Right-wing media are ignoring the dangers of underinsurance in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that new insurance plans offer at least a minimum level of coverage, including ten "essential health benefits."
Research has shown that medical costs contribute to a high percentage of bankruptcies filed in the U.S, and a 2007 study from Harvard University found that more than three-quarters of people with medical debt had health insurance. Beginning January 1, 2014, the ACA will begin to tamp down on the type of "swiss cheese" coverage that can leave consumers facing catastrophic health costs by requiring that all health plans on the new health care exchanges cover ten "essential health benefits" that will provide consumers with a basic level of coverage for things like hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health services, and preventative care.
Right-wing media are attacking this shift toward providing an improved health insurance product and insisting that insufficient insurance is not a problem. An October 30 Wall Street Journal editorial blasted the change as "command-and-control regulation" and said "Democrats are openly instructing adults that they don't know what's best for their own good." In his own October 30 column, the Journal's deputy editorial page editor, Daniel Henninger, wrote called the push for increased consumer protection "progressive coercion," emblematic of "politics by cramdown."
During the October 31 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business host Stuart Varney obscured the dangers of "cut-rate" insurance plans to characterize the administration's claim that the insufficient levels of coverage in some existing plans led insurers to tell policyholders that they had to change their coverage as "flat-out outrageous" -- even though a study published in Health Affairs found that, in 2010, more than half of Americans who purchased their own insurance had plans that fell short of ACA standards. Later in the show, Doocy and Fox Business host John Stossel bashed the health care law's requirements for new insurance policies:
DOOCY: Now we're going to have to buy insurance that is up to the government's standard even though maybe we would rather just save money.
STOSSEL: We chose those policies and yet the president says you didn't choose well, I need to choose for you.
These attacks all ignore the consequences of being underinsured, which carry many of the same risks as having no insurance at all. According to Kaiser Health News, some uninsured people "avoid going to the doctor or getting prescriptions filled because they can't afford it," and noted that others "end up with medical debt and other severe financial problems." The April Commonwealth Fund study found that half of the underinsured "said they had not received needed care because of cost" and explained that 55 percent of underinsured Americans "reported medical bill problems are accrued medical debt" -- more than twice the rate of those with adequate insurance coverage.
Huffington Post health care reporter Jeffrey Young defined the underinsured as those with health insurance plans that "offered too little coverage and exposed them to high out-of-pocket costs." He highlighted an April study by the Commonwealth Fund that found 30 million people, or 16 percent of the U.S. population were underinsured in 2012. The study also found that lower-income Americans were underinsured at higher rates. The Commonwealth Fund study also stated that 85 percent of those who were underinsured could be eligible for coverage under the ACA's Medicaid expansion or qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance plans on the exchanges, which have a certain standard of coverage, and so "[m]ore people insured and better-quality coverage will likely lead to less medical cost-fueled debt and fewer cost-related access problems."
According to a September 2011 study by the Commonwealth Fund, once fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act could reduce the number of underinsured adults by 70 percent.
Fox News aired a video compilation critical of President Obama, without mentioning a Republican National Committee research document that reflects Fox's "report."
On October 29, Fox & Friends showed video of Obama and administration officials explaining that the president was not made aware of problems with the HealthCare.gov website, reported NSA surveillance of foreign leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an Inspector General report about the IRS' handling of groups seeking tax-exempt status, and other things that the show labeled "DC scandals."
The Fox & Friends segment bears a striking similarity to a RNC document posted to GOP.com on October 28 titled "The Bystander President." Each "scandal" highlighted by the RNC document appears in the Fox segment, except that Fox left out the RNC mention of bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra and added the failed ATF operation Fast and Furious and a reference to the network's manufactured Benghazi "scandal." Nowhere in the segment did the Fox & Friends hosts say that these claims came from a Republican document -- unlike MSNBC's Morning Joe, where co-host Mika Brzezinski said, before playing a similar video, that "Republicans are calling President Obama the quote 'bystander president.' A memo on the RNC's website points out numerous examples of a president who appears to be left in the dark."
