Fox News attacked Vice President Joe Biden for accurately explaining how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helps free women from job lock and grants them greater independence and choice.
On the February 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck and guest Crystal Wright from ConservativeBlackChick.com launched a scathing attack on Biden, calling his remarks on the ACA and women "ridiculous" and "demeaning." Wright argued that Biden "put women in stereotypes," while claiming that Republicans "give women a choice ... you can be a career woman, you can be a stay-at-home mom."
But even the clip of Biden's statement made on the February 25 edition of ABC's The View played during the Fox & Friends segment accurately demonstrated that his remarks referred to women's increased ability to choose their employment status because the ACA will reduce job lock. Biden noted that this will give women the ability, if they choose, to leave their jobs for other opportunities because they will not be dependent on the health care provided by that job:
BIDEN: This is about freedom. How many of you are single women, with children, in a dead-end job, you're there because of your health insurance? You would rather have the opportunity to spend the next couple years with your child until they get -- if that was your choice -- until they get into primary school. You're now trapped in that job because if you leave, you lose your health insurance. Now, you'll be able to do -- make an independent choice. Do you want to stay in that job and still have health insurance? Or do you want to stay in that job even though you can get health insurance absent that job? And it gives women a great deal more freedom.
The New York Times explains that job lock occurs "when people stay in jobs they dislike, or don't want, solely to keep their health coverage. A Harvard Business School study in 2008 estimated that 11 million workers are affected by this dilemma. Other studies show that when people don't have to worry about health insurance, they are up to 25 percent more likely to change jobs."
Though Hasselbeck contended that women don't "just work for the free health insurance," this ignores the 11 million workers who do, in fact, face this dilemma. The reduction in job lock enabled by the health care law will allow greater freedom and choice not only for women but for everyone in the labor force.
While Fox has repeatedly derided the reduction of job lock due to the ACA, economists praise the benefits; as The New York Times noted, the labor force can now "allocate itself more efficiently," and reducing job lock will help spur entrepreneurship. The Congressional Budget Office also reported that the reduction of job lock will increase short-term opportunity for the unemployed, and will help stimulate economic growth.
From the February 25 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Right-wing media figures, led by Fox News, have launched a campaign against the Girl Scouts accusing the group of indoctrinating young girls into liberal politics. The accusation has been propped up by misleading claims, ludicrous oversimplifications, and frequently repeated myths about the organization, which focuses on empowering girls.
Local newspapers in Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky, and West Virginia failed to show the connection between restrictive 20 week abortion bans currently being debated in their states' legislatures and a model bill by Americans United for Life (AUL) -- an anti-choice group dedicated to ending access to abortion in the United States.
The Columbus Dispatch borrowed from a Wall Street Journal editorial to forward the unproven assumption that the Obama administration delayed the employer mandate in an effort to prop up the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) individual market. But evidence shows the market was considered stable prior to this delay.
In a February 21 editorial, the Dispatch, which is no fan of the ACA, cast the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate -- which, when enacted, will force companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide subsidized health insurance -- until 2016 as a bid to save the law from failing and "to shore up the fiscal underpinnings of the health-care exchanges," a theory it pulled from a Wall Street Journal editorial that advocated for the repeal of the health care law:
And what's behind this latest change? Many immediately saw it as another move to protect Democratic lawmakers who are up for re-election in November from the fallout of the health-care mess.
The Wall Street Journal last week offered another reason for the delay: to shore up the fiscal underpinnings of the health-care exchanges. The Journal points out that "people are supposed to be eligible for subsidies (to buy insurance on the exchanges) only if their employers don't offer insurance. Since the White House is releasing many more businesses from the mandate's obligations, many more people will suddenly qualify to join the exchanges."
This would improve the demographic balance needed to ensure that the health-care law is fiscally sound, because the law relies on charging healthy people more for health insurance in order to subsidize the costs of those who are sicker.
However, experts considered the insurance market stable at least a month before the Obama administration issued the delay. As The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted on January 14, the risk of a "death spiral" was over:
The risk of a "death spiral" is over. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the market's age distribution freezes at its current level -- an extremely unlikely scenario -- "overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4% higher than premium revenues." So, in theory, premiums costs might rise by a few percentage points. That's a problem, but it's nothing even in the neighborhood of a death spiral.
