Fox continued its effort to target the Obama administration with manufactured scandals, fearmongering that IRS commissioner Sarah Hall Ingram will use the IRS' authority under the Affordable Care Act to discriminate against conservatives by denying or postponing approval for medical procedures.
Right-wing media have seized on a study of Medicaid recipients to attack the program by focusing on certain parts of the findings while health care experts point out that the program successfully expanded access to care and eased health-related financial problems, the primary focus of Medicaid.
In 2008, the state of Oregon held a lottery to expand Medicaid coverage to 10,000 people. Because the selection was random, researchers began a controlled study on how the coverage affected the participants. After the results were posted in The New England Journal of Medicine, right-wing media seized on the findings to attack both Medicaid and health care reform. On May 2, Fox Nation posted a Washington Examiner article on the study under the headline "Landmark Study Shatters Liberal Health Care Claims." In the article, Examiner senior editorial writer Philip Klein noted that the study's authors found that enrollment in Medicaid led to "lower rates of depression," but Klein wrote that "the study suggests that expanding Medicaid ... does not improve" the health of recipients. On Your World, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, used the findings to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
On May 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the Medicaid study "[b]ad news for Democrats who support Obamacare." On-screen text during the segment stated that the study found that Medicaid is "ineffective":
But while Fox used the study as an opportunity to attack various aspects of health care reform, experts have pointed out that the study's findings, while not entirely positive, show that the program aided the new enrollees in several ways. In a Health Affairs blog post, Dr. John Lumpkin, who served for 12 years as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, wrote that the study showed that "coverage alone will not necessarily lead to good health," but also pointed to the "big impact on family finances" and the fact that "expanding Medicaid was shown to substantially reduce depression." Dr. Lumpkin concluded:
So far, the Oregon Health Insurance Study shows us that people who obtained Medicaid coverage received more health care services in the first two years--especially needed preventive care--and had less depression and financial worries. Their health outcomes weren't significantly better, but at least they are now participating in the health care system and getting the care they need, without plunging their families deeper into poverty. From this vantage point, the glass seems more than half full.
A Wall Street Journal editorial advanced the myth that Congress is trying to exempt itself from President Obama's health care law. In fact, Congress is attempting to fix an error in the law that prevents the government from making its normal contribution to staffers' health insurance.
Basing its editorial on an April 24 Politico article, the Journal wrote that "Congressional leaders were in hush-hush talks to exempt themselves and their staff from the wonders of ObamaCare." The editorial, headlined "Exempting Congress From ObamaCare," continued:
In March 2010 Mr. Grassley tried again to apply the law to all Congressional personnel and to White House officials. His amendment received every Republican vote but it was defeated with 55 Democrats (plus Socialist Bernie Sanders) voting no. However, thanks to Mr. Grassley's earlier success, the law still covered Members of Congress and some of their aides -- hence their latest effort to wiggle out of the ObamaCare mandates.
Congress will eventually find some way to protect itself, but its subterranean scrambling to do so exposes one of ObamaCare's greatest deceits: That if you like the insurance you have, you'll be able to keep it. Even the people who wrote the law don't believe it.
But as The Washington Post's Ezra Klein has explained, Congress is not discussing "exempting" itself from the health care law; it's attempting to fix an error in the law that prevents the government from making its current contribution to the insurance premiums of congressional staffers:
Back during the Affordable Care Act negotiations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) proposed an amendment forcing all members of Congress and all of their staffs to enter the exchanges. The purpose of the amendment was to embarrass the Democrats. But in a bit of jujitsu of which they were inordinately proud, Democrats instead embraced the amendment and added it to the law.
But no one is discussing "exempting" congressional staffers from Obamacare. They're discussing creating some method through which the federal government can keep making its current contribution to the health insurance of congressional staffers.
The Drudge Report falsely claimed that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "scapegoat[ed]" Republicans when she pointed out that political opposition to health care reform has complicated its implementation. Although Sebelius never assigned blame to a specific party, GOP obstructionism has in fact made implementation more costly and more complicated.
