CLAIM: Video shows billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates telling world leaders at the 2022 G20 summit that “death panels” will soon be needed.
AP GRADE: False. The clip shows Gates in 2010 discussing health and education systems at a forum organized by the nonpartisan nonprofit think tank Aspen Institute, not at this week’s G-20 meeting in Indonesia. Although Gates mentioned so-called “death panels” — a misleading term used by opponents of the Affordable Care Act — he was explaining why discussing the cost of end-of-life care has become taboo. He never supported the idea.
THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing a 12-year-old clip of Gates out of context to falsely claim the Microsoft co-founder appeared on the annual meeting of the G20 world leaders this week to announce that so-called “death panels” will soon be needed.
The term “death panels” refers to how critics characterized a provision in former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act when it was still a proposal.
Early drafts of the bill include a provision that would allow Medicare to pay doctors for voluntary counseling sessions that deal with end-of-life issues. In 2009, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin said it amounted to creating “death panels” and said it would allow government officials to decide whether sick people could live. the Associated Press reported.
The clip, which circulated online this week, shows Gates sitting in a chair against a red background, speaking into a microphone. “Because of the very, very high medical costs and the lack of willingness to say, ‘Spending a million dollars for the last three months of this patient’s life, is it better not to lay off these 10 teachers and make this trade-off in medical expenses?” he asks in part, adding, “But that’s called a death judge and you shouldn’t be having that discussion.”
An Instagram post sharing the clip included a screenshot of an article with the headline: “Bill Gates tells G20 world leaders ‘Death Panels’ will soon be needed.”
“The unelected czar of global health, Bill Gates, used his appearance at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, to spark a discussion about ‘death panels,'” the article’s subtitle reads. “According to Gates, death panels will be needed in the near future to end the lives of sick and unwell people due to ‘very, very high medical costs’.”
However, there is nothing true in these claims. Gates did not make the comments at the G20 summit in Bali on Thursday and Friday for the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, nor did he say that “death panels” “will soon be needed “.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that he did not attend the meeting, but declined to comment further. Gates appears to have been in Kenya at the time, according to a a tweet he posted on Wednesday.
The clip actually shows Gates in The 2010 event hosted by the Aspen Institute in Aspen, Colorado. Footage of the entire discussion posted by FORA.tv on YouTube shows he was interviewed by Walter Isaacson, then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, about the education and health care systems. Isaacson asks Gates if he thinks the share of gross domestic product that goes to health care is overallocated.
Gates explained that the US spent 17% of its GDP on health care, despite having “worse health outcomes” and greater inequality compared to other “rich countries.”
Gates goes on to say that as medical costs rise, both in state and federal Medicaid spending, it stresses other sectors. He gives the example of education, saying that the high cost of end-of-life care, funded by state and federal programs, reduces funding for other things, such as teacher salaries.
He then suggests that public discussion of end-of-life funding is considered taboo and has been called a “death panel” by some, giving the response seen in the clip circulating on social media.
Nowhere in the conversation does Gates say that the so-called panels will be “necessary in the near future,” as is wrongly implied.
And nothing in the Affordable Care Act proposal would amount to such a panel, the AP reported in 2009 fact check.
The provision at the center of the debate would authorize Medicare to pay doctors to counsel patients about end-of-life care, including talking about living wills, making a close relative or trusted friend your health care proxy and exploring hospice as an option for the terminally ill sick. The proposal would also block funding for counseling that presents suicide or assisted suicide as an option. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.
It’s part of AP’s efforts to address widely shared misinformation, including working with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content being spread online. Learn more about fact-checking at the AP.