Fox News is attempting to revive the myth that the Affordable Care Act includes a secret fee to cover abortions to support the GOP's misleadingly titled "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."
On January 27, FoxNews.com highlighted an article from right-wing website Watchdog.org that was originally posted under the headline "Secret abortion fees hidden in Obamacare premiums." The post promoted the claims of "congressional leaders" who claimed "Insurance companies working under the Obamacare umbrella have secretly added a surcharge to cover the cost of abortions" and claimed the Republicans' proposed "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would resolve the problem. The claim appeared again during the January 28 edition of Fox & Friends when co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham if it was "true that there's a hidden fee to cover abortions under Obamacare":
The right-wing media's "hidden abortion fee" myth is rooted in the original Senate version of the health care law. In 2009, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner posted a blog claiming "Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee." Boehner's claim was picked up by right-wing media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, who read the press release verbatim on his show. The myth reappeared in 2012 when right-wing media figures claimed everyone under the ACA "will be forced to pay a dollar a month to cover abortion on your insurance policy."
The myth has always been built on a misrepresentation of how the ACA handles abortion coverage. In fact, despite the title of the GOP's bill, the provision that the right-wing media is hyping is an effort to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion. The ACA requires states to offer at least one health plan that does not cover abortions. Plans that do cover abortion, however, contain a surcharge that is assessed on consumers who opt in to that plan in order to prevent federal funds from being used, a violation of the Hyde amendment that prevents federal funding from paying for abortion except in case of rape, incest, or the woman's life being in danger. In a March 21, 2012, post, PolitiFact explained:
Fox host Mike Huckabee reportedly accused Democrats of telling women "they are helpless without Uncle Sugar" because "they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government."
According to The Washington Post, when speaking at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, Huckabee claimed that Republicans empower women "to be something other than victims of their gender," in contrast to Democrats:
"I think it's time Republicans no longer accept listening to the Democrats talk about a 'war on women,'" Huckabee said during a speech at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting in Washington. "The fact is the Republicans don't have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender."
Huckabee said Democrats rely on women believing they are weaker than men and in need of government handouts, including the contraception mandate in Obamacare.
Huckabee said Democrats tell women "they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing them for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of government."
Huckabee is a former governor of Arkansas and host of the Fox News program Huckabee.
UPDATE: Huckabee responded to criticism of his comments by urging his supporters to donate to his political action committee. From a newsletter sent out by Huckabee:
Guess what liberals? If you can't stand to look at yourself in the mirror, then get ready for more of this talk, because conservatives are going to continue to fight back against your destructive policies towards women and families.
If you agree with me and want me to keep calling it like I see it, then I need you to do something urgent. Please give an immediate donation to my political action committee Huck PAC in any amount you can afford. The Democrats and their accomplices in the media want you to think what I said is unpopular and outdated. They are going to look at our PAC's fundraising and say see we told you so.
Help me show them they are dead wrong by making an immediate donation here. This is urgent.
The announcement that The Washington Post is partnering with and hosting the conservative and libertarian-leaning blog The Volokh Conspiracy is evidence that the Post may be moving to the right in the wake of the paper's acquisition by Jeff Bezos.
On January 21, The Washington Post announced that it had entered into a partnership with The Volokh Conspiracy, a blog that has operated since 2002 and largely focuses on legal issues but has strayed into other areas, including climate denialism. The Post praised the blog in its announcement of the agreement, calling it a "must-read source [that] will be a great addition to the Post's coverage of law, politics and policy." In his first official post, the blog's founder, Eugene Volokh, revealed that the Post granted him "full editorial control."
The move was celebrated by right-wing media outlets such as the American Spectator, which praised Washington Post owner and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for highlighting a blog that provides legal commentary "from a [generally] libertarian or conservative perspective," writing, "Perhaps it should stand to reason that a man who made a fortune offering people choices, should offer the same alternatives to his readership. What a novel concept in today's news atmosphere." TownHall editor Conn Carroll cited the acquisition as evidence that Bezos was "clearly moving" the Post "in a libertarian direction."
Breitbart.com's John Nolte also cheered the decision to host The Volokh Conspiracy, writing that it will "give the Post the sorely needed voices of legitimate conservatives, but unlike Klein the Volokh Conspiracy won't attempt to hide their ideology."
Fox News' Andrea Tantaros baselessly claimed that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports sex-selective abortion and distorted his Women's Equality Act after Cuomo criticized "extreme conservatives" in New York.
In an appearance on Albany, N.Y., public radio station WCNY's Capitol Pressroom, Cuomo condemned the actions of extreme conservatives, saying, "Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapons, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that's who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that's not who New Yorkers are." After the New York Post highlighted his comments under the headline "Gov. Cuomo to conservatives: Leave NY!," Cuomo's office argued that he had been taken out of context and that in that same appearance, Cuomo "went on to say 'it is fine' to be anti-gun control, and anti-choice - as he respects both positions."
In an appearance on the January 21 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Tantaros attacked Cuomo for his comments and attempted to portray him as out of the mainstream by baselessly claiming that Cuomo "believes in gender selection, so if you are having a girl and you don't want a girl, you can just get rid of it and have a boy" and that the governor believes "you can have an abortion any time":
But Tantaros offered no evidence to support her claim that Cuomo supports sex-selective abortion, instead parroting talking points from right-wing groups such as the Chiaroscuro Foundation who made the dubious accusation that because the Women's Equality Act -- a proposed law championed by Cuomo -- does not explicitly outlaw sex-selective abortion, the governor supports it.
