MYTH 13: Prominent opponents of health care reform are credible
CLAIM: Betsy McCaughey is a credible health care expert.
- JOHN ROBERTS: "Former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey is a long-time expert in public health and is currently the chairwoman of an advocacy group for patient safety." [CNN's American Morning, 6/24/09]
- ELIZABETH MacDONALD: "I want to go to my next guest. She's terrific. We're going to go fair and balanced now. She's Betsy McCaughey. She says that cutting health-care costs will only lead to worse care not better. Betsy is founder and chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infectious Deaths." [Fox Business' Cavuto, 5/11/09]
REALITY: Betsy McCaughey is a serial misinformer who has perpetuated numerous falsehoods about health care reform. The Atlantic's James Fallows has pointed to McCaughey as an example of someone for whom there "seems to be almost no extremity of being proven wrong which disqualifies" her from being given a platform in the media. Most recently, McCaughey falsely claimed that the House health care reform bill would "absolutely require" end-of-life counseling for seniors on Medicare "that will tell them how to end their life sooner" -- a claim that many in the media repeated. McCaughey repeatedly falsely claimed that the Senate HELP committee's bill "basically" "pushes everyone into an HMO-style plan."
Additionally, McCaughey concocted the false claim, which was nonetheless widely repeated in the media, that a health IT provision in the economic recovery act enabled government bureaucrats to "monitor treatments" or restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care. On multiple occasions, after being challenged on her false claims about health care legislation, McCaughey reportedly insisted that she was right about the ultimate effect of a bill despite misrepresenting what it actually said. McCaughey's influence over the health care debate is not new. As Fallows has written, "In the early 1990s McCaughey single-handedly did a phenomenal amount to distort discussion of health-care policy and derail the Clinton health bill. She did so through an entirely fictitious argument about what the bill would do."
CLAIM: Rick Scott is a credible health care expert.
REALITY: Rick Scott was chairman of a scandal-plagued hospital firm. Scott has repeatedly been quoted by CNN, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal opposing Democrats' health care reform efforts. Frequently, media outlets that have hosted or quoted Scott have failed to note that he resigned as chairman of the nation's largest for-profit health care company in 1997 amid a federal Medicare fraud investigation. According to a July 26, 1997, Los Angeles Times article, Scott resigned from his former position as chairman of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. "amid a massive federal investigation into the Medicare billing, physician recruiting and home-care practices of" Columbia/HCA, "the nation's largest for-profit health care company."
According to a December 18, 2002, Justice Department press release describing a tentative settlement with HCA to resolve civil litigation, "When added to the prior civil and criminal settlements reached in 2000, this settlement would bring the government's total recoveries from HCA to approximately $1.7 billion." Media Matters has also documented repeated instances in which media outlets and figures have uncritically repeated or aired Scott's health care misinformation, including that of his advocacy organization, Conservatives for Patients' Rights.
CLAIM: Newt Gingrich is a credible health care expert.
REALITY: Newt Gingrich has a financial stake in opposing Democrats' reform proposals. Gingrich has been quoted by Politico opposing the public plan, but Politico did not explain that his Center for Health Transformation is a for-profit entity that receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a direct interest in whether a public insurance plan is part of health care reform. Moreover, Gingrich himself reportedly profits from his involvement with the group. Indeed, the group's website notes that the "Center for Health Transformation and The Gingrich Group are corporate for-profit organizations not affiliated with any other corporation or organization" [emphasis added]. Gingrich has also repeatedly spread misinformation about health care reform.
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