On Fox News' Special Report, Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York falsely claimed that a provision in a House health reform bill "says that there will be consultation between a caregiver and a patient to discuss things like hospice care and other issues -- other end-of-life issues," which he claimed raised the question of "whether there's any coercive element to this." But the provision York cited is not mandatory.
YORK: This is the notorious page 425 that the AARP man mentioned today, which says that there will be consultation between a caregiver and a patient to discuss things like hospice care and other issues -- other end-of-life issues. And the question is whether there's any coercive element to this. [Special Report, 7/28/09]
York misrepresented House health care bill
Advance care planning is not mandatory in the Affordable Health Choices Act. Section 1233 of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 -- which includes "page 425" -- amends the Social Security Act to ensure that advance care planning will be covered if a patient requests it from a qualified care provider [America's Affordable Health Choices Act, Sec. 1233].
AARP, Obama explained counseling provision at health forum
AARP moderator properly stated that the provision would allow Medicare to "cover consultation." During a July 28 AARP health care forum, moderator Michael Cuthbert, "the AARP man" to whom York referred, stated: "As I read the bill, it's saying that Medicare will, for the first time, cover consultation about end-of-life care." Cuthbert did not suggest that consultation would be required. When he made his statement, Cuthbert was responding to a questioner who said: "I have been told there is a clause in there that everyone that's Medicare age will be visited and told to decide how they wish to die."
Obama made clear the intent was to "simply make sure that you've got more information, and that Medicare will pay for it." In his response, Obama stated, "But understand what the intent is. The intent here is to simply make sure that you've got more information, and that Medicare will pay for it." Obama later added: "So, if Medicare is saying you have the option of consulting with somebody about hospice care, and we will reimburse it, that's putting more power, more choice in the hands of the American people, and it strikes me that that's a sensible thing to do."
York resuscitated Betsy McCaughey falsehood
York's false claim advanced "pants on fire" falsehood. In recent weeks, former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey (R) has repeatedly asserted that the House Democrats' health care reform bill makes end-of-life counseling for seniors "mandatory," a claim PolitiFact.com declared "a ridiculous falsehood," adding, "That's a Pants on Fire."
York repeated falsehood even after McCaughey backtracked. During an interview, when Politico asked McCaughey to respond to criticisms of her claim, she backpedaled, telling Politico that the bill would make end-of-life counseling mandatory "[i]n so many words," because "although it is presented in the bill as a Medicare service, when a doctor or a nurse approaches an elderly person who is in poor health, facing a decline in health, and raises these issues, it is not offering a service. It is pressuring them."
Other conservatives in the media have advanced McCaughey falsehood. Fox News host Sean Hannity cited McCaughey to falsely claim that under the House provision, senior citizens would be "forced to undergo" end-of-life counseling. Similarly, syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh has falsely claimed that seniors would be subject to "[m]andatory counseling" at "a minimum of every five years, more often if the seasoned citizen is sick or in a nursing home." He added, "That's an invasion of the right to privacy."
From the July 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
BRET BAIER (host): Let's start on this specific concern about end-of-life issues and whether the government is going to get in between the patient and the doctor deciding how the medical care will move forward. Byron, what about this?
YORK: This is the notorious page 425 that the AARP man mentioned today, which says that there will be consultation between a caregiver and a patient to discuss things like hospice care and other issues -- other end-of-life issues. And the question is whether there's any coercive element to this.
And I think the problem for Obama is that it mixes in with what he said a few weeks ago, that health care forum at the White House, when a woman got up, said her mother was 100 years old, needed an operation, but she was really vigorous. She got it, and now she's 105 and still vigorous -- and was there some way to take, you know, her spirit of life into account?
And Obama has said, well, maybe it'd be better to opt out of the surgery and take the painkiller. I think that was kind of a chilling remark to a lot of people. Senior citizens vote in large numbers, and I think this is going to be a big issue in August.
But Republicans, critics, say this is a slippery slope when you start getting down this road.