An inflammatory Fox Nation headline declared that "A Ton of ObamaCare Navigators Are Criminals," even though there is no clear evidence that the small number of navigators in question have been convicted of any crimes.
A January 16 post on Fox Nation attacked the Affordable Care Act's navigators, officials hired and trained to guide consumers through health care options and the application process, by posting a National Review Online article under the headline "A Ton of ObamaCare Navigators Are Criminals":
But Fox Nation's inflammatory headline is not supported by the NRO article, which only identifies a small number of navigators in New Mexico who may or may not have criminal backgrounds. After a review of public records, NRO found that 38 of the certified counselors "had a match in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database." The post went on to explain that being matched in the NCIC is not evidence that the individual committed a crime:
Serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that 25 million consumers in the small-group health insurance market would lose coverage due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), citing a controversial and widely criticized 2011 survey that admitted it "was not intended as a predictive analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act."
In a January 14 New York Post op-ed, McCaughey claimed the ACA "will hurt twice as many people as it helps" by making "employer-provided policies illegal" for millions of Americans. As evidence, McCaughey pointed to a February 2011 survey to claim that "a conservative estimate is that 25 million people, out of the 60 million in small group plans, get dropped in 2014":
Even the chance that ObamaCare's "employer mandate" will go into effect in 2015 isn't apt to deter employers from dropping coverage. The penalty for not complying with the mandate would add only 98 cents an hour for a 40-hour worker -- a bargain compared with the $1.79 cost of providing coverage plus the enormous amount of red tape, reporting requirements and fees that ObamaCare piles on employers who provide coverage. In truth, the law discourages employers from insuring their workers, making it far easier and cheaper to send them to the exchanges.
That's why the management consultants at McKinsey & Co. warned in 2011 that nearly a third of employers surveyed already were considering dropping coverage, with the figure rising among those familiar with the law's requirements.
So a conservative estimate is that 25 million people, out of the 60 million in small group plans, get dropped in 2014. Add that to the 5 million or so whose individual-market already canceled on Jan. 1, and you have a lot of losers.
McCaughey's "conservative estimate" was extrapolated from a two-year-old survey conducted by management consultant company McKinsey & Company that "offers a snapshot of attitudes that suggests the shift away from employer-provided health insurance could be greater than expected." But in the introduction to McKinsey's post on its own survey, the firm admits that the survey "was not intended as a predictive analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act." The survey's methodology further warns:
Right-wing media have attempted to manufacture outrage against the Affordable Care Act by promoting the misleading claim that the health care law includes a taxpayer-funded bailout for health insurance companies. In fact, the provision, known as reinsurance, is funded by the insurance companies themselves, not taxpayer money.
(Flickr image via southerntabitha)
2013 will be remembered as the year of health care policy. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) dominated media outlets across the spectrum, especially following the implementation of the law's health care exchanges in October. Yet often lost in all the noise was factual reporting on the new law. Much right-wing and even mainstream media coverage pushed misleading, hyperbolic, and outright false attacks about the ACA.
Right-wing media figures greeted the health care law's exchanges with inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric.
In an October 11 appearance at the Values Voters' Summit, recently-hired Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson declared that Obamacare "is the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," later deciding, "It is slavery, in a way." Carson's comparison of slavery to a law that grants universal access to health insurance was not remarkable for the right-wing media. In an appearance on NPR's Morning Edition, George Will approved of GOP efforts to repeal the law by likening them to the Fugitive Slave Act, saying "the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law and then we change them." On Fox News' Hannity, right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt compared defunding the ACA to repealing prohibition and slavery.
Conservative media were not the only ones to make outrageous comparisons. Media figures across the ideological spectrum attempted to link technical problems with Healthcare.gov to the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. The comparison, of course, ignores the thousands of lives lost in the hurricane, as Media Matters pointed out:
Fox News' Steve Doocy falsely claimed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes wellness programs "illegal" when, in fact, the law expands them.
On the December 18 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy interviewed attorney Eric Miller, who had received notice from his insurer that he was being transferred to a new health insurance policy. Miller's old plan provided incentives for healthy behavior, such as mandatory doctor visits and exercise. After Miller complained that his new plan would not offer the same benefits, Doocy claimed "so you got a discount under your old plan because you were healthy. But under Obamacare, that's going to be illegal, right?":
The ACA not only does not make wellness programs illegal, it provides added incentives and grants to expand such programs. A Department of Labor fact sheet pointed out that the law "creates new incentives and builds on existing wellness program policies":
Fox Business host David Asman baselessly speculated that health care reform's Medicaid expansion could bankrupt states, a prediction at odds with economic experts who have declared the expansion "a very favorable financial deal for states."
The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people whose income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Initially, the federal government covers the full cost of new enrollees. After 2016, the federal government will continue to pay 90 percent of the program's cost.
On the December 11 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, Asman warned that new Medicaid enrollees who became eligible for coverage due to the Affordable Care Act's would be covered at "an extraordinary extra cost to taxpayers." Asman went so far as to claim the cost could bankrupt states:
ASMAN: States are spending 30 - 40 percent of their entire budget on Medicaid. And as these more people sign on to Medicaid because of Obamacare, they're going to not only cost us taxpayers more money on the federal level, but they may make some states go bankrupt, because they won't be able to keep up with all those extra Medicaid patients.
Expanding Medicaid would not only not bankrupt states, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), it "will add very little to what states would have spent on Medicaid without health reform." CBPP found that "Expanding Medicaid is thus a very favorable financial deal for states":