Fox News has a history of disguising GOP talking points as its own reporting. In February 2009, Fox host Jon Scott criticized the planned economic recovery package that later passed as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus, with a series of news sources that came directly from a press release by Senate Republicans -- including the same typo. In October 2009, Fox & Friends parroted a misleading House Republican press release that was critical of the stimulus. The list of GOP talking points presented as Fox News reporting goes on.
Fox News used a 60 Minutes report to revive the Benghazi hoax with allegations that have been refuted by congressional testimony and an independent investigation.
On October 27, CBS News' 60 Minutes aired a report about the September 11, 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. During the report, Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wood, who commanded a security team in Libya until August 2012, said that he warned Ambassador Christopher Stevens three months prior to the attack that the Benghazi facility was a target and that this was mentioned in his reports to both the State Department and the Department of Defense.
Running with the 60 Minutes report, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that it revealed "the U.S. government knew an attack was imminent and didn't do a thing about it."
But Kilmeade's suggestion that the government ignored actionable intelligence that could have prevented the Benghazi attacks has been refuted by congressional testimony.
In February, Leon Panetta, then Secretary of Defense, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee and addressed the lack of specific intelligence that could have prevented the attack:
"Unfortunately, there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack on that -- U.S. facilities in Benghazi," Panetta said. "And frankly without an adequate warning, there was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond."
The Accountability Review Board, convened by the State Department to investigate the attack, also found no evidence to suggest that the administration could have prevented the attack from happening:
The Board found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks. Known gaps existed in the intelligence community's understanding of extremist militias in Libya and the potential threat they posed to U.S. interests, although some threats were known to exist.
Fox & Friends pushed the false claim that the government is attempting to create a unisex look that will "feminize" male Marines, ignoring a Marine Corps spokesperson who said that the planned uniform change will affect only female Marines and comes because a previous uniform manufacturer went out of business.
On October 23, the New York Post claimed that the Marine Corps is planning to change the covers for both male and female Marines to conform to a unisex look:
Thanks to a plan by President Obama to create a "unisex" look for the Corps, officials are on the verge of swapping out the Marines' iconic caps - known as "covers" -- with a new version that some have derided as so "girly" that they would make the French blush.
The thin new covers have a feminine line that some officials think would make them look just as good on female marines as on males -- in keeping with the Obama directive.
By October 24, a spokesperson for the Marines had debunked several claims hyped by the New York Post. Marine Captain Maureen Krebs told Business Insider that "The President in no way, shape, or form directed the Marine Corps to change our uniform cover." Captain Krebs explained that the Marines were searching for a new female cover because the company that manufactured the current covers no longer existed:
We're looking for a new cover for our female Marines for the primary reason that the former manufacturer went out of business. The Marine Corps has zero intention of changing the male cover.
A nearly identical statement appeared on the homepage of the Marine Corps website on October 25:
Despite this debunking of the New York Post story, on October 25 Fox & Friends pushed the Post's claim that the new covers are designed to replace the covers for both male and female Marines. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said that the new cover "is supposed to be more gender-neutral, but some say it would make the Marines look too, quote, 'girly.' " Hasselbeck asked retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jessie Jane Duff, currently with Concerned Veterans for America, to comment. Duff also pushed the false claim that this is an attempt to make uniforms gender-neutral and is affecting male Marines, saying that "to demasculinize our Marines just seems to me a ludicrous requirement."
Fox News senselessly accused the Baltimore Ravens of caving to political pressure by agreeing to promote Maryland's health insurance exchange -- an accusation that falls apart given the team's past work to increase access to health care in Maryland.
