Officials from the Koch brothers' funding arm have announced a new "venture philanthropy" project called Stand Together, with aims of "strengthening the fabric of American society," and focusing on "poverty" and "educational quality," according to USA Today. Media should know that: previous Koch-backed poverty and education efforts have been coupled with ideological proselytizing, Stand Together's executive director is a Koch veteran and former Republican congressional candidate who repeatedly fearmongered about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the group's top collaborator is associated with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's sham "anti-poverty" efforts.
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers pushed back on Bill O'Reilly's criticism of an Associated Press fact-check that found Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had falsely claimed that Obamacare was "the biggest job-killer in the country." O'Reilly argued "Senator Cruz might be correct about Obamacare but to be fair, his opinion is subjective." Powers responded, noting "multiple studies have shown that's not true," and that the American Enterprise Institute found that "there was no correlation between the Affordable Care Act and a decrease in employment." From the January 29 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Reversing on their past condemnation of the use of a budget procedure called "reconciliation," The Wall Street Journal praised Republicans for using the tactic in their latest attempt to repeal Obamacare. The Journal also bashed, the law falsely claiming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has resulted in "huge" premium increases, and showed little concern for the millions of Americans who would lose healthcare if the law is repealed.
In a January 5 editorial, The Wall Street Journal praised Senate Republicans for narrowly passing legislation that would repeal the ACA via a parliamentary procedure called "reconciliation" -- a Senate budget tactic to avoid filibusters. After praising the GOP's repeal bill, which President Obama has vowed to veto, The Journal went on to attack the health care reform law, falsely claiming that the "law is failing on every level" and creating "huge" increases in health care premiums. From The Journal:
Republicans are now using the special "reconciliation" procedure that allows a budget bill to pass with a simple majority--which can only be used once a year--to get around Harry Reid's bone yard. Kvetchers on the right who say the Congress never does anything should be pleased, unless their griping was merely for political show.
This achievement is all the more notable for traveling through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations or blowing up century-old Senate rules, as some activists have demanded. The bill passed through patient, unglamorous legislative work, with House and Senate Republicans working together to make policy advances instead of degenerating into infighting and recriminations as usual.
This is what the GOP promised voters in 2014. Fifty-two of the 54 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, which passed 52-47 over unanimous Democratic opposition. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois were the two GOP dissenters.
Reconciliation is the process where the U.S. Senate can vote on budget amendments with a simple majority of 51 votes, and a senator cannot object to force a 60-vote threshold to move forward as is the case with all other bills and amendments. The Journal referred to Republicans using this tactic to attempt to gut Obamacare as a so-called "achievement" that traveled "through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations." But The Journal failed to mention that in the past its editorial board held the opposite view on the use of reconciliation to make changes to health care. The Journal also did not explain that perhaps the reason no "Armageddon-style confrontations" occurred is because the bill will be vetoed by the president and Republicans could only muster 52 votes in support of repeal, far below the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The bill is dead on arrival, as was the case the previous 60 times congressional Republicans passed symbolic repeal votes.
In 2010, when the bill that would become the Affordable Care Act was being considered, The Journal was loudly opposed to Senate Democrats using reconciliation to pass legislation that conservatives were derisively calling "Obamacare." The Journal called passing Obamacare via reconciliation "an abuse of the traditional Senate process" and claimed "we have entered a political wonderland." Journal editorial board member Daniel Henninger even wrote a column proclaiming "reconciliation could damage the institution of the Senate for years."
The Journal's January 5 editorial was not only a flip-flop on reconciliation, it was laden with inaccuracies about the law, some of which ignored The Wall Street Journal's own reporting. The one specific issue the paper wished to focus on as a so-called "failure" was the myth that premium increases have been unexpectedly "huge" since the law took effect and are set to spike in 2016. On the contrary, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently noted, premium costs and subsidies came in under expectations in 2014 and 2015. Typical health insurance premiums for 2016 are predicted to have a higher rate increase than the past two years, but The Journal failed to point out that much of this increase was not only expected, it will be covered by insurance subsidies.
After accounting for available subsidies, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the average national premium rate increase from 2015 to 2016 will be 3.6 percent. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is predicting slower-than-expected premium growth, and has revised its numbers to show federal spending on premiums will be 20 percent less than previously projected:
Furthermore, The Journal also failed to mention that insurance customers are free to choose new plans and providers every year, some of which may prove more cost effective than others. Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net pointed out that because individuals can change insurers, it is important to shop around and that those who do so may see smaller increases for 2016.
In yet another flip-flop, The Journal falsely claimed that no one ever "argued that a new entitlement couldn't reduce the uninsured rate." In fact, The Journal made such claims in an October 25, 2015 editorial hyping fears that supposedly low insurance enrollment for 2016 meant health care reform "won't survive." Such enrollment fears from The Journal were later debunked and research showed enrollment numbers had been adjusted because more Americans stayed on employer-provided insurance than originally anticipated.