Drudge linked to an Investor's Business Daily article which claimed that, in recent remarks to the Harvard School of Public Health, Sebelius "was trying to find a way to blame Republicans for ObamaCare's failures when the inevitable problems start emerging." Drudge's headline for the article read, "Sebelius Scapegoats GOP For Coming Obamacare Mess":
But Sebelius never scapegoated the GOP; she only pointed to the "relentless and continuous" politics and state-level opposition as hindering factors:
SEBELIUS: The second thing that probably has been more difficult is just the politics has been relentless and continuous. And I would say I think there was some hope that once the Supreme Court ruled in July and then once an election occurred there would be a sense that, 'This is the law of the land, let's get on board, let's make this work.' And yet we will find ourselves still having sort of state-by-state political battles and again creating what I think is a lot of confusion. It is very difficult when people live in a state where there is a daily declaration, 'We will not participate in the law,' for them to figure out whether there are any benefits that they actually have a right to access and so getting that word out about setting up the infrastructure has been more complicated.
Although Sebelius never blamed the GOP, it is true that Republican obstructionism has made implementation more difficult and costly than it would be otherwise. The Washington Post's Wonkblog pointed out the "incredible burden on the administration" caused by the GOP's "strategy of harassment and intransigence":
Fox News deceptively edited a clip of Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make it seem as though she had not anticipated how complex implementation of President Obama's health care law would be when, in fact, Sebelius was pointing to the problems created by relentless political opposition to the bill.
On America's Newsroom, guest host Gregg Jarrett played a portion of Sebelius' appearance at the Harvard School of Public Health. Jarrett introduced the clip by claiming Sebelius "admitted there's been a lot of confusion associated with the rollout." Jarrett then played a portion of the clip in which Sebelius said, "There was some hope that once the Supreme Court ruled in July, and then once an election occurred, there would be a sense of, 'this is the law of the land, let's get on board, let's make this work,' and yet we find ourselves still having sort of state-by-state political battles."
After the clip, Jarrett responded by saying, "She underestimated its complexity. Well, my goodness, the law is 2,700 pages long with more than 15,000 pages of [regulations]. What does she expect?"
But Jarrett's interpretation of Sebelius' appearance is based on deceptive editing. Sebelius wasn't complaining about the bill's length or complexity -- she was explaining that political opposition to the law has made implementation more difficult. Fox began the clip after Sebelius pointed out that "politics has been relentless and continuous." In the portion after Fox's edited verision (comments begin around 13:30), Sebelius went on to explain that states which have expressed consistent opposition to the law make it more difficult to implement the law and explain benefits to health care consumers. In Sebelius' comments below, the portion aired by Fox is in bold:
From the April 10 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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National Review Online attacked a program that would make released inmates eligible for Medicaid as an "expensive addition" to the program, despite praise from experts who have pointed to the policy's potential to cut health care costs.
An NRO post attacked a provision in the Affordable Care Act which would make recently released prisoners eligible for Medicaid benefits. The blog attacked the program as an "expensive addition" to Medicaid, later complaining that "monumental poor life choices, including the ones felons have made ... will be subsidized by" taxpayers:
Obamacare expands Medicaid enrollment substantially. To deny someone enrollment because he'd served time in prison would surely violate the underlying intent of giving everyone equal health care. And if affordable health care is now a right, to deprive former felons would be to impose a punishment in addition to their original sentence. So to some extent, felons' new Medicaid eligibility makes legal sense.
But there's nevertheless an annoying hypocrisy here.
As Bloomberg's recent soda campaign so aptly demonstrated, once health care becomes a public expense, personal choices become a public concern. Taxpayers can expect to be nagged about small poor life choices like opting for a bigger beverage or a higher-calorie meal choice.
But monumental poor life choices, including the ones felons have made -- which result in lower incomes and worse health -- will be subsidized by those same taxpayers.
It may be equal, but it doesn't seem very fair.
But experts have pointed out that the program could lead to an overall reduction in health care spending. A Pew Stateline article quoted proponents of the program who explained that making released inmates eligible for Medicaid would reduce medical costs by providing access to preventive care and reducing the use of emergency care as a primary health care provider:
A Fox News analyst invoked the discredited "death panels" myth to stoke fears that cancer clinics are turning away patients as a result of the 2010 health care reform law, even as those clinics say they are being forced to turn away patients because of automatic across-the-board budget cuts that took effect last month.
