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Fox News' Your World Fear Mongers On Health Care

Reported by Ellen - July 3, 2009 -

Co-authored by Brian

On Wednesday's Your World (7/1/09), guest host Stuart Varney opened with a health care debate obviously designed to make viewers believe their taxes will go up if the president’s health care proposal is enacted. Along with his conservative guest, he repeatedly interrupted and talked over his liberal guest. He also repeatedly interrupted her with gotcha questions that prevented her from making her points. The other side got 100% respectful, sympathetic treatment. With video.

Varney began, “All of the president’s advisors, none of them will say that you’re not gonna have to tax people making less than $250,000 a year... They’re all saying, basically, ‘You gotta tax them.’” As he spoke, the banner on the lower third of the screen read, “Is Pres trying to dodge tax hike bullet on health care?”

The liberal guest, radio host Nancy Skinner began, "No, no.”

“Yes, they are,” Varney interrupted her.

Skinner continued, “The President ran on this, has maintained that he will not have to (raise taxes)." She pointed out that the same people criticizing the President’s plan also “put Medicare Part D in, this huge expensive prescription drug without letting the government compete or try to negotiate for better rates. That’s the key to this." She added, "There will be a public option that will bring down the costs of this system, and so we will be able to pay for it. There will be a pool of risks out there - 47 million Americans, and that pool will make it affordable for everyone, and they'll have a choice."

Varney interrupted her again to go to conservative Kate Obenshain who, let’s publicly note, was not wearing a flag pin, despite her contention in 2007 that wearing one “matters to our troops.”

Obenshain was as inanely snooty as ever. "There will be a government system because the government will undercut private health care industry, that's obvious, (though she didn’t bother to offer any evidence for that assertion) and it will become the sole provider, and it will be a lot more expensive than the $1.6 trillion we're hearing about today."

In fact, the financial firm PricewaterhouseCoopers did a study of Obama’s proposed plan and found, “More people being insured could translate into greater premium revenue for commercial insurers coupled with new markets opening up from the National Health Insurance Exchange. But if Medicare reimbursement rates decrease and Medicaid's share increases, hospitals may place even greater pressure on private commercial insurers for higher reimbursement rates.” That doesn't sound like certain doom for the private insurers. Does Obenshain know better than PricewaterhouseCoopers?

Obenshain continued in her screechy voice, “I can’t imagine raising taxes or limiting itemized deductions right now.”

As Skinner began to object that Obama is not looking at those options, Varney interrupted her again to demand that she name “any program in the history of American medicine which has ever really taken serious costs out of the system?" It’s hard to see that as anything but an attempt to trip Skinner up. She’s not an expert in the history of government programs in American medicine. And, while it's clear that certain inoculation programs save money, for example, the point is that Obama is looking to drastically change the system altogether.

“He’s already done $2 trillion worth of costs (savings)” Skinner replied, referring, apparently, to Obama’s extraction of a pledge from the health care industry to reduce the growth of health care costs by that much.

“No, he hasn’t,” Varney snapped. Funny how he never challenged Obenshain on any of her assertions. “That was a promise from the drug companies which was later rescinded.”

Not according to what Obama said earlier that day: “Last month, doctors and hospitals, labor and business, insurers and drug companies all came together and agreed to decrease the annual rate of health care growth by 1.5 percent. That would translate into $2 trillion or more of savings over the next decade. That would mean lower costs for everybody, for ordinary families.”

Skinner really deserves a lot of credit for holding her own against the unfair, unbalanced set up. She’s a frequent guest on the Saturday morning business shows, which are even more unfair and unbalanced, and she does just as well. “Stuart, let me answer your question. Competition is the way you reduce costs."

Obenshain and Varney began talking over her. Varney raised his voice and demanded again that Skinner “name a single program in the history of American medicine which has radically cut costs.”

“Competition will do it,” Skinner answered.

“Will do it, not in the past,” Varney said, with obvious disgust, strongly implying, without coming out and saying so, that it somehow “proved” competition would not do it.

Obenshain interrupted as Skinner tried to complete her thoughts. "It's not genuine competition when the government comes in with its ability to endlessly subsidize programs, and look at Medicare and Medicaid.” As Skinner tried to respond to Obenshain’s interruption, Obenshain shrieked, “Can I just finish? Can I just finish, Nancy?” In a condescending voice, Obenshain said, “These programs are getting ready to bankrupt the country, and we're going to model a government health care system after Medicare? That is ludicrous. It should not even be considered right now when we are facing such economic crisis right now.” In other words, let those without health insurance go broke because the rest of us are feeling a bit tight. She went on to whine that the president’s “scare tactics” are “infuriating.”

Skinner pointed out that if private health insurers can do the job, “Well, they haven’t. Because 47 million Americans don’t have insurance. More companies are dropping their insurance because the cost is so high. People are losing their choice."

Instead of offering any solutions of their own, Varney jumped in with another gotcha, “one more very specific question... Let’s see if you can answer THIS one. Can you name a single study which looks at the health insurance plans being put out of the House and the Senate which suggests that the public provision of health care for the uninsured will cost less than a trillion dollars over the next 10 years?"

As a matter of fact, Senators Dodd and Kennedy yesterday (7/2, one day after this segment aired) announced that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office had re-evaluated the costs of the Affordable Health Choices Act, which contains a “strong, national public option” and significantly lessened its estimate of the costs to $611 billion over 10 years. But something tells me that Varney would still find a way to pooh-pooh the plan and condescend to Skinner for advocating it.

"How about the endorsement of Wal-Mart?" Skinner asked. " ...Why do you think Wal-Mart would get behind this plan if they felt it would hurt business and their customers?” She noted that when people have insurance, the costs of the system go down. “Massachusetts is the closest model that we have."

Varney said, "The cost of health care in Massachusetts went up 42% since the institution of their reform system in 2006."

"You know why?" Skinner shot back. "Because it's not the government competing. It's private companies competing, Kate!"

"Those wicked private enterprise people," Varney sneered.

That started Obenshain shrieking again, this time estimating that the plan will cost people and small businesses “$4,000 more.” And how much for those who have insurance or who are underinsured if the plan doesn't pass? Apparently, they don’t count to “I’ve-got-insurance-too-bad-about-you” Obenshain.

Also, while it’s true that Medicare could be in trouble by 2017, without it, millions of seniors would be without health care. If Obenshain hates it so much, she can refuse it when the time comes. In the meanwhile, what’s the GOP plan for health care? What’s Obenshain’s plan? Obenshain and Varney were so busy barking at Skinner that neither got around to offering much of an alternative.