Health Care Reform

Issues ››› Health Care Reform
  • Wash. Post Slams Paul Ryan’s “Flimsy” Health Care Reform Plan

    Editorial Board Concludes Ryan’s “Better Way” Could Lead To “Much Higher Costs” For Many, Allow States “With The Skimpiest Regulations” To “Set The National Standard”

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post blasted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) outline for replacing Obamacare, which could cut health care for millions of Americans and might lead to more rapidly rising insurance costs for an inferior product.

    Ryan released a health care reform plan on June 22 under the “Better Way” brand that he hopes will become a fixture for Republican policy making in the next Congress. The plan seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- commonly referred to as Obamacare -- and replace it with a series of tax credits for Americans to purchase private insurance. The Post picked apart Ryan’s health care agenda in a June 26 editorial, saying the plan would be “hard on the poor, old and sick” and adding that “those in late middle age could face much higher costs.” The editorial board also derided the plan, which offers no cost projections or estimates for the number of Americans who could lose their ACA-compliant insurance, for being yet another vague proposal from a Republican Party that “has no excuse for blank spaces” after so many years of fruitless opposition to the health care law.

    The Post noted that “the rate of uninsured Americans has plummeted to a historic low” since Obamacare was enacted, and Ryan’s plan does not appear capable of maintaining the same low rate. Instead, the plan would create tax credits that increase as Americans age, but it would also let insurers “raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows.” Since “the proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up,” it is possible that the tax credits proposed in the Ryan plan could be much smaller than the actual cost of insurance, making the reform agenda costlier for millions of middle-aged Americans currently benefitting from Obamacare. From The Washington Post (emphasis added):

    House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) seemed to promise better when he announced that he would roll out an ambitious policy agenda this summer. Instead, last week he released an Obamacare alternative that is less detailed in a variety of crucial ways than previous conservative health reform proposals. The outlines that the speaker did provide suggest that it would be hard on the poor, old and sick.

    Mr. Ryan’s plan would replace Obamacare with a tax credit available to people buying insurance plans in markets regulated by the states, not the federal government.

    [...]

    The proposal hints that the credit would be sufficient to cover the cost of plans that existed before the ACA. This is not reassuring: Pre-ACA, individual-market insurance plans were often thin, with limited benefits, extensive cost-sharing and other elements designed to deter anyone who might actually need care. Without strong coverage requirements, insurers would have limited incentive to offer plans that appealed to people who may be — or may become — sick. States would be hampered in responding to these issues: The proposal would allow insurers to sell plans across state lines, so the state with the skimpiest regulations would likely set the national standard.

    People with money to put into health savings accounts (which the proposal would expand), could cover gaps in thin insurance coverage with tax-advantaged out-of-pocket spending — but this would not be a realistic option for low-income people. As for the old, the plan would scale up the tax credits with age, but it would also permit insurers to raise premiums with age much more than the ACA currently allows. The proposal gives no sense that the two will come close to matching up; as in other conservative plans, those in late middle age could face much higher costs. For the sick, meanwhile, Mr. Ryan’s plan would offer an ultimate backstop by funding high-risk insurance pools. But health-care experts caution that this approach would cost a massive amount of federal money — a fact that has caused Republican lawmakers to balk at policies like it when fleshed out.

    This harsh treatment of Ryan’s health care reform agenda mirrors the tone of criticism he drew from various quarters for each of his recent attempts to rebrand misleading Republican economic talking points as a “Better Way” forward. Ryan’s “Better Way” anti-poverty reform agenda, which was based almost entirely on right-wing media myths rather than professional economic research, was slammed by critics as being “doomed to fail” and “based on faulty assumptions.” His health care reform agenda seems to be drawn from the same right-wing media perspective, which considers the full repeal of the ACA to be of paramount importance despite the law’s continued success and the failure of every right-wing prediction of its demise to come to fruition.

  • This Supreme Court Case Propelled By Right-Wing Media Myths Could Have Major National Consequences

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month in the landmark abortion case centered around 2013 Texas law HB 2, a statute that was propelled by right-wing media myths and imposes unnecessarily restrictive requirements on the state’s abortion providers. If the country’s highest court allows the Texas law to stand, it will set a dangerous precedent, opening the door for similar restrictions in other states and putting women’s health at dire risk.  

    Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt ­–  “the most important Supreme Court abortion case in a generation,” –  will determine the fate of HB 2, the Texas law that has already forced nearly half of the state's abortion clinics to close by placing medically unnecessary requirements on providers. HB 2 "requires abortion doctors to be affiliated with nearby hospitals and also limits abortion to ambulatory surgical centers," under the guise of necessary women’s health protections, but health experts overwhelmingly say those requirements are both dangerous and “medically unnecessary.” Admitting privileges laws like Texas' HB 2 not only impose stricter requirements on abortion providers than on facilities that perform riskier procedures, but they also severly limit the number of abortion providers; most providers "cannot meet the number-of-admissions standard for gaining privileges because so few of their patients need hospital care."

     

     

    In the March oral arguments, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller relied on a common right-wing media myth to justify the restrictions, falsely claiming that they’re necessary to prevent another “Kermit Gosnell” scandal in which illegal operations led to multiple deaths in Philadelphia. But Gosnell’s crimes bear no resemblance to safe, legal abortions –  such as  those performed at the clinics targeted by HB 2 – and the Texas law, if allowed to stand, could actually make crimes like Gosnell’s more likely given that his business model was to prey on low-income women who could not access legal abortions and “felt they had no alternative.” The Texas lawmakers who pushed for this legislation echoed the right-wing media myth that women's health clinics were unsafe and required increased regulation, capitalizing on a lie that originated with anti-choice activists. Numerous reviews have concluded that abortion facilities nationwide are safe, routinely inspected, and subject to onerous regulation.

    The Texas law has already forced more than half of the state’s abortion clinics to close, and if the law is allowed by the Supreme Court to take full effect, another 10 of the 19 remaining clinics in the state could close meaning that 75 percent of all of the clinics in the state will be shut down because of  the law. The final remaining clinics would all be clustered in metropolitan areas. This means the average distance women must travel each way to reach a clinic would be 85 miles (the national average is 30 miles), with nearly 1 million women more than 150 miles from the nearest abortion provider, effectively ending “abortion access for low-income women in rural areas of the state, who are already having a hard time finding providers.” Research conducted by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) demonstrated the law has “resulted in significant burdens for women” attempting to access abortion care, and the burdens would disproportionately impact low-income women, women of color, and Latinas in particular.

    But it’s not just Texan women’s fates at stake in the Supreme Court ruling. The same medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers exist in at least 22 other states -- and dozens of additional abortion restrictions exist throughout the country.

    As Refinery29’s Lilli Petersen explained, “what’s at stake in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt isn’t actually the legal right to have an abortion, but what states are allowed to do to regulate the procedure.” A “decision in favor” of HB 2, Petersen expounded, “would set a national precedent and open the door for other states to enact similar limitations on abortion.”

    If the Supreme Court finds in Texas’ favor it's likely to have an immediate impact on neighboring state Louisiana, for example, which passed a similarly styled law in 2014. If allowed to stand, Louisiana’s law would shutter three of the state’s four abortion clinics. Just days after hearing oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court issued a brief order that reversed the Fifth Circuit, allowing the temporary closed clinics in Louisiana to reopen, but the law’s ultimate fate is still in question. Likewise Alabama has also passed a similar bill that requires doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges. That law has been struck down by a federal court but its status could also be affected by the ruling in Whole Women’s Health and reportedly “if the law is allowed to take effect, four of the state’s five clinics would close, and the lone surviving clinic could never meet the demand for abortions in Alabama, which average around 9,000 a year.”  

    If the impact in Texas is an indicator of what might happen elsewhere, the consequences of the Supreme Court upholding HB 2 are dire. Another TxPEP study predicted that if the Supreme Court fails to overturn HB 2, women in Texas will become increasingly more likely to self-induce abortion "as clinic-based care becomes more difficult to access." Incidents of self-induced abortions are most prevalent among women who reported facing significant obstacles to reproductive healthcare in the past, as is the case with Latina women living in a rural area of Texas that has seen several clinic closures.

    In a New York Times article, economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz outlined how demand for self-induced abortion is concentrated in areas where abortion is most difficult to access, “reminiscent of the era before Roe v. Wade.” Stephens-Davidowitz analyzed data based on Google searches for phrases like “how to miscarriage” and “how to self-abort,” and found that the “state with the highest rate of Google searches for self-induced abortions is Mississippi, which now has one abortion clinic.” Stephens-Davidowitz concluded: “there is an unambiguous fact in Google search data that the eight justices of the Supreme Court and everyone else should know. In some parts of the United States, demand for self-induced abortion has risen to a disturbing level.”

    As Dr. Daniel Grossman, co-author of the TxPEP study told reporters, "This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk."