Fox seized on Vice President Joe Biden's acknowledgement that health care enrollments under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) might not reach the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) original estimate of 7 million people, distorting his comments as an admission of failure by the Obama administration. But Biden's remarks merely echoed the CBO's new estimate of health care enrollment, a number that was neither set by the administration nor necessary for the success of the health care law's exchanges.
During an unannounced stop at a coffee house in Washington D.C. on February 19, Biden explained that health care enrollment numbers "may not get to seven million, we may get to five or six, but that's a hell of a start."
On the February 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum described Biden's comments as "a new admission on Obamacare -- Vice President Joe Biden conceding yesterday that the administration may not reach the sign-up goal that they set for themselves."
A Wall Street Journal article omitted the positive economic news in recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports, misleadingly framing the reports as having challenged and "chipped away" at White House economic policies.
In a February 19 post, the Wall Street Journal characterized two recent reports from the CBO on the economic effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a proposal to raise the minimum wage as the "biggest challenges to the Obama administration's economic policy in the past month," which the Journal claimed "chipped away at two pillars of President Barack Obama's economic policy." The Journal failed to report the positive aspects of the CBO findings or describe the reports' many nuances, and made no move to identify the CBO's "complex and layered projections" that supported its thesis beyond this general line:
The budget office calculated earlier this month that the health law would lead some people to leave their jobs or ratchet back their work hours, and it said this week that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 could lead 500,000 people to lose their jobs.
Yet the Journal's framing of the reports as 'chipping away' at Obama's economic policies is undermined by the CBO's actual determinations, which contained positive economic news.
In its study released this week on the effects of a minimum wage increase, the CBO determined that such an increase would lift 900,000 Americans out of poverty, 16.5 million workers would see their wages increased, and notably, "Once the increases and decreases in income for all workers are taken into account, overall real income would rise by $2 billion." The New York Times offers some perspective:
Tuesday's report from the budget office, a federal nonpartisan agency, was almost entirely positive about the benefits of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016, as President Obama and Congressional Democrats have proposed.
More than 16 million low-wage workers, now making as little as $7.25 an hour, would directly benefit from the increase, the report said. Another eight million workers making slightly more than the minimum would probably also get raises, because of the upward "ripple effect" of an increase. That would add $31 billion to the paychecks of families ranging from poverty level to the middle class, significantly increasing their spending power and raising the nation's economic output and overall income.
In fact, the report said, 900,000 people would be lifted from poverty with a wage increase. The income of those below the poverty line would increase by a total of $5 billion, or 3 percent, at no cost to the federal budget.
And in its Budget and Economic Outlook for 2014-2024, the CBO found that the ACA could free 2.5 million workers from being forced to keep their current jobs because of a need to maintain employer-sponsored health coverage. While the Journal attempts to portray this as a negative, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) called it "an unambiguously good thing":
Not surprisingly, the CBO finds that, all else equal, people are less likely to work and will work fewer hours under the ACA. They find, and I quote, "The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in business' demand for labor" (page 117).
These are purely voluntary labor supply decisions, not people being laid off from jobs they'd rather keep, or people looking for work and being unable to find it. Working-age adults can now choose, without regard to their need to secure health insurance, whether they wish to supply labor and how much labor they wish to supply to the labor market. This is unabashedly a good thing for them.
Opponents of the ACA will try to paint these CBO estimates as evidence that the ACA has "killed jobs" or something like it. That's flat wrong. What the ACA has done is expand the menu of options available to Americans about how to obtain decent health insurance without having their income fall to poverty levels. That menu used to include one option--"go to work for a large employer." The fact that it's broader now is an unambiguously good thing.
What's more, the report suggested that the ACA could increase job opportunities for currently unemployed workers. The CBO pointed out that "[i]f changes in incentives lead some workers to reduce the amount of hours they want to work or to leave the labor force altogether, many unemployed workers will be available to take those jobs," and reported that the law will have the stimulative effect of "raising overall demand in the economy." In a congressional testimony following the report's release, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf noted that the ACA "would reduce unemployment over the next few years."