In early September, Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown announced that the state's health insurance exchange would partner with the Ravens "to connect with Maryland residents about the importance of developing a health coverage game plan." On October 23, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade framed the Ravens' partnership with Maryland's health insurance marketplace as unusual, claiming that the team had "gone outside the NFL" because of political pressure from Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley, who wants to run for president. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck said that the Ravens were "the first to cave" to Democratic pressure to help enroll uninsured Americans in the ACA exchanges:
HASSELBECK: So right now he's gone to the Baltimore Ravens. As you said, the NFL said no, we don't want to be involved. But I think what's happening is they know the millions of people that watch the NFL. They know the marketing machine that is the National Football League. And they understand how even breast cancer was brought to the front lines of what we're talking about in donations and money through the NFL. And so they figure, OK, instead of doing a national sweep, which they're doing with health care, we're going to go team to team and see how many we can break. And the Baltimore Ravens were the first to cave. I thought they had a good defense.
The Ravens' decision to help enroll fans in health insurance in Maryland was reported early in September, but it wasn't the first time that the team had promoted government health insurance initiatives in the state. Fox News failed to mention the team's involvement in Maryland's 2008 Medicaid expansion. From The Wall Street Journal:
The partnership with the two-time Super Bowl champions is part of a broader campaign unveiled on Tuesday to market Maryland Health Connection that will allow consumers to shop for health insurance or sign up for Medicaid if they qualify. The Obama administration had been hoping to partner with the National Football League to promote its signature health law, also known as Obamacare, but the league balked after some Republican lawmakers issued a warning to sports organizations to avoid the issue.
However, the Baltimore Ravens have previously been involved in promoting Maryland health efforts including a 2008 expansion of Medicaid. Research conducted for the state suggests 71% of uninsured people watched, attended or listened to a Baltimore Ravens game in the past 12 months. About 800,000,or 14% of the state's population of 5.8 million, is uninsured. The state is also partnering with the drug-store chain CVS Inc. and regional grocery store Giant Food, a unit of Ahold NV.
It's not only Democratic-led states that do this. The Hill reported that under Romney's leadership, "Massachusetts famously partnered with the Boston Red Sox in 2006 to promote its healthcare reform law, which was the model for the Affordable Care Act." According to the Boston Globe, the team "was instrumental in getting young uninsured fans to sign up for coverage under the 2006 law."
Though Kilmeade suggested that the NFL disapproves of teams' involvement the ACA rollout, CNN reported in September that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had said "that while the league as a whole decided not to participate, they're not discouraging individual franchises from taking part." He was quoted on CBS' This Morning saying that the Ravens "have made that decision and we support them."
Fox News is preemptively deflecting blame from Republicans for their refusal to set up state-based health insurance exchanges, which media reports say contributed to problems with the federal health insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov.
Media have examined the design problems plaguing HealthCare.gov since its launch on October 1 that are causing delays for millions of Americans who have tried accessing the website, problems that the Obama administration has acknowledged and is working to fix. Reports show that the problems started years ago.
States had to notify the federal government by mid-February if they intended to create their own exchanges. A February 18 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog explained that nearly all of the states that failed to set up their own exchanges were Republican-led, as demonstrated by the following graph:
Media reports show that this partisan decision by Republican governors has contributed to the federal government's problems launching HealthCare.gov, but Fox has already worked to prevent Republicans from shouldering any of the blame for those issues. Discussing a speech that President Obama was scheduled to give later that day, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on October 21:
KILMEADE: I just have a hunch that there will be some element of this whether he'll say, "If it wasn't for Republicans fighting it the whole time, if it wasn't for people pushing back on it, it would have been a lot easier." I think somehow that's going to be twisted in there.
Despite his previous criticism of Fox News for shilling Benghazi myths, Fox host Geraldo Rivera ignored the Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman, an independent review, and testimony by a former defense secretary to push the falsehood that the Obama administration had adequate warning to prevent the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack.
