ABC’s Kate Snow Shifts Course; Notes GOP Opposition in Story on End-of-life Care

ABC’s Kate Snow, who early on Monday couldn’t find time to show any Republican opposition to a controversial provision in the health care plan relating to end-of-life care, reversed course on World News and briefly highlighted a GOP voice. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter appeared and asserted, "And there should never be any doubt as to whether your end-of-life decisions are influenced by its effect on the United States Treasury."

Snow was filing a piece for Monday’s World News about a section in the House health care bill that reimburse doctors for discussing end-of-life care with their patients every five years. And although the segment was billed as a "fact check" to debunk incorrect claims, this report at least looked into something that her earlier piece on Good Morning America didn’t, Republican opposition.

On Monday, I asked Snow about this on her Twitter page. She justified the absence: "We often cut down pieces to fit time allotted. But always aim to include all pov's. On end of life v impt [sic] to fact check too."

On World News, anchor Charles Gibson began the segment by pronouncing, "A lot of people are clearly upset with what they think, or have been told, or think that they've been told, is in the thousand or so pages of proposed legislation." He suggested that this fact check series would become a semi-regular feature to look into misinformation about health care.

Certainly, there is much liberal misinformation about the health care bill, such as the claim by some journalists that the legislation doesn’t cover abortions. It does. Hopefully, ABC will look into these issues as well.

A transcript of the August 10 segment, which aired at 6:45pm EDT, follows:

CHARLES GIBSON: We are going to take a closer look tonight at the intense and often angry debate over one aspect of health care reform. A lot of people are clearly upset with what they think, or have been told, or think that they've been told, is in the thousand or so pages of proposed legislation. So, tonight we begin an occasional series to fact check what's really in the bills. Tonight, so-called end of life questions for patients and their families. Here's ABC's Kate Snow.

KATE SNOW: The accusations are shocking.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They’re going to give us classes on euthanasia.

SNOW: Inflammatory-

SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Adolf Hitler called his program the Final Solution. I kind of wonder what we're going to call ours.

SNOW: And often incorrect.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don't want the government to do it for me.

JOHN ROTHER (Exec VP policy, AARP): Right now it seems that there's an intentional effort to distort what's in the legislation. And that's confusing the public debate.

SNOW: At issue a ten-page section of a thousand page House health care reform bill. It would reimburse a doctor for talking with a patient every five years about what kind of care they want near the end of life. Form Alaska governor Sarah Palin calls this "down right evil." Asserting her parents and child with down syndrome would have to "stand in front of an Obama death panel so his bureaucrats would have to decide whether they're worthy of health care." The facts, the provision would create no such panel. It calls for only a consultation between the individual and a practitioner. So, how did this misinformation start?

BETSY MCCAUGHEY: The vicious assault of elderly people.

SNOW: Former Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey comments spread and seniors asked pointed questions.

[At town hall]

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is being read as saying every five years you're told how you can die.

BARACK OBAMA: Well, that would be kind of morbid.

SNOW: The facts, the intent of the measure is not for doctors to tell patients what to do but give doctors more incentive to talk to patients about all of their options. In La Crosse, Wisconsin, such end of life consultations are already common.

ANN KOTTNOUR: And by the time we completed it, her health had started to fail more.

SNOW: Ann Kottnour knows her mother Margaret, who has Parkinson's, and some dementia, would rather die at home than in a nursing home.

KOTTNOUR: So we knew from a long time ago that that was her wish.

SNOW: If La Crosse is any example, people do often choose limits on care for their final months. And the fact is that saves money. In La Crosse, medical spending in the final year of life averages $18,000. The national average, $25,000. And those figures are at the crux of an argument against the House bill. That any focus on cost cutting will push people toward decisions to limit care.

THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R-MI): And there should never be any doubt as the whether your end of life decisions are influenced by its effect on the United States Treasury.

SNOW: But again the counter argument for proponents on this measure, and there are republicans among, them say that is a false argument, because these are patient driven consultations. They’d be available to anyone but not mandatory. And patients dictate what they want, not the cost of the procedures.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.