On April 3, Sarah Kliff of The Washington Post's WonkBlog reported that thousands of cancer patients will be turned away from clinics for chemotherapy treatment because of automatic cuts to Medicare:
Cancer clinics across the country have begun turning away thousands of Medicare patients, blaming the sequester budget cuts.
Oncologists say the reduced funding, which took effect for Medicare on April 1, makes it impossible to administer expensive chemotherapy drugs while staying afloat financially.
Patients at these clinics would need to seek treatment elsewhere, such as at hospitals that might not have the capacity to accommodate them.
On April 5, Fox News analyst Peter Johnson, Jr. appeared on Fox & Friends to discuss the story and blamed not only sequestration, but President Obama's health care reform law, saying: "This is about people dying as a result of Obamacare and as a result of the sequester." Johnson then claimed that Medicare growth reduction, which is in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), would lead to similar problems for Medicare patients. Later, Johnson used this situation to push the right-wing myths about "death panels" under the ACA.
Johnson's claim that the ACA resulted in cancer patients losing chemotherapy treatment is groundless. The Post's Kliff explained in her post how sequestration is solely responsible for this reduction in care:
Legislators meant to partially shield Medicare from the automatic budget cuts triggered by the sequester, limiting the program to a 2 percent reduction -- a fraction of the cuts seen by other federal programs.
But oncologists say the cut is unexpectedly damaging for cancer patients because of the way those treatments are covered.
Medications for seniors are usually covered under the optional Medicare Part D, which includes private insurance. But because cancer drugs must be administered by a physician, they are among a handful of pharmaceuticals paid for by Part B, which covers doctor visits and is subject to the sequester cut.
Fox News' Megyn Kelly and Chris Stirewalt attacked a program that would help people seeking health insurance understand the new health care reform law, baselessly suggesting that "unions and community advocacy groups" might use the program to steal patients' personal information -- even though Stirewalt admitted that "there's no evidence" Fox's claims were true.
On April 3, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations for health care navigators, assistants who would provide "unbiased information" to help consumers understand the new health care law and enroll in insurance plans, as a post on Health Affairs Blog noted.
Kelly, appearing to echo a Washington Examiner post, led a segment on the April 4 edition of America Live by describing navigators' roles and then saying, "But now some are raising red flags, saying the rules allow these jobs of the navigators to be filled by organizations with political agendas, including unions and community action groups."
Kelly failed to explain why allowing union members to become navigators would be problematic, and the words "union" and "community action" do not appear in the proposed rules.
In fact, while the rules do include standards on who can apply for navigator jobs, these standards center on conflict-of-interest problems: since navigators will be required to provide unbiased information about insurance plans, the rules prohibit health insurance issuers or their lobbyists from becoming navigators.
From the April 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Karl Rove hypocritically referred to an ad highlighting how a recent House Republican budget would harm seniors who rely on Medicare as "Mediscare" demagoguery, ignoring his own PAC's misleading Medicare-based attack on a Democrat during the 2012 election cycle.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released ads on April 1 highlighting the ramifications of the fiscal year 2014 budget proposed by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The ads accurately claim that the budget would cut Medicare and harm seniors.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities recently found that the Ryan budget would "cut Medicare spending by $356 billion," as well as "shift substantial costs to Medicare beneficiaries," and could leave many 65 and 66 year olds without health insurance.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, however, Karl Rove dismissed this ad as "demagoguery" and "deeply dishonest":
The midterm election is still 19 months away, but for some it's never too early for demagoguery. And so this week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched a new "Mediscare" ad. The targets are 17 Republican congressmen who supported the House budget framework that includes Medicare reforms.
The ad has menacing music, doomsday predictions and a tagline that these GOP congressmen voted for "a radical vision for America" that guts Medicare. The spot is deceitful but still deserves a swift, powerful rebuttal. Even a deeply dishonest attack on Medicare, if unrefuted, can do damage.
In his critique of the "Mediscare" ad, Rove ignored his own political group's Medicare-based attack ad. American Crossroads ran a misleading ad during the 2012 election cycle attacking Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (FL) for supposedly harming seniors by voting for "massive cuts to Medicare" to the tune of $700 billion by voting for health care reform.
