Right-wing media outlets are trying to gin up outrage over a change in how the U.S. Census Bureau reports insurance status, claiming the agency is making an adjustment to deliberately hide the effects of the Affordable Care Act. But the change will still measure the impact of the ACA's first year, and the new system will provide better tools for tracking insurance status.
In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
Fox News attacked a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows certain inmates to be enrolled in Medicaid as "ridiculous and unfair to every taxpayer." But according to health care and correctional experts, increasing access to health services reduces both the costs associated with incarceration and decreases inmates' chances of being incarcerated again.
Fox News' Sean Hannity lauded Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's latest budget, a proposal that has been criticized by economists for its potential destructive impact on the economy, employment, and poverty.
Right-wing media distorted an AP story about narrow health care networks to falsely claim that most or all enrollees in the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) exchanges cannot access elite cancer treatment facilities.
On March 18, the AP released the results of a survey it had conducted which found that access to cancer centers such as New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Houston's MD Anderson would be restricted for some patients who purchased coverage on the ACA's health insurance exchanges.
Right-wing media outlets distorted the story with headlines like the New York Post's "Nation's elite cancer hospitals off-limits under Obamacare." Fox News' Fox & Friends highlighted the story as well, but deceptively omitted some of the AP's wording to claim only four cancer centers could be accessed through coverage purchased from the ACA's exchanges:
Nothing in the AP report says that any of the cancer treatment facilities are excluded from all of the exchange plans in a given state, like the New York Post and Fox suggest.
What's at issue is a reality of the health insurance industry known as narrow networks. Narrow networks generally offer patients more affordable coverage but provide coverage at fewer hospitals and doctors. While the ACA is having an impact on narrow networks, they existed before the law was implemented as a way for insurance companies to control costs. The truth is that a hospital being included in a particular plan's network is a decision that's made between the provider and the insurance company, and the choice to restrict access to certain providers, especially high-cost providers, is one that insurance companies have been making for decades.
In the four years since the signing of the Affordable Care Act, right-wing media has engaged in a campaign to undermine the law in any way possible, frequently resorting to lies, myths, and misinformation. Among the most prominent and long-lasting of these myths are claims that the law amounts to socialized medicine, will harm the economy, provides federal funding for abortions, kills thousands of jobs, and of course, creates death panels.
To find out the truth behind other health care reform myths, visit Media Matters' Mythopedia project.
Right-wing media outlets have seized on an anonymously sourced and highly speculative article in The Hill that dubiously proclaimed health care premiums are going to "skyrocket" under the Affordable Care Act.
In a March 19 post on The Hill's Healthwatch blog with the headline "O-care premiums to skyrocket," Elise Viebeck quoted anonymous health insurance industry officials to claim that "ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration."
The article and its claim about rising premiums was hyped across the right-wing media. National Review Online claimed "there's only so much massaging of the truth and flat-out lying that one can do before the headlines catch up with the deceit." Hot Air's Ed Morrissey cited The Hill, writing, "ObamaCare has bent the cost curve all right, but sharply upward -- and in 2015, expect them to not just bend but absolutely 'skyrocket.'" Fox Nation highlighted the post under the headline "300%: Insurance Industry Predicts Skyrocketing ObamaCare Premiums":
Despite the certainty implied by the post's headline, the reality is far more complicated. While Viebeck chose to play up the claims made by her anonymous insurance industry sources, the article also cites health policy experts who pointed out that it's far too early to make predictions about "expected rate hikes":
The right-wing obsession with Benghazi took center stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as two prominent speakers, John Bolton and Sen. Mitch McConnell, focused on the attacks in an attempt to drive more media coverage of their manufactured scandal.
The first day of the American Conservative Union's annual convention featured speeches from prominent conservatives. Within two hours of CPAC's opening remarks, two of those speakers used their time to invoke the September 11, 2011 attacks on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, promising to continue using the tragedy as a political attack. Former U.N. ambassador and Fox News contributor John Bolton called Benghazi the "paradigm of the Obama doctrine failure," even saying, "Under Barack Obama, you can murder his personal representative and get away scott-free."
He then turned his remarks into an attack on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pledging to tell Clinton, "We know what difference it makes, even if you don't." Earlier, McConnell attacked media coverage of the Benghazi tragedy, suggesting that the media were "trying to fix Benghazi for Hillary [Clinton]" by not repeating right-wing myths.
Benghazi's prominent placement at CPAC is hardly surprising, considering the effort on the part of the right-wing media to maintain focus on their distorted version of the tragedy to attack President Obama and Clinton.
Fox News launched a new false attack on the Affordable Care Act's risk corridor provision, suggesting that the program which shuffles money between private insurance companies would cost taxpayers $5.5 billion.
On the March 5 edition of Fox's America's News HQ, co-host Greg Jarrett and Fox Business host David Asman promoted the GOP claim that the ACA's risk corridor provision is a "taxpayer funded bailout" for insurance companies, suggesting that an estimated $5.5 billion in payments over the next year contradicted President Obama's promise that there would be no more bailouts and that the ACA would not add to the deficit. Asman further claimed the administration is "calling it a temporary pool of money. Now maybe if you believe that Obamacare wasn't going to cost a dime, you'll buy that explanation. But most of the time when the government sends money in to that degree, into these companies, it doesn't get the money back":
The distortion that risk corridors are an insurance company bailout is a frequent theme on Fox, but this latest narrative is especially misleading. What the Fox hosts failed to acknowledge is that the estimated $5.5 billion payment doesn't come from taxpayers, but from the insurance companies themselves. The risk corridor provision transfers money from insurance companies with healthier risk pools to companies with less healthy risk pools with higher than anticipated costs.
While the federal government may be required to subsidize some of the payment in extreme circumstances, White House officials expect that the entire risk corridor cost over the next year will be borne by the insurance companies themselves. As Bloomberg reported:
Fox News is helping promote Sen. Tom Coburn's misleading report on health care spending, which attacked the Affordable Care Act by cherry-picking data on the rise of spending in health care systems.
The Oklahoma Republican released a report this week titled "The History of Federal Health Care Spending," which attempted to rebut projections that the ACA will reduce the deficit and lower health care costs by presenting data on the cost growth of other federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare. The report argued that that "the government's spending on health care programs usually outpaces economic growth" and that "compared with initial government estimates and outlays, most programs have experienced exponential growth."
On Fox News' America's Newsroom, co-host Bill Hemmer said the report revealed "stunning numbers," while Fox contributor Charles Gasparino endorsed the report's suggestion that the growth in government health care programs contradicted positive projections of the ACA's impact, claiming "when government is this much enmeshed in a program like this, it always leads to disaster":
But Fox's hype ignores the crucial flaw in Coburn's report -- it omits crucial context about why the programs' costs have increased and how they perform at controlling costs when compared to private health insurance.
While it's true that spending on programs such as Medicaid and Medicare have increased over the last 50 years, the cause of those rising costs are not a result of government involvement, but due to the fact that overall spending on health care has increased exponentially. A 2010 report in Health Affairs which tracked Medicare spending over roughly 20 years found that much of the growth "is attributable to rising spending on chronic conditions -- specifically diabetes and hypertension, both of which rose considerably in treated prevalence over the past two decades."
Notably, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that "Since Medicare's inception, however, growth in annual spending per beneficiary has been approximately one percentage point lower than private health insurance spending":