Fox News resurrected former President George W. Bush's failed health care plan as a possible GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act, seven years after it was proposed in his 2007 State of the Union Address and experts concluded it favored the rich and only insured a small number of Americans.
A February 18 Politico Magazine article titled "Bushcare" by Edward Lazear, the former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush claimed the former president "found the solution to America's healthcare crisis seven years ago." Lazear wrote Bush's plan was revenue-neutral and would actually net tax payers money for buying insurance, but the plan would not cover the very poor (emphasis added):
The large majority of those who currently have health care would enjoy a net decrease in the cost of their plans through the tax deduction, Treasury found. Many without insurance would be able to obtain it and get a tax rebate that would exceed the cost of the policy, netting money on the deal. And the substantial number of Americans whose policies are not provided by an employer would enjoy a big gain.
The Bush plan works primarily for those who earn income and pay some tax, be it payroll or income. To the extent that subsidies to the very poor, especially those not working, are needed, provisions can be added to the plan that would assist those individuals without altering its basic structure. Of course, since the U.S. economy has changed in the past seven years, the plan would have to be updated too, but this could be done without significantly changing its overall fiscal footprint.
The next day on Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson allowed Lazear an open platform to highlight his alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). During the segment, Lazear pointed out two major problems with the health care system today: the number of uninsured Americans and the problems with third party payment. He explained:
LAZEAR: We have third party payers. That means that the individuals, the decision makers - the physicians and the patients don't bear the costs of their actions. So what happens is, once you have insurance or if you're on state funds for your health care, you essentially get those services for free and as a result you tend to take too many of those services.
Carlson: So what you are saying is that people know they have the health care coverage, so they tend to over use the system.
But Lazear's rosy depiction of Bush's proposal leaves out many of the key problems, namely that it would do little to help lower income Americans get affordable insurance. The CBO reported that Bush's plan would actually only insure 6.8 million Americans without health insurance and added that "those gaining insurance coverage under the President's proposal would have higher income, on average." The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff pointed out that the Bush's proposal would not be revenue neutral and would actually work to benefit "higher-earning Americans who have a higher marginal tax rate" (emphasis added):
[T]he Congressional Budget Office did score a similar proposal from President George W. Bush in 2007. His plan included a $15,000 standardized tax deduction for health insurance coverage, and the CBO estimated that 6.8 million people would gain coverage. The tax deduction would, on average, cover about 70 percent of the premium's cost.
The CBO noted, back then, that using tax deductions, which reduce taxable income, would likely make this a more desirable benefit for higher-earning Americans who have a higher marginal tax rate.
"Compared with people who would be uninsured in 2010 under current law, those gaining insurance coverage under the President's proposal would have higher income, on average," the agency wrote. "The reason is that the value of the new deduction would be greater at higher marginal tax rates, which are associated with higher incomes. Nonetheless, the majority of newly insured people would come from lower-middle- and middle-income households."
Budget-wise, the CBO projected that the Bush proposal would cost $33 billion over a decade.
A Media Matters analysis found that Florida newspapers including, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun-Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times, and The Tampa Tribune, largely failed to cover the key details of Medicaid expansion in the lead up to the state's legislative session, including the specific benefits of expansion and the negative impact the failure to expand would have on the state and Floridians.
Fox attempted to revive the lie that the Affordable Care Act contains health care rationing in the form of "death panels" by pushing misleading claims about the law's prescription drug coverage.
On Fox's Special Report, guest host Doug McKelway asked the show's panel about a provision in the ACA that he claimed "is drastically limiting the availability of some drugs." Fox contributor Stephen Hayes claimed "patients with diseases and conditions that require medication not approved by Washington bureaucrats" may "have to go without it with potentially very serious implications." McKelway asked if the prescription drug provisions were "rationing or, as some people have said, the so-called death panels." Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer concluded: "We're learning how much rationing is the essence of Obamacare -- the rationing of doctors, the rationing of hospitals. Here we begin to understand the rationing of drugs. Next, and in the end, will be rationing of care."
