Health Care Reform

Issues ››› Health Care Reform
  • Major Newspapers Fail To Grasp Severity Of Putting Andy Puzder In Charge Of Labor Department

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Initial reporting on the president-elect’s selection of fast-food CEO Andy Puzder to replace Tom Perez as the next secretary of labor depicted Puzder as a “vocal” critic of Obama administration policies while failing to note the conservative media-fueled inaccuracies that inform the incoming secretary’s anti-worker views.

    On December 8, The Wall Street Journal was first to report that President-elect Donald Trump planned to name Puzder -- the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s burger chains -- as the incoming labor secretary in his administration. The Journal’s report, and subsequent reporting from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, focused mostly on Puzder’s opposition to specific economic initiatives from the Obama administration -- raising the minimum wage, expanding overtime protections, and extending the scope of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- while failing to mention that Puzder’s arguments against each have been widely discredited:

    • The Journal reported that Puzder is a “vocal advocate for cutting back regulations,” which he claims “have stifled growth in the restaurant industry,” and concluded with the acknowledgment that Puzder has used the Journal’s own opinion pages to discuss “topics such as the negative effects of President Obama’s health-care law and of broad increase in minimum wage.”
    • The Times noted that Puzder believes “large minimum wage increases hurt small business and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers,” adding that he believes the ACA created a so-called “restaurant recession” by reducing disposable incomes that American workers would otherwise “spend dining out.”
    • The LA Times claimed that Puzder opposes raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour “because he thinks that would cost many low-wage workers their jobs,” and quoted a Forbes op-ed published by Puzder on May 18 that alleged the Obama administration had created an “extensive regulatory maze” with overtime and health care reforms that drive up labor costs and “reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits, perks and promotions” for workers.
    • USA Today’s synopsis was much less extensive, merely labeling Puzder as “a major critic of what he calls unnecessary federal regulations, including a proposed hike in the federal minimum wage” before moving on to other rumored Trump appointments.

    Despite amplifying Puzder’s criticism of progressive economic policies, none of the outlets saw fit to mention that his arguments are wrong.

    First, Obama-era regulations have not “stifled growth in the restaurant industry” or created a “restaurant recession.” According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the restaurant industry is up more than 20 percent since Obama took office in January 2009:

    Second, while it is true that Puzder is an ardent opponent of increased minimum wages -- he once argued that modest wage increases actually encourage low-wage workers to game the system so they can stay in poverty -- it is important to note that his arguments are unfounded. Puzder and other right-wing media personalities have waged a campaign of misinformation against raising the minimum wage, claiming that it hurts businesses and kills jobs. In reality, reliable professional studies of the minimum wage consistently find a negligible relationship between the minimum wage and employment activity.

    As is the case with Puzder’s opposition to living wages, the incoming labor secretary’s antagonism toward the ACA is also not based in facts. Right-wing media outlets and allied politicians have spent years claiming that President Obama’s signature health care reform law is hurting the economy and stymieing the job market despite all evidence to the contrary. In reality, Obamacare has reduced the uninsured rate to historic lows, has reduced medical debt and benefited public health outcomes while strengthening the economic security of low-income families.

    Finally, Puzder’s opposition to expanded overtime protections amounts to little more than retooled talking points generated by right-wing media. Conservative media outlets opposed President Obama’s proposed overtime expansion before they even knew the details, claiming it threatened to undermine American work ethic and turn the country into Greece. Puzder’s claim that a “regulatory maze,” which includes overtime expansion, has “reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits, perks and promotions” ignores the obvious economic benefits of paying millions of American workers for the hours they actually work and that the overtime threshold “has the advantage of simplicity” that makes it efficient for employers to implement.

    Media Matters outlined the many ways media should approach his troubled relationship with the truth. If coverage today is any indication, major outlets still have a lot to learn.