    Medically unnecessary restrictive laws don’t protect women and they don’t curb the number of abortions. They actually tend to increase unsafe abortion, according to international evidence. As Taylor Crumpton wrote in Glamour magazine, “when providers are too far away, or waiting periods become untenably long, women look to cross the border to secure abortion-inducing medication or try to get abortion pills through the black market.”

    Unless the Supreme Court makes a binding rule striking down both restrictions in HB 2, the door to similar restrictions in other states will be left wide open. The outcome could also be negatively affected by the unprecedented GOP obstruction of the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Due to the empty seat, there’s a chance the court could deadlock or postpone a decision, which could permit Texas HB 2 to stand, but wouldn’t set a binding precedent, “leaving uncertainty for other states and highlighting more than ever the importance of the next Supreme Court appointment,” as The New York Times reported. That uncertainty could weigh especially heavily on “states like Alabama, Mississippi and Wisconsin [as they] press to remove blocks on their admitting-privilege laws.”

    Refinery29 has laid out a number of possible outcomes:

  • Sean Hannity Blames Rise In Death Rate Among Seniors To Debunked Myth Of Obamacare "Death Panels"

    Politifact Dubbed “Death Panels” The Lie Of The Year In 2009

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    Radio host Sean Hannity linked the rising death rate for seniors to alleged “death panels” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), reviving the thoroughly debunked claim that the ACA would create "death panels" that would ration care to seniors.

    A June 1 New York Times article reported the rise in the US death as a “rare increase that was driven in part by more people dying from drug overdoses, suicide, and Alzheimer's disease":

    The death rate in the United States rose last year for the first time in a decade, preliminary federal data show, a rare increase that was driven in part by more people dying from drug overdoses, suicide and Alzheimer’s disease. The death rate from heart disease, long in decline, edged up slightly.

    [...]

    While recent research has documented sharp rises in death rates among certain groups — in particular less educated whites, who have been hardest hit by the prescription drug epidemic — increases for the entire population are relatively rare.

    Federal researchers cautioned that it was too early to tell whether the rising mortality among whites had pushed up the overall national death rate. (Preliminary data is not broken down by race, and final data will not be out until later this year.)

    Hannity blamed ACA telling listeners that the rise in death rates started in 2015 which “represented the very first year Obamacare was fully implemented. Hannity also hyped that "Sarah Palin was mocked for using the term 'death panels'":

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Here's more evidence by the way that socialism doesn't work. A couple of weeks ago, Betsy McCaughey, she's been so adamant and so on top of, I mean, for years, when we were debating Obamacare, she carried the whole bill into the studio, into the TV studio. Underlined, highlighted, she read it, she's the only one that I know that read it, and read it, and read it and read it and knows it.

    Anyway, she reported on two studies that showed that since the implementation of Obamacare -- and remember what you were promised, you keep your doctor, keep your plan, average family saves $2,500 per family, per year. Well, she found since it's implementation 17,000 seniors have died prematurely, just in California, due to rationed care. Remember Sarah Palin was mocked for using the term "death panels"?

    Anyway, so you get a headline in the New York Times, quote "The first rise in US death rate in years surprises the experts." Well guess what? This year, you know, this totally unexpected rise in the death rate, you don't want to know when it started? In 2015. You know what the year 2015 represented? The very first year Obamacare was fully implemented. And of course, The Times, they're not going to make that connection. They're mystified over what could possibly be causing the dramatic turnaround in the death rate.

    Hannity’s baseless attempt to connect so called “death panels” to the increased US death rate continues his tradition of hyping “death panels” to smear the ACA. Hannity has previously claimed that “death panels will exist” and people will die, argued “death panels are inevitable,” and suggested to Sarah Palin that the Veterans’ Administration was a “death panel.”

    The so called “death panels” Hannity is referring to is the ACA’s Individual Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) which is an expert body of 15 health care experts appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to slow the growth of health care spending and improve the quality of care patients receive. The ACA explicitly states that IPAB cannot make recommendations to ration care or make health care decisions for individuals.

    The “death panel” myth is in line with a wider conservative media campaign to smear the ACA by stoking fears of health care recipients. The “death panel” smear was so pervasive that Politifact dubbed it 2009’s Lie of the Year.

