Fox's Shoddy Reporting On Cleveland Clinic And Obamacare

Cleveland ClinicFox News host Greta Van Susteren admitted that the network may have taken the Cleveland Clinic medical center's decision to cut jobs out of context after Fox repeatedly hyped the story to demonize the Affordable Care Act.

Reuters reported on September 18 that the Cleveland Clinic medical center announced plans to reduce its staff and budget in order to prepare for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Fox News repeatedly hyped the news as evidence that the ACA destroys jobs.

However, even the Cleveland Clinic itself didn't buy into Fox's narrative. The Atlantic reached out to the Cleveland Clinic and found that Eileen Sheil, the clinic's Executive Director of Corporate Communications,  “seemed a bit confused by the emphasis on Obamacare” in the media coverage of the center's actions. Sheil told the publication, “We've been working on reducing costs for years ... We felt health-care reform was absolutely necessary.” The Atlantic explained (emphasis added):

Actually, much of what the Cleveland Clinic system is doing follows the recommendations of health-care analysts closely. For example, it has consolidated closely located neonatal intensive care units, because high volumes tend to lead to better results. It's working to reduce the number of procedures its staff performs, since in the current system “physicians are rewarded to do more, not to do the right thing for the patient,” as Sheil put it. And there's a new focus on chronic diseases, which are an increasingly important and costly area for treatment.

Think of it this way: These are all steps that the Cleveland Clinic was likely to take, but Obamacare implementation is acting as a catalyst, spurring the clinic to adopt them now rather than on a slower timeline.

Yet Fox's flawed reporting made its way to at least one member of Congress. On the September 24 edition of Fox News' On The Record, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) told Van Susteren of the ACA, “The Cleveland Clinic announced this week they are laying off many employees. They're cutting $300 million of expenses because of the implementation -- because of the health care law.”

Van Susteren then admitted to the network's misleading reporting on the clinic, telling the senator, “I don't know if Toby Cosgrove, who's the CEO, whether he's backpedaling or not, but I talked to him a couple hours later and he sort of thought that we were taking a little bit out of context what he meant.”

Much of Fox's coverage of the implementation of the ACA has been rife with misinformation. As Sen. Barrasso illustrated, Fox's misleading reporting can often influence members of Congress. Fox recently managed to help the House of Representatives push through massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as food stamps) and once aided an Alex Jones conspiracy theory in getting a hearing in Congress.