Contrary to the ad's claim, health care reform did not cut Medicare. As an August 2012 ABC News post explained, the supposed "cuts" to Medicare was actually the slowing of Medicare's future growth by "getting rid of fraud and ending overpayments to private insurance companies." Gail Wilensky, a former administrator of the Medicare program under President George H. W. Bush, made clear in a June 2012 Bloomberg article that this growth control would not result in "reductions in the Medicare benefits promised in the law."
Fox Business Network's Cheryl Casone misrepresented a tax credit in the Affordable Care Act by omitting vital information about the program and warning it could lead to "a huge tax bill."
On Fox News' America's Newsroom, Casone mischaracterized the consequences of the ACA's insurance exchange tax credit application, claiming "if you do not accurately project your 2014 income by October 1, 2013 -- that is this year -- you're going to be hit with a huge tax bill." Casone went on to explain: "you're going to get a tax subsidy from the government to help pay for getting into the exchanges" and noted that "you may have to pay the government back in the spring of 2015":
But Casone mischaracterized the program by claiming it will lead to a "huge tax bill." Recipients may have to repay the tax credit -- in part or in full -- received for the insurance exchange if the recipient projected his or her income lower than it turned out to be. But Casone failed to acknowledge that should an individual's projected income be higher than his or her actual income, he or she, if eligible for the credit, will receive a refund from the government.
As Tim Jost at Health Affairs explained last year, this method is a widely accepted way of providing private health insurance to low- and middle-income families:
At the heart of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reforms are the premium tax credits, which will extend health insurance coverage to 18 million lower and middle-income Americans. The idea of using tax credits to purchase private health insurance for the uninsured is one of a number of the historically conservative policy positions adopted by the ACA. Both the Paul Ryan Roadmap and a recent proposal by James Capretta and Robert Moffit on How to Replace Obamacare also support premium tax credits to make health insurance accessible to Americans.
To create tax credits that are sufficiently substantial to in fact make health insurance affordable to lower-income Americans, without creating a program so costly that it is unaffordable to the country, tax credits must be means-tested and must be structured so as not to crowd out employment-based insurance. This turns out, not surprisingly, to be very complicated.
Reconciliation. Although the tax credit is paid in advance directly to an insurer on a monthly basis, it is in fact a tax credit that must be claimed on the taxpayer's annual income tax return. Final eligibility for the credit, therefore, cannot be known until the taxpayer files his or her annual return, at which point household income for the year will be finally determined. A "reconciliation" must then occur between the tax credit already received and that to which the individual is actually entitled. If over the course of the year household income turns out to be greater or less than projected, or if household composition or compliance with other eligibility requirements has changed, the final tax credit may turn out to be greater or less than the amount already paid.
If the taxpayer turns out to have been eligible for more than had been paid, the taxpayer gets a refund. If, however, the government has paid more than the taxpayer in fact turns out to be entitled to, the taxpayer must pay the money back.
From the April 3 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the April 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing media fabricated a conspiracy that "pro-Obama groups" will be able to steer health care reform insurance applicants to register to vote as Democrats, ignoring a 1993 law that requires programs offering public assistance to include questions about voter registration.
Right-wing media outlets like The Washington Examiner, the Daily Caller and The Washington Times reported that a draft application for health insurance through the health care reform law twice asked if an applicant wished to register to vote. They claimed that organizations who may register Americans for health insurance through health care reform may steer applicants "to register with the Democratic Party."
On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson similarly fearmongered over "the bigger concern" for health care reform insurance applicants that "pro-Obama groups...would steer them to register as Democrats":
In fact, such voter registration questions on the draft application are required under law. A portion of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, otherwise known as the "Motor Voter Act," requires that programs that offer public assistance benefits, like the Medicaid benefits and tax credits contained in the draft health care reform insurance application, must offer voter registration:
Section 7 of the Act requires states to offer voter registration opportunities at all offices that provide public assistance and all offices that provide state-funded programs primarily engaged in providing services to persons with disabilities. Each applicant for any of these services, renewal of services, or address changes must be provided with a voter registration form of a declination form as well as assistance in completing the form and forwarding the completed application to the appropriate state or local election official.