  • As Polls Show Rising Support To Confirm SCOTUS Nominee, Wash. Post Lauds "Remarkably Successful" Opposition

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    The Washington Post credulously called the efforts by the discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) to prevent the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland "remarkably successful." But polls show the general public is increasingly at odds with JCN's position. Indeed, just last week the Post reported that the results of a new poll was evidence that "Democrats are winning the message war over Garland." The Post promoted the notion of JCN's success in an interview with chief counsel Carrie Severino, who was given a platform to rehash debunked smears about Garland's judicial record on guns and government regulations.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast News Try To Cover The Economy Without Economists

    Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.

  • NY Times Editorial Board Debunks Conservative Myths About Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board debunked the “big myths” Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are “peddling about the Affordable Care Act and also their ill-conceived plans of what might replace it.” The board wrote that Trump and Cruz are “willing to mislead the public any way they can” to “trash the Affordable Care Act” by “inventing problems that don’t exist and proposing solutions that won’t help.”

    Right-wing media have smeared Obamacare for years with baseless catastrophic predictions and falsehoods, and 2016 Republican presidential candidates have followed suit. That fearmongering has been stunningly wrong, and numerous reports have repeatedly highlighted the Affordable Care Act’s successes in bringing “historic increases in coverage.”

    In an April 19 editorial, the Times’ editorial board explained that, contrary to Trump and Cruz’s misleading attempts to trash the Affordable Care Act, “the law has helped millions of Americans, especially low-wage workers … who previously struggled to pay for coverage.” From the Times’ editorial board:

    “Disaster.” “Incredible economic burden.” “The biggest job-killer in this country.”

    Central to the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has been the claim that the Affordable Care Act has been a complete failure, and that the only way to save the country from this scourge is to replace it with something they design.

    [...]

    Mr. Cruz claimed that “millions of Americans” had lost their health insurance because of the health reform law.

    […]

    Insurers did stop offering some plans after the law took effect, including those that didn’t provide required benefits like maternity care or that charged higher premiums to older or sicker people. But people with those plans had the opportunity to sign up for others. And over all, the law has drastically reduced the number of Americans who lack health insurance. According to the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 10 million between 2010, when the law passed, and 2014. While critics said employers might stop offering health insurance because of the law, three million people actually gained coverage through their employers between 2010 and 2014.

    [...]

    Mr. Cruz has called the Affordable Care Act “the biggest job-killer in this country” and said “millions of Americans have lost their jobs, have been forced into part-time work” because of it. This is false. The unemployment rate has fallen since the law took effect, PolitiFact notes, as has the number of people working part time when they would rather work full time. A 2015 study using data from the Current Population Survey found that the law “had virtually no adverse effect on labor force participation, employment or usual hours worked per week through 2014.”

    [...]

    [T]he biggest obstacle stopping insurers from setting up in more states is not regulation; it’s the difficulty of establishing a network of providers in a new market. And such a structure would destroy the longstanding ability of states to regulate health insurance for their populations. Some states, for instance, require coverage for infertility treatment and others have chosen not to. Allowing cross-border plans would encourage insurers to base themselves in low-regulation states, and the result might be a proliferation of poor-quality plans.

    The Affordable Care Act is not perfect.

    [...]

    But the law has helped millions of Americans, especially low-wage workers like cashiers, cooks and waiters who previously struggled to pay for coverage. In inventing problems that don’t exist and proposing solutions that won’t help, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz show that they don’t care about helping Americans get health care, which has never been their interest. They want to trash the Affordable Care Act, and they’re willing to mislead the public any way they can.

  • Conservatives Were Stunningly Wrong About Obamacare, New Report Finds

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A New York Times analysis found “historic increases” in those covered by the Affordable Care Act, destroying right-wing media predictions about health care reform including that it would “topple the stock market” and enslave Americans. The Times analysis is just one of many pieces of research that have highlighted the successes of the Affordable Care Act.

  • TV News Ignores Historic Findings That Uninsured Rate Drops To “Record Low”

    Broadcast And Cable News Fail To Inform Viewers About Major Obamacare Success Story

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    According to an April 7 update to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for the first quarter of 2016, the uninsured rate among American adults dropped to 11.0 percent -- the lowest rate of uninsurance in the 8-year history of the poll. The uninsured rate has dropped over 6 percentage points since the third quarter of 2013, the last recording period before the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare" went into effect in October 2013. A Media Matters review found that none of the major television outlets reported on Gallup’s historic findings.

  • NY Times Report On Employer-Provided Insurance Puts Another Nail In The Coffin Of Conservatives' ACA Fearmongering

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Times article debunked the right-wing myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cause employers to stop providing health benefits to employees, reporting that "widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves" were "largely wrong." In fact, according to the Times, "Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance."

