able to get our liver transplants when we're 60 years old. We're not going to be able to get our pacemakers when we're 90 years old. We're not going to be able to have dialysis if we need it.

KELLY: Why not?

SIEGEL: Because if there's a government plan, a public option, it's going to be -- mean rationed care. The government is not going to approve all of that because they're going to say it's too expensive. And insurance companies are going to have to compete with the government, so they're not going to be able to approve that.

You know, for a private insurance company, the bottom line is profit. They have to be able to make a profit. If they're competing with a big government giant, they're going to cut out services, too, in order to ensure that profit.

Rationed care is a way to make a profit, but it's also a way to exclude necessary care from people that really need it. Americans want to be able to have their dialysis and their pacemakers if they need them.

KELLY: And their tonsillectomies and their neurosurgery.

SIEGEL: And not wait six weeks. Where are we going to go? They're already coming across the border here. Where are we going to go?

KELLY: Good question. Dr. Marc Siegel, thank you so much for being here.

SIEGEL: Thanks, Megyn.

KELLY: We appreciate it.