  • Media Figures Praise Trump’s Health Care “Policy” Speech, Ignoring His Total Lack Of Specifics Or Viable Policy Proposals

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Media figures praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his speech in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania that briefly touched on health care, calling it a “very, very good speech” focused on the substance of his proposals for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. In reality, Trump’s speech was full of recycled, unworkable Republican proposals that would increase the deficit and leave an estimated 24 million people without health insurance coverage. 

  • Right-Wing Media Use Old Lies To Trash A Public Option For Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Right-wing media are pre-emptively attacking a “public option" health care proposal supported by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama by linking it to supposedly “socialist” single-payer systems that have been routinely demonized through the history of health care reform. Conservative media used this tactic to disparage the public option in 2009 during the legislative debates that created the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to tap into powerful historical tropes that promote misinformation and misperceptions of the American health care system, stymieing much-needed reform and perverting the public opinion.

    The Affordable Care Act has become a major topic of conversation leading up to the election. Right-wing media have manufactured scandals by taking former President Bill Clinton’s comments at an October rally out of context and falsely claiming the newly announced health care marketplace premium increases are evidence of the so-called “death spiral” conservative media have been predicting for years -- despite no evidence the law is in danger of collapsing in on itself. The newest target of right-wing media ire is the public option, a proposal supported by Hillary Clinton and President Obama, which would introduce a low-cost, government-administered health insurance option into the federally run health insurance marketplaces.

    The strategy right-wing media are using to scandalize the public option revolves around linking it to the single-payer systems used in countries with socialized medical options, either implicitly or explicitly invoking the specter of “Big Government.” Some media argue that the public option is a “Trojan Horse” to destroy the current private insurer-based market or claim that the public option is just “single-payer on the installment plan.” Others argue that Clinton “ultimately wanted a single-payer ultimate government control system for health care” and thus will eventually “go towards the single payer option” when she “replace[s] Obamacare with Hillarycare.”

    If these attacks sound familiar, it’s because they are. The original draft versions of the ACA included a robust public option that Democrats ultimately dropped, partially because it became politically toxic as a result of concerted right-wing media assaults. Prominent right-wing media figures called the proposed public option a “stalking horse” or a “buy in,” arguing that “such a plan will lead to a single-payer system.” Others argued that the key to defeating the public option is “expos[ing] the positive-sounding ‘public option’ for what it truly is: a government grab.” They used the same fearmongering “Trojan Horse” rhetoric that right-wing media use now to play upon distrust of the government. They also actively demonized the public option as a socialist takeover of the health care system -- framing that has significantly impacted public opinion on the ACA and health care policy generally.

    But none of this is true. Numerous fact-checkers have debunked the claim that the public option is just single-payer in sheep's clothing or that Clinton secretly wants a single-payer system. The public option is a government-administered health insurance plan that would compete in the insurance markets against private insurance plans, while in a single-payer system, “everyone in the country would have health coverage provided by the government,” according to FactCheck.org. Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of social medicine and health policy at UNC Chapel Hill, noted that “‘single payer’ is often used loosely to refer to everything” and argued that “depicting the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a ‘slippery slope’ to single payer is bizarre.” Thus, efforts to conflate the two actively spread misinformation and make health care policy even more confusing than it already is for the American public.

    This practice of scandalizing the public option in an effort to torpedo reform efforts is particularly problematic since the ACA does need reforms. Clinton and Obama both acknowledge the necessity of reforming the ACA to address fundamental issues about affordability and competition in the marketplaces. Recognizing that there are issues with the ACA does not mean the law is failing. However, purposefully stigmatizing a substantive proposal for reforming the current health care system is particularly troubling since Republicans have yet to produce a viable alternative to replace Obamacare. Americans remain seriously uninformed about health care policy, and the media shouldn’t allow conservative media myths to demonize a potentially productive reform before the public even has the chance to properly learn about it. 