    Right-wing media have relentlessly hyped debunked myths and evidence-free claims about the ACA since its passage, including the claim that the health care law would lead employers to cut jobs or shift workers to part-time, that millions would lose their employer-based coverage, and horror stories about rising costs and scaled-back coverage.

    The April 4 article explained that"emerging consensus" holds that the health care law "has not upturned the core of the country's health insurance system," noting that employers are expected to "remain the source of coverage for a majority of working Americans for the next decade" and even "seem to be staying the course even more strongly than they did before the law." The article pointed out that, in fact, "health care remains an important recruitment and retention tool" in the labor market, and employers are accordingly "responding" to employees' expectations of receiving health benefits: 

    The Affordable Care Act was aimed mainly at giving people better options for buying health insurance on their own. There were widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves.

    But those predictions were largely wrong. Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance.

    As it turns out, health care remains an important recruitment and retention tool as the labor market has tightened in recent years. Desirable employees still expect health benefits, and companies are responding, new analyses of federal data show.

    "We're more confident than ever that we'll offer benefits," said Robert Ihrie Jr., a senior vice president for Lowe's Companies, the home improvement retailer.

    Companies get a sizable federal tax break from providing the insurance. And if they dropped the coverage, many workers would expect the money in their paycheck to increase enough to pay for outside insurance -- or would look for a new job.

    The reversal in thinking about employer benefits is so stark that even government budget officials are singing an optimistic tune. They lowered the number of people they think will lose coverage because of the health law and now predict employers will remain the source of coverage for a majority of working Americans for the next decade.

    The surprise turnaround adds to an emerging consensus about the contentious health law: It has not upturned the core of the country's health insurance system, even while insuring millions of low-income people.

    [...]

    Employers seem to be staying the course even more strongly than they did before the law. The percentage of adults under 65 with employer-based insurance held firm for the last five years after steadily declining since 1999, according to an analysis of federal data released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which closely tracks the health insurance market.

  • New Study: Conservative Media Is An Echo Chamber That Increases Partisanship

    Vox Highlights Study: "Republicans Rely On A Media That Is More Likely To Echo Their Partisan Biases, And Democrats Rely On Media That Does Not Pick A Side"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox's Dylan Matthews highlighted a study from two political science professors which found that Republicans "rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases" and create parallel media outlets, creating an echo chamber which "increase[s] partisanship and ideological commitment."

    Right-wing media has a noted effect on shaping its viewers perceptions.The conservative media echo chamber has been partly responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, by consistently providing a platform for his ideas and defending him when attacked. In addition, conservative media has created the environment where presidential candidates feel comfortable enough to claim that the media has a liberal bias and therefore shouldn't be trusted. This leads candidates to mold their candidacies towards what those who listen to conservative media want to hear and parrot popular conservative media hosts ideas and rhetoric.

    In the April 1 article, the study highlighted by Matthews found these media echo chambers created by conservatives are having an impact. The study, conducted by two political science professors, argued that conservatives' "distrust of the mainstream media" caused them to "set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out." Therefore, "Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise)." The study also found that this echo chamber effect "has huge implications for how Democrats and Republicans view politics", "increas[ing] partisanship and ideological commitment":

    The numbers come from a new study from political scientists Matt Grossmann and Dave Hopkins collating five years of Public Policy Polling data on which major news networks people do and do not trust. PPP's data shows that Republicans are just as distrustful of mainstream outlets as of MSNBC, and Democrats are about as trusting:

    [...]

    Grossmann and Hopkins's broader argument is that Republicans' distrust of the mainstream media creates an asymmetry in how the parties approach the media. Democrats rely on the mainstream media both to get out their message and to cover events. Republicans generally distrust mainstream outlets and so have set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out.

    The result is Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise). "Democrats therefore remain relatively unexposed to messages that encourage ideological self-identification or describe political conflict as reflecting the clash of two incompatible value systems," Grossmann and Hopkins write. "Instead, the information environment in which they reside claims to prize objectivity, empiricism, and policy expertise."

    [...]

    Grossmann and Hopkins confirm this, citing a bevy of evidence demonstrating that increased access to only one side's media increases partisanship and ideological commitment in news consumers. The University of Pennsylvania's Matthew Levendusky experimentally exposed study participants to Fox and MSNBC, and concluded that "partisan media make citizens more convinced that their views are the 'right' one ... make citizens less willing to trust the other party and less willing to support compromise with them, thereby contributing to persistent gridlock ... [and] influence vote choice, as well as how citizens come to understand elections."

