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"Fox & Friends" Revives "Death Panel" "Controversy"

Reported by Priscilla - December 30, 2010 -

As the saying goes, the two certitudes in life are death and taxes. But the republican right seems to be seeking to avoid both. While normal, rational, sentient beings have no problem with the idea of long term care planning, which includes things like durable power of attorney and end of life directives, the right wing doesn't seem to want to deal with it - especially if it involves speaking to your doctor about it. (Better to have families fighting about "pulling the plug" so that Fox can have a media circus like they did with Terri Schiavo!). The same crew who want to mandate the interaction between a doctor and a woman seeking an abortion (mandatory ultra-sounds, abortion waiting periods, mention of bogus "fetal pain"), don't seem to want doctors advising folks about end of life issues. When it looked like end of life planning was going to be part of health care reform, the right howled in protest. They claimed that end of life planning was really a secret way to off grandma - and the "death panel" was born. The administration subsequently eliminated what, for normal people, would be a very helpful service. And now that new Medicare rules allow for physicians to be reimbursed for end of life counseling, the right is howling about "death panels" again. Not suprisingly, Fox "News" has jumped on the bandwagon. Not only was this topic covered, as detailed by Ellen, on Bill O'Reilly; but it was featured twice on "Fox & Friends." Not only should we be scared of Muslims, but we should be real scared of "death panels."

Monday's "Fox & Friends" included two discussions about how the scary Obama administration is "sneaking" end of life counseling into the Medicare rules so that heartless bureaucrats can save money by denying medical care to the elderly. Fox contributing attorney Peter Johnson Jr, a master of Fox News health care misinformation, told Alysin Camerota that the "controversial" Medicare rules, which reimburse physicians for end of life counseling, are "contentious and disturbing" as they indicate that the Obama administration is returning to "what some allege to be death panels." He wanted to know if this was about "government autonomy or cost control" and asked "is the government saying die sooner and reduce the debt or is the government saying that there is a better path in terms of medical treatment." He added that "in a thumbnail, there was a death panel in the past and people are going to get very, very upset." (Thank you Fox "News). He threw in a reference to Donald Berwick, another enemy of the right wing and its mouthpiece Fox "News" in that Berwick, who has been nominated to run the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, has praised the British health care system (which covers everybody) and dared to say that race is a factor in accessing American health care. Johnson has previously smeared Berwick as being in favor of rationing.

The same "Fox & Friends" also had Clayton Morris talking about the "controversy" over so called "death panels." Painting it as something that was done on the sly, he claimed that the Medicare regulation was done when "everyone is out of town...and now the death panels are back." His guest, former GW Bush Deputy Secretary of HHS, Tevi Troy, said "how convenient." (Troy is with the conservative Hudson Institute so he wouldn't be biased, right?) Troy pushed the agitprop about how Obama tried "to jam this through" but they dropped it because it was "too controversial." In response to a White House statement that this requirement was done in the Bush administration, Troysaid that some elements were similar and continued with how this was done in a sneaky manner and continued to lace his statements with the word "controversial" - even adding "political dynamite" to the lexicon. The chyron "Death Panel by Regulation, Physicians Paid to Advise End of Life Care." Morris explained that what Sarah Palin was saying, when she coined the phrase, is that government shouldn't be involved in this end of life process. While Troy did admit that end of life planning is important, people are uncomfortable with government "mandating it."

Comment: Maybe Fox "News" should interview Republican Senator Johnny Isakson who said that talk of "death panels" is nuts. The Medicare regulation "will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment." Doctors will be able to "provide information to patients on how to prepare an “advance directive,” stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves." So this will lead to "death panels?" No wonder Fox viewers are misinformed.

Addendum: To all the Fox lovers who are doing the requisite nanny, nanny, boo boo over the fact that CNN did death panels too, I would add that CNN interviewed Democrat Maria Cardona and Conservative Nancy Pfotenhauer. The Fox & Friends segments were not so "fair and balaned."


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