  • Right-Wing Media Ignore Role Of Subsidies, Claim Insurance Premium Increases Are A “Death Spiral” For Obamacare 

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Reports that benchmark health insurance premiums will increase by an average of 25 percent from 2016 to 2017 for plans purchased on Healthcare.gov marketplace exchanges have prompted right-wing media outlets to claim the price hike is proof of “the collapse” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and evidence of a so-called Obamacare “death spiral.” In reality, the majority of individual insurance customers will be insulated from cost increases due to proportional increases in the health care subsidies, and these premium increases are still in line with anticipated health care costs initially predicted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 

  • Fox Anchor Lets Trump Lie About Obamacare, Proving He Doesn't Understand It Either

    Trump States “I Don’t Use Much Obamacare” Minutes After Claiming, “All Of My Employees Are Having A Tremendous Problem With Obamacare”

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    During a phone interview with Fox News, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed that his companies “don’t use much Obamacare” just minutes after publicly stating that “all of [his] employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare.” The contradiction went unnoticed at Fox, which allowed the GOP nominee to peddle misinformation about the law’s supposed impending demise.

    The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was thrust into national headlines on Monday after the Obama administration confirmed double-digit premium increases on average for insurance plans sold on Obamacare’s online marketplace at Healthcare.gov for 2017. This will raise the average cost for a “Silver” plan, which is the benchmark that Obamacare subsidies are calculated for, to $3,552 annually, before subsidies are applied (the vast majority of enrollees receive substantial subsidies). As MSNBC’s Ali Velshi explained today, this premium level is consistent with the Congressional Budget Office’s 2009 analysis of future rates.

    Trump made a series of false claims about the ACA during the interview that went unchecked by Fox anchor Bill Hemmer, including touting the benefits of repealing and replacing Obamacare (there is no replacement plan), calling the average figure for premium increases of 25 percent a “phony number,” praising the benefits of health savings accounts (they’re widely criticized by health experts as an insufficient replacement for insurance), and denouncing Obamacare for killing jobs (it doesn’t).

    Perhaps most perplexing was Trump’s claim that he doesn’t “use much Obamacare” when numerous reporters confirmed that Trump claimed “all of my employees are having a tremendous problem with Obamacare” during a rally in Doral, Florida, just before the Fox interview.

    While right-wing media and Trump tend to focus on exaggerating the troubles of the health insurance exchanges, those marketplaces represent one part of the ACA, which includes vital consumer protections and mechanisms to improve care quality while lowering costs. Trump’s flip-flop on whether or not he “uses” Obamacare is particularly baffling, since the Employer Shared Responsibility Provision of the ACA (also known as the employer mandate) “penalizes employers who either do not offer coverage or do not offer coverage which meets minimum value and affordability standards.” So either his employees do have “a tremendous problem with Obamacare,” which means he doesn’t provide health benefits for his employees since his businesses would qualify as “large employers,” or he doesn’t “use much Obamacare,” which still means his businesses do provide insurance and thus are complying with the law. Either way, Trump’s inconsistent claims about Obamacare and Fox’s decision to not push back on his plethora of misinformed claims about the ACA reveals their fundamental misunderstanding of the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

    Watch the full interview from the October 25 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:

  • Media Outlets Correct Trump’s Characterization Of Bill Clinton’s Obamacare Comments

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & BRENNAN SUEN

    Republican presidential running mates Donald Trump and Mike Pence took former President Bill Clinton’s comments about Obamacare out of context to claim he “absolutely trashed” Obamacare in recent remarks. Numerous media outlets noted that Clinton’s statements on improvements necessary to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are actually “referring to the same central challenge” that President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton want to address.

  • What Media Need To Know About Mike Pence’s Economic Record

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will face off on October 4 in a debate at Longwood University in Farmville, VA. As media outlets prepare for the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election, they should have all facts about how Indiana really fared during Pence’s governorship.

  • Myths & Facts: A Debate Guide To Donald Trump’s Most Common Lies About The Economy

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s penchant for promoting right-wing media myths and other misleading claims presents a unique challenge heading into the first presidential debate of the general election. If the September 26 debate is anything like the opening debates of 2008 and 2012, it will focus heavily on issues relating to the American economy, and both moderator and audience should be prepared for a torrent of misinformation from the GOP standard-bearer.

