Fox News dismissed the devastating effect that delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would have on the millions of Americans who would be left without adequate insurance and be forced to delay treatment for serious health conditions.
During her November 6 testimony to Congress, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pushed back on congressional demands to delay implementation of parts of the new health care law, noting that a delay of the law could mean delaying access to necessary and life-saving medical treatment for Americans who currently lack insurance or are underinsured (via Nexis):
SEBELIUS: Now, some have asked, why not just delay implementation of the new law until all of the problems are fixed? And there's a pretty straightforward answer: Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn't delay people's cancer or diabetes or Parkinson's. Didn't delay the need for mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. Delaying the Affordable Care Act doesn't delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills. It doesn't delay the higher costs all of us pay when uninsured Americans are left with no choice but to rely on emergency rooms for care.
So for millions of Americans, delay is not an option. People's lives depend on this. Too many hard-working people have been waiting for too long for the ability to obtain affordable health insurance.
We want to save families from going bankrupt. We want to save the lives of more of our friends and neighbors by allowing them to detect medical issues early. We want to keep prices down. Delay is not an option.
The next morning on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed Sebelius' warning as "disingenuous," and implied that only people in third-world nations lacked access to adequate health care:
KILMEADE: She also said something I thought was totally disingenuous. When asked over and over again by Max Baucus and other Democrats, why don't you delay, she says, well, doing so wouldn't delay people's cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's disease. What are we, Cambodia? Are we some third-world nation? Are we all in the waiting room until this passes and this website gets up? That's, these are the types of statements where people feel as though this is one big game.
In fact, more than 47 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2012, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a one-year delay to the individual mandate -- the portion of the health care law that penalizes individuals for not signing up for insurance by March 2014 -- would cause at least 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014. The majority of the uninsured are low-income working families.
Those who lack adequate insurance often "avoid going to the doctor or getting prescriptions filled because they can't afford it," according to Kaiser Health News, and others "end up with medical debt and other severe financial problems." The Commonwealth Fund has found that half of the underinsured "said they had not received needed care because of cost," and 67 percent of uninsured people "reported at least one cost-related problem getting needed care." Emergency rooms are required by federal law to treat all individuals regardless of insurance, but the uninsured are less likely to receive follow-up care, are at higher risk for preventable hospitalizations and for missed diagnoses, and have significantly higher mortality rates than those with insurance.
The Affordable Care Act helps alleviate these problems by requiring that all Americans have access to health insurance, even if they have a preexisting condition, and by requiring that all new insurance plans offer a minimum level of coverage.
Furthermore, delaying implementation by just a few months could have severe financial consequences for all Americans, even those who are already insured. As CNNMoney reported, an implementation delay could "send insurance premiums through the roof":
Delaying Obamacare by just a few months could send insurance premiums through the roof.
Congressional Republicans and some Democrats are pushing to give individuals more time to sign up for Obamacare after major technical problems have stymied enrollment. But insurers say the consequences of such a move would be heavy.
That's because insurers set their rates for 2014 assuming that all Americans would be subject to the individual mandate, which requires them to get health insurance or face penalties.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers must provide coverage to everyone -- even the sickest people -- which would greatly increase insurers' risk and cost. To offset this, lawmakers included the mandate to prompt younger, healthier people who don't use a lot of medical care to sign up.
But if the mandate were delayed by a year, many of those lower-cost folks may not sign up. About 2 million fewer people would would obtain coverage in the individual market, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
If the individual mandate didn't exist, premiums would be about 15% to 20% higher, according to the CBO.