CNN Accuses GOP Rep. of 'Calculated Distortion' on Health Care, Provides Little Proof

Drew Griffin, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCNN’s Drew Griffin accused GOP Rep. Virginia Foxx on Wednesday’s Newsroom program of using a “a calculated distortion” that is “gaining credence in certain back alleys of the blogosphere” about the Democrats’ health care “reform” plan, specifically about the issue of end-of-life care for seniors. But all he did to try to disprove it was provide a link to the specific part of the legislation in question.

Griffin began to cast doubt on the Republican’s statement from the very beginning of the 3 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program. After playing a clip of Rep. Foxx, where she touted her party’s alternative proposal wouldn’t “put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government,” the CNN correspondent, filling in for anchor Rick Sanchez, promoted his upcoming segment on the remark, and first hinted that it was a false accusation on the part of the representative: “Um, are people really concerned that a new health care bill will let old people die? We’ll drill down on the facts, the fiction and possible misrepresentations swirling around the debate.”

Nearly 50 minutes later, Griffin touted the apparently dubious nature of Rep. Foxx’s accusation at the beginning of the segment: “A Republican in Congress seems to be suggesting Democrats plan to use health care reform as away to exterminate the elderly. You think I’m kidding- but how else to interpret the words of North Carolina’s Virginia Foxx on the floor of the House yesterday.” After playing a more complete sound bite, the CNN substitute anchor began his refutation of the Republican:

GRIFFIN: Now, she- Virginia Foxx- is frequently a target of the left-wing media, and often gets attacked on their blogs. But when she says ‘put to death by their government,’ what does she actually mean? That’s the charge being made against the party in power by an elected member of Congress. Now, again, she is a Republican, and Foxx represents the Fifth District of North Carolina. She was elected in 2004- and as you just heard, she took to the House floor to charge that seniors face the threat of death at the hands of the U.S. government under health care reform legislation.

Believe it or not, it’s gaining credence in certain back alleys of the blogosphere. It’s a calculated distortion on this Section of 1233 [sic], of the House Resolution [3200]. I have it right here in my hot little hands, and it talks all about end-of-life care and planning consultation- Section 1233. It’s five pages long. It proposes a new benefit for seniors’ coverage, for medical counseling concerning their end-of-life planning- writing a living will- you can seek the advice of a health care pro, once every five years, and that visit is covered, if you want it, and that’s pretty much it.

But we suggest you read it because, like Senator Conyers said, this 1,000-page bill is hard to get through unless you have two lawyers to help. But you should really read this. We have it up on our blog, and it talks all about what will be covered in end-of-life coverage, and what the government’s involvement would be in making sure that your wishes are granted for end-of-life coverage, and various other specifics relating to the level of treatment. And that has a lot of people scared about the government being involved in this kind of stuff. By the way, the bill has the backing of the AARP and the Consumers’ Union, among others.

Now, one might think if Rep. Foxx’s remark was such a “calculated distortion,” that Griffin would try to give a fuller refutation of it. But not only did he not do that, his own network reported on the possible origin of the Republican’s accusation just days earlier.

On July 23,’s Elizabeth Landau touted the results of a study release in March 2009 by the Archives of Internal Medicine. This study “suggested that more than $76 million per year could be saved if half of the people who die from cancer annually had end-of-life conversations with their doctors. In the authors’ sample, patients who reported having those talks had 36 percent lower health care costs in the final week of life.”

Landau quoted extensively from Dr. Arthur Kellerman, who pushed the idea that if doctors would only vouch for such “end-of-life conversations,” their seriously-ill patients would decide against expensive treatments:

“Both of them could have ended up dying in a hospital having run up bills of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Kellerman, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Emory University. “Neither of them wanted that, and I fought like hell to keep that from happening.”

As politicians on Capitol Hill debate reforming the health care system, doctors and ethicists say there could easily be tremendous cost savings if doctors and family members had more conversations about end-of-life issues....

Many aging parents and grandparents resist talking about it because of the emotional pain the issue will cause their younger relatives; and the children who will become responsible don’t want to appear ungrateful or self-serving by mentioning it, Kellerman said. Many doctors don’t want to talk about it either, he said.

“There are a lot of my colleagues who don’t bother having that conversation. They just intubate them, and ship them up to an ICU, and say ‘next,’” Kellerman said.

“Ultimately, it drives up costs, it degrades their quality of life, and you have less money and less resources available for people who really are salvageable and have a whole lot more time left on Earth,” he said.

Dr. Kellerman, in a November 5, 2006 interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN, made it clear that he was an advocate for a universal health care plan run by the federal government: “Our politicians say we can’t afford to cover the uninsured. Well, the fact is, we can’t afford not to....You know, countries around the world with economies that are less strong than ours cover everyone in their country. They have better life expectancy, lower infant mortality, and they do it for less money. They are not smarter than we are. We can solve this problem with political will.”
Now, if you follow his line of thinking in the article to its logical conclusion, you might see why Representative Foxx and her allies in the conservative movement have voiced their concerns over the Obama health care proposal (though Foxx’s statement could a bit hyperbolic for the time being).

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