  • Wash. Post Berates GOP-Led States Still “Irrationally Holding Out” On Medicaid Expansion

    Latest Census Data Reveal Lingering Impact Of Right-Wing Media’s Obstructionist Campaign Against Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post editorial board used the latest Census data showing that the rate of U.S. residents without health insurance continues to drop as proof that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- commonly referred to as Obamacare -- is working. The paper also argued that Obamacare would help millions more Americans if Republican-led states accepted federal subsidies to expand Medicaid. Right-wing media outlets have spent years encouraging the ongoing obstruction of this key provision of health care reform.

    In a September 17 editorial, the Post highlighted the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on health insurance coverage, which showed that the percentage of people with health insurance had risen to 90.9 percent nationwide in 2015. The editorial board noted that the same report showed room for even more improvement in expanded health insurance coverage if the law were fully implemented at the state level. According to the Census data, the uninsured rate in states that did not accept Medicaid expansion under the ACA is still 12.3 percent, far above the national average and even further still from the 7.2 percent uninsured rate in states that have accepted the law’s allocation of funds for low-income Americans. In the Post’s view, the 19 states that continue to refuse Medicaid expansion are “irrationally holding out,” not only because their refusal of “huge amounts of federal money” has denied 4 to 5 million more Americans access to health care, but also because studies have shown that each state would receive vastly more money from the government than it would spend on expansion. From The Washington Post:

    But the overall number could be cut much lower, and quickly, if Obamacare were working as it was meant to. We are not referring to the recent, much-discussed exit of some major health insurers from the marketplaces the law created. We are talking about Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor and near-poor. The Supreme Court in 2012 made the expansion optional for states, and a large chunk, including Virginia, have refused. The Census Bureau found that the uninsured rate was 7.2 percent in expansion states last year and 12.3 percent in non-expansion states. Five states have expanded since, but that still leaves 19, representing 4 million to 5 million people who would otherwise get coverage, irrationally holding out.

    Why irrationally? In their effort to hobble Obamacare, state Republican leaders have left huge amounts of federal money on the table. The federal government has offered to pay nearly the whole cost of the expansion, forever. Though states must pitch in a bit, they get a much lower uninsured rate, lower uncompensated care costs and other savings in return. The Urban Institute found last month that the 19 holdout states would get an average of $7.48 from the federal government for every dollar they spent on Medicaid expansion. Even those costs, meanwhile, would likely be further offset by savings elsewhere. States that have already expanded, in fact, have generally seen net revenue gains.

    The Post dinged “state Republican leaders” for “their effort to hobble Obamacare,” but continued obstruction to the law remains a feature of right-wing media coverage as well. For years, Fox News fueled obstructionist politicians by promoting myths that expanding Medicaid was costly for states; in reality, states that expanded Medicaid saw slower health care cost increases than non-expansion states, and August 2016 research from the Urban Institute shows that the remaining holdouts stand to benefit enormously from Medicaid expansion. After discouraging states from taking part in the law, Fox absolved itself (and Republicans) of responsibility for the resulting coverage gap, which it framed as as “another problem growing out of Obamacare.”

    Right-wing media have smeared Obamacare for years with baseless catastrophic predictions and falsehoods, and while their fearmongering has been stunningly wrong, it has continued unabated. Positive news about Obamacare -- like its role in reducing medical debt and increasing public health, or the record low uninsured rates driven by the law -- goes unmentioned by conservative outlets while they hype isolated program stumbles as the onset of a looming “death spiral” that will destroy the health care system.

  • Fox Resurrects Obamacare “Death Spiral” After News Of Aetna’s Withdrawal From Insurance Exchanges

    Right-Wing Media Warnings Of Previous “Death Spirals” All Fell Flat

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Fox News exaggerated the implications of insurance giant Aetna’s decision to reduce its participation in health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” by claiming that the announcement was proof of an impending “death spiral” in insurance markets. Conservative media outlets have opportunistically used various so-called “death spiral” predictions over the last several years to falsely forecast the imminent demise of the President Obama’s signature legislation.