Fact-Checking Health Care Reform

We did something different on Fox News Sunday today. With all the charges and counter-charges flying at those town halls about health care reform--we decided to do a "Fact Check" about what's really in the various Democratic plans--and what isn't. We invited some of the key players in the debate--in and out of government:Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, a member of the so-called "Gang of 6" that is trying to negotiate a bipartisan compromise--Republican Senator Richard Shelby, a leading critic of the President's plan--Dr. J. James Rohack, head of the AMA--and John Rother, one of the leaders of the AARP. I had heard from a lot of you (yes, we read your emails), who felt the panel was stacked in favor of the Democratic objectives. So, I was carefultoraise more skeptical questions--to make sure we had a fair and balanced discussion. The most interesting part was about the central issue:--does the Democratic plan mean a government takeover of health care reform? President Obama's Health Secretarynow says--the public option is not essential--and that the White House might consider non-profit cooperatives instead. And that's what drove our conversation. Senator Shelby said--coopssound a lot better than a government-run public option-and he would consider it. Senator Conrad--who has been pushing coops for some time--said the public option won't pass the Senate--and the President would be wise to drop it now--and get behind something that will pass. I thought the other notable part of our "Fact Check" was when we asked:--will health care reform lead to rationing?John Rother of AARP said seniors shouldn't be concerned--because Medicare savings will come out of waste and inefficiencies--not treatment. Senator Shelby wasn't so confident about that. As for all the talk about "death panels" deciding to "pull the plug on Grandma"--Dr. Rohack said it is already law for hospitals to give patients information about living wills and "do not resuscitate" orders--and that the House bill's "end of life counseling" is voluntary--and in no way coercive. But again, Senator Shelby thought when you mix this counseling with government looking to cut costs--it runs the danger of turning into advocacy. And Democratic Senator Shelby confirmed that the Gang of 6 has dropped any talk about end of life counseling--because it is too politically explosive. I thought it was a useful discussion. It certainly won't end all the arguments. But we hope it provided more information for both sides of the debate. Chris Wallace