On October 17, Fox reporter James Rosen spent nearly ten minutes asking White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about a press release from the White House on September 10, 2012, that was highlighted at a Republican-led subcommittee hearing. Rivera appeared on Fox & Friends October 18 to comment on Rosen's questioning, suggesting that the press release shows that the Obama administration had notice of a threat to the diplomatic facility in Benghazi but did nothing to stop it:
RIVERA: What does the press release say the day before the attacks on the Cairo embassy and the consulate in Benghazi and other facilities around the country? The press release on September 10, 2012, says there is a heightened terror alert, be on the lookout, all our people have now been informed. So there was clearly notice, there was an appreciation on September 10, 2012, that our facilities overseas were in peril.
The press release Rivera cited doesn't actually say anything about a heightened terror alert or specific warnings to overseas facilities; it simply says that the president met with senior national security advisers to discuss specific measures being taken to prevent another attack like the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as measures being taken to protect Americans and facilities abroad. After all, there have been hundreds of attacks on American diplomatic targets since the 1970s.
Rivera's suggestion that the administration was warned about an attack and failed to stop it echoes a repeated Benghazi myth and contradicts hearings and investigations that have shown no specific warning about the attack in Benghazi. Three days after the attack, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that he had "seen nothing yet that indicates" the administration "had information that could have prevented the event." The State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that was convened to investigate the attack "found that intelligence provided no immediate, specific tactical warning of the September 11 attacks." In testimony to a February Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about the attack, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained that "there was no specific intelligence or indications of an imminent attack" in Benghazi.
It is surprising that Rivera is pushing this myth given his past criticism of his Fox News colleagues for pushing Benghazi falsehoods. In October 2012, Rivera said that "we have to stop politicizing" the attack with the "preposterous allegations, reckless allegations" -- pushed by Fox's Sean Hannity -- that administration officials watched the attack unfold in real time. In November, Rivera criticized Eric Bolling, saying he was "misleading the American people" for falsely saying no help was sent once the attack in Benghazi began. Less than a month ago, Rivera explained that it "was not true" that the military could have intervened in time to save American lives once the attack began, a myth that has regularly been pushed by Fox News.
NPR contributor Cokie Roberts left out many of President Obama's major successes when she said that his only real first-term accomplishment has been the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Among these accomplishments are the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the rescue of America's biggest car companies, and the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
During a discussion on the October 17 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe about why Obama refused to entertain Republican demands that would gut the ACA in exchange for agreeing to avert a government shutdown, Roberts argued that the health care reform law "was his only real accomplishment" in his first term:
ROBERTS: Look at his first term. What was his only real accomplishment in that first term? This legislation. ... To give up his only really big accomplishment as President of the United States, that is something that he was not going to do.
While the ACA is one of the president's major accomplishments and is projected to reduce the United States' uninsured population by 25 million people by 2023, Roberts' statement ignores several of Obama's other significant achievements.
ARRA, also known as the 2009 stimulus, was passed weeks after Obama became president and succeeded in boosting the economy by several percentage points and creating the equivalent of several million jobs, according to economists and the Congressional Budget Office.
Later in 2009, President Obama helped General Motors and Chrysler transition through bankruptcy, a move that experts estimate saved well over a million jobs. Without the federal assistance that Obama authorized, the companies would have been liquidated.
Roberts also failed to mention the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011, which represents a major foreign policy accomplishment by the president. Other notable foreign policy achievements include ending the U.S. military presence in Iraq, beginning the drawdown of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and assisting in the overthrow of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
President Obama also signed significant consumer protections into law with the passage of new credit card regulations in 2009 and the 2010 financial reform law that created the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Another of Obama's significant regulatory accomplishments was his push for the regulation of greenhouse gasses after the Environmental Protection Agency determined that they were a pollutants that threatened human health.
The first bill Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which expands opportunities for women to sue over pay discrimination. He also seated two female Supreme Court justices in his first term, including the first Hispanic justice, and oversaw the end of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which banned openly gay Americans from serving in the military during his first term in office.