In spite of its previous remarks against using reconciliation, its attempts to delegitimize enrollment numbers, and the fact that expected insurance premium costs have been revised downward, The Wall Street Journal still celebrated the latest, fruitless Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare, which if successful could strip health care coverage from at least 17 million Americans.
CNBC reported that a study published by the journal Health Affairs "found little evidence that the ACA has caused increases in part-time employment as of 2015," debunking a long time conservative media attack on President Obama's health care law.
Despite being repeatedly debunked, right-wing pundits have continued to push the false claim that the Affordable Care Act would negatively effect American employment, claiming its enactment would drive losses in full-time jobs while increasing part-time employment -- though no data has supported this assertion.
A January 5 article from CNBC reported that despite Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) assertion that the ACA has "forced millions of people into part-time work," "the analysis did not find such a shift to a reduction in work hours," and this speculative claim "isn't borne out by reality":
A new study further undercuts a major claim by critics of the Affordable Care Act, who contended that the law would encourage companies to slash full-time workers' hours and shift them into part-time work in order to avoid having to offer them health insurance.
The research "found little evidence that the ACA had caused increases in part-time employment as of 2015," according to a summary of the findings published in the journal Health Affairs on Tuesday.
"We can say with a large degree of confidence that there is nothing we can see nationwide when we look at the whole workforce" that would support a claim that the so-called employer mandate or other Obamacare features have led to increases in part-time employment at the expense of full-time jobs, said Kosali Simon, a professor at Indiana University, and a co-author of the report.
Critics of the law have said that many employers, rather than subsidize workers' insurance plans or pay the Obamacare fine, would instead cut workers' hours so that they fell below the 30-hour-per-week threshold that would trigger the penalty.
"There doesn't appear to be any substantial changes in the labor market as a result of Obamacare. The anecdotes are real, but I think it's just not happening in large numbers." -Larry Levitt, senior vice president, Kaiser Family Foundation
But the research published Tuesday in Health Affairs strongly suggests that such "speculation that employers would reduce work hours to avoid the mandate that they must offer health insurance to full-time employees" isn't borne out by reality.
"If this were true, one would expect to find increases in employment at the 'kink' just below the thirty-hour threshold," the paper noted.
From the January 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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New enrollment for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) marketplace exchanges is ahead of schedule through the first six weeks of open enrollment this year, a strong rebuke to continued right-wing predictions that low enrollment and the closure of a few health insurance cooperatives would prove the law is a failure.
On December 9, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the latest figures on health insurance enrollments through Healthcare.gov. CMS reported over 1 million new customers have signed up for health insurance and that 1.8 million more renewed their plans through the exchange marketplace during the first half of this year's enrollment period. According to The Hill, CMS had only targeted 900,000 new insurance customers for the entire 2016 enrollment period, which ends on January 31. CMS administrator Andy Slavitt told The Hill "I'm a pretty conservative guy, and I'm encouraged by the start we've had."
According to The New York Times, interest in enrollment is high with six more weeks to go before the sign-up period ends and "call centers have been deluged with requests from others eager to enroll." While not everyone who signs up will ultimately decide to pay their premiums and receive coverage, early reports indicate that the health insurance marketplaces established by the ACA are on-target to meet their coverage expansion goals by the end of the year.
These positive early reports on enrollment numbers offer a stark contrast to right-wing media claims that enrollments this year would falter and that the law is failing to meet expectations. In November, several conservative outlets latched on to stories about the planned closure of a few health insurance cooperatives as proof that the president's signature health care reform law was in a "death spiral" and on the verge of collapse. In October, The Wall Street Journal responded to sharply revised 2016 enrollment estimates by claiming that Obamacare "won't survive." The Journal ignored that part of the government's estimate adjustment was the result of more people than expected staying on employer-sponsored health care plans as the uninsured rate fell to a record low of 11.4 percent. The Journal then used their dire predictions about Obamacare to push floundering Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's plan to repeal the law.
This is not the first time right-wing media have made false claims about the ACA or grim predictions of the law being a failure. During the 2014 enrollment period, Media Matters chronicled so-called health care "truthers" who suggested that participation numbers were too high and may have been made up. Fox's Sean Hannity claimed that the Obama administration was "cooking the books on this thing," and that millions of applications for enrollment had "appeared out of thin air," while other Fox personalities claimed insurance signups "magically" hit their enrollment goals. Right-wing media held so deeply to this false enrollment conspiracy that they confusingly declared victory and impugned Media Matters when, in late 2014, CMS announced that a minor accounting error for exchange-approved dental plans had overstated the number of enrollees by just under 6 percent.