    [...]

    Grossmann and Hopkins's underlying explanation is that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are fundamentally structurally distinct. Republicans are "chiefly defined by a common ideological commitment," while Democrats are a "coalition of social groups."

    [...]

    So on the one side you have an ideologically rigorous party/movement that relies on its own newsgathering and information-producing services, leading to an increasingly distinct worldview from Democrats or independents.

  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • New York Times' Linda Greenhouse Explains The Facts In "The Most Important Supreme Court Abortion Case In A Generation"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times' Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse explained the unequivocal facts "at the core of the most important Supreme Court abortion case in a generation," and the dire consequences at stake if the court fails to consider these facts.  

    On March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will deliberate on Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a case involving a Texas law that has already forced about half of the state's abortion clinics to close by placing requirements on providers that have been deemed "medically unnecessary" by both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    In a February 27 article, Greenhouse explained unequivocal facts "about the law's rationale and its impact" that the Supreme Court must consider:

    Fact No. 1: Texas has regulated abortion clinics for years through strict licensing requirements and annual inspections, achieving a commendable safety record. Along with other medical clinics that provide outpatient services, abortion clinics were required to have emergency procedures in place in case a patient needed hospital care. The clinic's doctors could either have hospital admitting privileges (which most doctors who provide abortions can't get) or a "transfer" agreement with another physician who had admitting privileges. The law eliminated the transfer-agreement option for abortion clinics.

    Fact No. 2: If the law goes into effect, the abortion clinics in El Paso will close, leaving no abortion services from San Antonio west to the New Mexico border. This is no problem, Texas maintains, because women who would have gone to El Paso can travel about 12 miles farther, across the New Mexico line, to an abortion clinic in Santa Teresa, N.M. The fact that New Mexico has neither the admitting-privileges nor mini-hospital requirements -- the very requirements that Texas maintains are necessary to protect the safety of abortion patients -- seems not to concern the state.

    Fact No. 3: After the bill, originally known as Senate Bill 5, or S.B. 5, cleared the State Senate, David Dewhurst, then the lieutenant governor, tweeted a map that opponents had circulated showing all the abortion clinics that would have to close. "We fought to pass S.B. 5 thru the Senate last night, & this is why!" he exulted. A subsequent tweet found him back on message, explaining that "I am unapologetically pro-life AND a strong supporter of protecting women's health. #SB5 does both."

    Why would the lieutenant governor -- perhaps on the advice of the state's lawyers, but that's just a guess -- water down his triumphant tweet by throwing health into the mix? The answer lies in abortion politics and abortion law. Both are highly relevant to Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the case before the Supreme Court.

    The emphasis on women's health is a reflection of the evolution of the anti-abortion movement during the years since the court, in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, declared a constitutional right to abortion. The movement's original emphasis on the fetus failed to achieve the goal of overturning Roe either by constitutional amendment or by changing the direction of the court. Groups including Americans United for Life, a strategic and highly effective policy generator for the movement, began to urge sympathetic politicians to invoke women's welfare as the reason for imposing new restrictions on abortion. Among the many model laws that Americans United for Life makes available through its "Women's Protection Project" are those requiring admitting privileges and "ambulatory surgical center" standards for abortion providers. More than a dozen states have enacted versions of the model laws.

    Laws like these, which single out abortion for special regulations that don't apply to medical procedures of similar or greater risk, are known in the abortion-rights community as TRAP laws, for "targeted regulation of abortion providers." The Texas case is the Supreme Court's first occasion to examine one. The decision -- if, in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia's death, there is a decision and not a deadlock -- will determine the future of abortion regulation. (A tie would leave the Texas law in place.)

    [...]

    Evidence matters to courts. Courts take evidence all the time. That's why we have trials, and judges. The notion that when it comes to restricting abortion, facts shouldn't count, is to give "abortion exceptionalism" a new meaning. It is a meaning the Supreme Court will reject if it is true to its precedents and principles.

  • Rubio And Cruz Echo Right-Wing Media With Their False Claims That Obamacare "Killed" Jobs

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    During CNN's February 25 Republican presidential debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed that the Affordable Care Act "is a job-killing law." The assertions by Cruz and Rubio, which fact-checkers called "false" and "hard to square," echoed years of false right-wing media reports that the health care law would kill jobs.

  • Why Media Should Be Skeptical Of Koch Brothers' New Anti-Poverty Group

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    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.