Fox News hid a House Republican tactic that ensured a government shutdown by citing discredited author Ed Klein to misleadingly blame White House adviser Valerie Jarrett for the shutdown.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed on October 16 that Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was "the architect of the shutdown," continuing the network's pattern of excusing Republicans of blame for the impasse. But the federal government shut down on October 1 after Republicans refused to fund the government without unrealistic policy changes to the Affordable Care Act, and reports from after the shutdown began explained how Republicans changed congressional rules to ensure federal gridlock. Talking Points Memo (TPM) explained:
The House and Senate were at an impasse on the night of Sept. 30. The House's then-most-recent ploy for extracting Obamacare concessions from Senate Democrats and the White House -- by eliminating health insurance subsidies for Congress members and their staffs -- had been rejected by the Senate. The 'clean' Senate spending bill was back in the House's court.
With less than two hours to midnight and shutdown, Speaker John Boehner's latest plan emerged. House Republicans would "insist" on their latest spending bill, including the anti-Obamacare provision, and request a conference with the Senate to resolve the two chambers' differences.
Under normal House rules, according to House Democrats, once that bill had been rejected again by the Senate, then any member of the House could have made a motion to vote on the Senate's bill. Such a motion would have been what is called "privileged" and entitled to a vote of the full House. At that point, Democrats say, they could have joined with moderate Republicans in approving the motion and then in passing the clean Senate bill, averting a shutdown.
But previously, House Republicans had made a small but hugely consequential move to block them from doing it.
So unless House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) wanted the Senate spending bill to come to the floor, it wasn't going to happen. And it didn't.
Congressional experts told TPM that such a move is highly unusual:
"I've never heard of anything like that before," Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told TPM.
"It is absolutely true that House rules tend to not have any explicit parliamentary rights guaranteed and narrowed to explicit party leaders," Sarah Binder, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, told TPM. "That's not typically how the rules are written."
When House Democrats attempted to bring the Senate bill funding the government to a vote on October 12, they were told by a presiding Republican member that they could not do so due to the GOP leadership's rule change. A House Republican aide later confirmed the rule change to CNN.
Fox News and right-wing blogs falsely claimed that the federal government turned off Amber Alert, the child abduction broadcast service, because of the government shutdown. In fact, there have been several Amber Alerts since the shutdown began October 1 -- only a Justice Department website listing them has been shut down, along with the websites of many other federal agencies due to a lack of funding.
Before Republicans caused a government shutdown beginning October 1 by refusing to fund the government unless Democrats accepted unrealistic demands, media reports explained that numerous federal government websites would go offline or would not be constantly updated as a result.
A week later, right-wing media are highlighting the unavailability of the Justice Department's AmberAlert.gov website to falsely claim that the government "shut off" the Amber Alert program. On October 7, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy said "if somebody goes missing, and an Amber Alert should be issued, it won't be" due to the website not being available. Fox Nation's headline read: "Amber Alerts Cancelled: WH First Targets Veterans, Now Targeting Children, in Shutdown." A Breitbart.com blog post claimed in a headline, "Amber Alerts Shut Off." And the Washington Examiner claimed that "somebody, somewhere in the Obama White House or the Obama Justice Department decided to shut down the Amber Alerts."
Contrary to the right-wing media's claims, Amber Alerts have continued to be issued since the shutdown began. On October 5, an Amber Alert in Miami, Florida for a missing two-year-old was made and then canceled. An Amber Alert was issued in Galveston County in Texas on October 5 for four children, but was later canceled when the children were found safe in Tennessee.
The government shutdown and the suspension of Justice Department websites did not stop Amber Alerts. As California Highway Patrol officials explained to a NBC affiliate reporting on the shutdown of the Amber Alert webpage, local law enforcement agencies will still alert local media outlets about an Amber Alert.
UPDATE: The Justice Department's Amber Alert website AmberAlert.gov has been restored. A link on the website to view active Amber Alerts shows that this website does not post any active Amber Alerts. A Justice Department spokesman explained on Twitter that "[a]t no point has AmberAlert system been interrupted during shutdown":