For two consecutive years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has published an estimate of how many workers will choose to leave the workforce or reduce their work hours as a result of certain protections and subsidies created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As was the case last year, conservative media has incorrectly reported that the CBO was projecting potential job losses stemming from Obamacare.
A segment on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by falsely claiming that a study from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that the healthcare law hurt the economy by reducing jobs. Fox correspondent Rich Edson argued that a working paper from the CBO buttressed GOP claims that the ACA would cost American jobs. The CBO study was referring to provisions of the ACA meant to end the issue of "job lock." MSNBC's Steve Benen explained that job lock "describes a dynamic in which many Americans would like to leave their current jobs - to retire, to start a new business...but can't because they and their families need the health benefits tied to their current job. " As Media Matters reported in 2014, the "projected change is in the supply of labor, not the demand for labor." Thus, the "job lock" provision actually gives Americans more choices, they can chose to work less or even retire earlier than expected and still be covered. From the December 8 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier:
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From the December 7 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media outlets are stoking fears that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is on the verge of collapse; arguing that health insurance co-op failures threaten to shutter President Obama's signature health care legislation. But experts argue that ACA continues to control health care costs and expand insurance, and explain that the co-op failures are due to underfunding by Congress.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board used sharply revised government estimates on the number of Americans expected to purchase health insurance through federal marketplaces to claim that Obamacare is failing and hype so-called Republican "alternatives" to the landmark health care reform legislation. The Journal's fearmongering about the long-term viability of Obamacare failed to acknowledge that while enrollment via federal marketplaces is less than expected, millions of Americans are still gaining access to affordable health insurance coverage.
An article on NPR.org effectively debunked Fox News' fearmongering about states that chose to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility, pointing out that "states whose governors, most Republicans who opposed the Affordable Care Act, chose not to accept federal funds to extend Medicaid to more people ... saw their costs to provide healthcare to the poor rise twice as fast as states that extended benefits to more low-income residents."
The October 15 article by NPR.org's Alison Kodjak cited a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of Medicaid directors that found that states "that didn't broaden coverage saw their Medicaid costs rise 6.9 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept 30," while states that expanded coverage "saw their costs rise only 3.4 percent." Kodjak noted that "that modest increase in Medicaid spending in the expansion states came even as the rate of Medicaid participation rose 18 percent, three times as much as the states sitting out."
After the Supreme Court gave states the ability in 2012 to choose to reject Medicaid expansion, Fox News repeatedly misled its viewers by claiming that the cost of expanding Medicaid rolls was unaffordable for states, who should reject federal funds to do so. In the aftermath of Fox's disinformation campaign, 5.7 million uninsured Americans were prevented from getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion in states where governors embraced that claim. Fox News' subsequently blamed this gap in coverage on the Affordable Care Act, instead of on Republican governors who turned down federal money that would have allowed them to add more people to the insurance rolls. From the NPR.org article:
The 22 states that didn't expand Medicaid eligibility as part of Obamacare last year saw their costs to provide health care to the poor rise twice as fast as states that extended benefits to more low-income residents.
It's a counterintuitive twist for those states whose governors, most Republicans who opposed the Affordable Care Act, chose not to accept federal funds to extend Medicaid to more people.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey of Medicaid directors in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., showed that those that didn't broaden coverage saw their Medicaid costs rise 6.9 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The 29 states that took President Obama up on his offer to foot the bill for expanding Medicaid saw their costs rise only 3.4 percent.
That modest increase in Medicaid spending in the expansion states came even as the rate of Medicaid participation rose 18 percent, three times as much as the states sitting out.
There have been stark differences between states that take up the expansion and those that don't.
Texas, for example, hasn't expanded eligibility and its rolls have increased by about 192,000 people in the last two years, or just 4.3 percent. Federal reimbursements to the state fell last year from 58.05 percent to 57.13, according to the Kaiser study.
California, by contrast, was among the first states to sign on to the expansion. Enrollment in Medi-Cal, the state's name for Medicaid, grew by 30 percent in the first year. All told, 3.4 million Californians were added to the Medi-Cal rolls between Sept. 2013 and July 2015.
An op-ed in The Weekly Standard praised Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a health care proposal based on a plan from an organization co-founded by neo-conservative Weekly Standard founder and editor Bill Kristol.
During an interview with Charlie Rose, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly insisted that she is different than her prime-time colleagues Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity because she is "not an opinion-maker" or an "issue advocate," but rather, a straight "newsperson." But that's a false image that Kelly and her employer have sold the public in an attempt to boost the popular anchor's credibility, making her a particularly effective purveyor of misinformation. In actuality, Kelly has a long history of scandalmongering and promoting her personal views from the anchor desk, from excusing police brutality to defending the "Christian values" of a designated hate group.
From the September 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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