Beck distorts Berwick comment to claim appointment vindicates his fearmongering over rationing

Glenn Beck claimed that a quote from Obama appointee Donald Berwick “confirms everything” Beck and Fox News had said about how health care reform would result in rationing. In fact, Beck deceptively edited Berwick's comments to remove Berwick's accurate statement that the U.S. health care system already rations.

Beck crops Berwick quote, claims it “confirms everything that we said about him”

Beck: Berwick comments on rationing “confirms everything that we said about him.” On the July 8 edition of Glenn Beck, Beck claimed that a quote from Donald Berwick, President Obama's appointee as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “confirms” what Beck and Fox News had previously said about how health care reform would lead to the rationing of health care. From the July 8 edition of Glenn Beck:

BECK: Here's Berwick on rationing, quote: “The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision will be whether we will ration with our eyes open.” Mark my words: complete lives system. No one in the New York Times will even know what that is. But you will, 'cause we talked about it a year ago. It confirms everything that we said. Everyone, everyone, everyone denied this, except for Fox News and a CNS reporter who actually asked Robert Gibbs about his confidence in Berwick's nomination considering his rationing comments.

Beck, Fox News repeatedly pushed rationing canard. In their coverage of President Obama's health care reform effort, Beck and Fox News repeatedly claimed or suggested that reform legislation would impose rationing into America's health care system.

In full comment, Berwick explained that we are currently rationing care

Berwick on rationing: “Right now, we are doing it blindly.” In the interview with Biotechnology Healthcare cited by Beck, Berwick acknowledges that the current health care system already rations care and that the question for the future is how best to do it. Beck omitted this context on air. From Biotechnology Healthcare, June 2009:

BIOTECHNOLOGY HEALTHCARE: Critics of CER have said that it will lead to the rationing of healthcare.

BERWICK: We can make a sensible social decision and say, “Well, at this point, to have access to a particular additional benefit [new drug or medical intervention] is so expensive that our taxpayers have better use for those funds.” We make those decisions all the time. The decision is not whether or not we will ration care -- the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly.

Indeed, insurance companies already ration care. The insurance industry has already admitted that they currently use cost benefit analyses to determine health care coverage. In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, Wellpoint chief medical officer Dr. Sam Nussbaum told co-host Steve Inskeep that “where the private sector has been far more effective than government programs is in limiting clinical services to those that are best meeting the needs of patients.” Former CIGNA senior executive Wendell Potter testified in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation that “insurers routinely dump policyholders who are less profitable or who get sick” and that insurers “dump small businesses whose employees' medical claims exceed what insurance underwriters expected.”

Beck says Berwick's “redistribute wealth” comments make him a “blatant socialist”

Beck: Berwick's “redistribute wealth” comments indicate that he is a “blatant socialist.” On the same edition of Glenn Beck, Beck ran video of Berwick calling good health care systems “by definition redistributional” as evidence that Berwick is a “blatant socialist.” From the July 8 edition of Glenn Beck:

BECK: Well, the New Yorker, they caught me. There's that story with my big fat face on it. Then a year ago they wrote this about me: “His ratings ... have gone up from his bottomless grab bag of fearmongering and inciteful” - I don't think they mean that in a good way - “inciteful comments about the coming redistribution of wealth.” What fearmongering? What could I have possibly been thinking? We need to clear that up.

Right from the horse's mouth. From the guy who Obama has just appointed the head of Medicare and Medicaid, he'll straighten this out. Don Berwick, let's hear it for Don.

BERWICK (VIDEO): Any health care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must, must redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poor and the less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional.

BECK: Do I need to say any more? I think that pretty much puts me in my place, doesn't it? Now how does the President respond to this blatant socialist running our health care system? Well that's next.

Medicare, Medicaid are popular programs that are “by definition redistributional.” Medicare and Medicaid, which Berwick will oversee, are federal programs that provide health insurance to people who are elderly, disabled, or in low-income brackets. The funds for Medicare and Medicaid come from federal tax revenues, including a 1.45 percent payroll tax on all earnings. In other words, Medicare and Medicaid are funded by the redistribution of wealth. A June 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 74% of adults “say Medicaid is a 'very important' government program, ranking it close to Social Security (88%) and Medicare (83%) in the public's mind.”

Beck falsely suggested Berwick uncritically supports NHS

Beck: Berwick wants “to make our system just like Great Britain's health care system.” On the July 8 episode, Beck quoted Berwick saying he was “in love” with Great Britain's National Health Service (NHS), and that “his idea of a fix is to make our system just like Great Britain's health care system.” From the July 8 edition of Glenn Beck:

BECK: So not only does he want to blow up the best health care system in the world, not perfect, but the best in the world, his idea of a fix is to make our system just like Great Britain's health care system. He says he is quote “in love” with NHS. He went on to explain “it's a global treasure” and quote, “it's such a seductress” end quote.

Berwick: “Is the NHS perfect? Far from it.” In the same 2008 speech cited by Beck, Berwick indicated that the NHS is “far from” being perfect and that “the NHS has a lot more work ahead.” Berwick also listed “ten suggestions” for how the NHS “can do even better.” From Berwick's 2008 speech:

BERWICK: Is the NHS perfect? Far from it. Far from it. I know that as well as anyone in this room, from front line to Whitehall, I have had the privilege of observing performance and even to help to measure its performance.


There is less progress in some areas, especially with comparison to other European systems, such as in specialty access, in cancer outcomes, in patient centeredness, in life expectancy and infant mortality for socially deprived populations. In other words, in improving its quality, two facts are true: The NHS in en route, and the NHS has a lot more work ahead.