Fox's description of the ACA's prescription drug coverage is misleading, and McKelway's "death panel" reference is outright irresponsible. The reality is that the way the ACA treats prescription drug coverage is in line with how private insurance companies have handled coverage for years.
Although Fox omitted it from its coverage, the ACA actually expands prescription drug coverage, including it as one of the 10 essential health benefits that all plans must provide. But just like the vast majority of currently offered health plans, plans offered under the ACA's health care exchanges will not provide full coverage to every prescription drug. These plans will be offered along with what's known as a drug formulary, a guide to what drugs the plan covers and how they cover it. As Think Progress' Igor Volsky pointed out, the use of a drug formulary is standard practice among health care plans:
Under the law, insurers must offer drug benefits as part of 10 essential health care benefits, meaning that millions of uninsured Americans will now have drug coverage for the very first time. But the coverage won't be limitless. Insurers will continue to rely on drug formularies -- as they currently do in the private market and Medicare Part D -- to decide which prescriptions are covered and which are not.
The ACA requires that issuers provide the greater of one drug from each category or class, or offer as many drugs in each category as are covered by a benchmark plan. The law allows states the choice of four different benchmarks, which Gottlieb helpfully lists in his article: 1) One of the three largest small group plans in the state by enrollment; 2) one of the three largest state employee health plans by enrollment; 3) one of the three largest federal employee health plan options by enrollment; or 4) the largest HMO plan offered in the state's commercial market by enrollment.
States -- not the federal government -- select the benchmark and insurers then offer coverage for the drugs listed in those formularies. "What the vast majority of states have chosen is a common small business plan, so you know it's saying what will be available in the exchanges and in the individual market generally is what's popular among small businesses now and that seems like a reasonable place to start," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt explained.
The law also has provisions for people who rely on a drug that isn't covered by their plan's formulary. Patients can apply for exceptions in the case of medical need:
What if a drug I take is not on the list?
Your doctor can ask for an exception for medical need so that the insurer will cover it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is encouraging insurers to respond to such requests within three days. If your request is denied, you can go through your state's appeals process, which usually is handled by insurance regulators. If you still can't get coverage and need to take the drug, you'll have to bear the full cost out of pocket, as it won't count toward your deductible or your co-insurance maximum.
Right-wing media accused President Obama of unprecedented overreach resembling that of a "dictator" for the ordinary administrative agency rule-making process surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) employer mandate.
Talking about women's access to health care on Valentine's Day is akin to urging women to get a 'traditional' abortion for the holiday, according to conservative media.
This week Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards posted a Vine video on Twitter promoting access to basic women's health care, using the hashtag #WhatWomenNeed:
In the short video, Richards held placards detailing what women need this Valentine's Day: "birth control," "cancer screenings," "safe and legal abortions," "well woman visits," "breast exams," "maternity care," "preventive care," "Planned Parenthood," "To make our own decisions."
The notion was offensive to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who accused Planned Parenthood of "urging women to get abortions for Valentine's Day." According to Limbaugh, the tweet evidenced how Democrats "see women as basically walking vaginas looking to have sex every change they get":
LIMBAUGH: Democrats see women as basically just walking vaginas. Democrats see women as nothing but walking vaginas looking to have sex every chance they get, and then they go get an abortion whenever they need one, or they got to get them birth control pills or whatever. If you listen to your average liberal Democrat talk about women, that's it. That's what they think the only thing women are concerned about is, is making sure they can have sex whenever they want to have it, and then they're covered, either with contraception or an abortion. And anybody who opposes that is obviously engaged in a war on women. It's nonsense.
Limbaugh wasn't alone in his attacks. Drudge Report promoted a Breitbart.com article about Richards' tweet with the headline:
Breitbart.com's Robert Wilde alleged that Richards was advocating for an "abortion tradition" on Valentine's Day, writing:
In a global Internet search of the varied customs of Valentine's day expressions of love, there were zero mentions of other abortion traditions. It appears that Ms. Richards can safely claim that she is the seminal inspiration for the "avant-garde" concept that having an abortion is a value to be shared on Valentine's day.
Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer misleadingly claimed that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is projecting that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) won't reduce the uninsured population. In fact, the CBO's projections show that the ACA cuts the number of uninsured nearly in half by 2017.
On the February 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Krauthammer claimed that the new CBO projections from the report show that the law won't reduce the number of uninsured people:
KRAUTHAMMER: [Y]ou get this crazy paradox where the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has projected that the number of uninsured Americans in 10 years will be 31 million. When Obama launched Obamacare in 2009, he explained the moral imperative was because there were 30 million uninsured Americans. So here we're going to go through a complete revolution of one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the dislocation of doctors, hospitals, patients, and plans everywhere, including insurers, in order to achieve a result in a decade where we have essentially the same number of uninsured. So what was this all about?
But Krauthammer is wrong in claiming that the ACA will not change the number of uninsured Americans. There are different ways of counting the uninsured, and the president in 2009 was using a far more conservative number than the CBO uses in its report. As Jonathan Cohn explained in The New Republic when debunking a similar claim:
[C]onservatives would have you believe CBO thinks the new health law won't put a real dent in the number of uninsured. That's not at all what CBO said.
CBO actually starts with a much higher baseline for the number of uninsured -- 57 million non-elderly Americans -- because of the data it uses. (Estimates of the uninsured vary a lot depending on which survey you choose and how you define the term.) And the Affordable Care Act, according to CBO, will reduce that number significantly. Without the law, CBO says, the number of uninsured Americans would stay at roughly 57 million. But thanks to the various coverage expansions -- not just the creation of new private insurance marketplaces, but also the expansion of Medicaid and ability of young adults to stay on their parents' plans--the number of uninsured will decline markedly. By 2017, according to CBO, Obamacare will have reduced the number of Americans without insurance by nearly half -- or more, if you don't count undocumented workers.
Fox News host and conservative firebrand Eric Bolling proposed a health care alternative that bears striking resemblance to the public option, a government-issued insurance program that was originally considered as part of the health care reform law that was the target of his network.
On the February 11 edition of Fox's The Five, Bolling reacted to news that the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate was being delayed for some businesses by suggesting Republicans replace the ACA's mandate to purchase insurance with an optional government-issued alternative. Bolling said this plan would have the benefit of driving "all the prices down" in the health care market, and expressed puzzlement about "why the Republicans don't do this":
Bolling is right that a government-issued health care alternative would inject competition into the market and lower health care costs, but his suggestion that Republicans propose it is mystifying. In fact, that exact proposal, known as the public option, was originally included in but later removed from versions of what would later become the Affordable Care Act in both the House and Senate, and was attacked by Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch as "a Trojan horse for a single-payer system." In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Karl Rove, who would later become Bolling's colleague at Fox, claimed that "If Democrats enact a public-option health-insurance program, America is on the way to becoming a European-style welfare state."
Bolling's support for the plan is surprising for a number of reasons. First, he was clearly aware of the existence of the public option. During his tenure at Fox Business, he covered the proposal on the air, exploring Sen. Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) support for a version of the public option. Also his current network, Fox News, led opposition to the public option, even going so far as to direct its journalists to replace the phrase "public option" with "government option" or "government-run plan," phrases that were shown from a pollster to generate disapproval.
Bolling is one of Fox's most vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act, legislation that he has labeled a "socialist system" despite the fact that it involves significantly less government involvement than the plan he appeared to endorse.
Right-wing media jumped to defend businesses' right to game the system and fire employees merely to avoid the obligation of providing them with health insurance.
On February 10 the IRS announced that it would delay the health insurance employer mandate for medium-sized businesses employing between 50 and 99 people until 2016. Smaller businesses -- those with 49 employees or fewer -- are not required to provide all workers with health insurance. To prevent employers from simply firing workers in order to avoid the obligation to provide health coverage in the next couple years, the IRS included a safeguard: If these businesses fire workers, they must show they did so for "bona fide business reasons" in order to be eligible for the delayed mandate.
In other words, as Washington Post's Wonkblog explained, "'It's simply so they don't game the system,' one senior administration official told reporters on a phone call this afternoon. 'They have to certify they're not doing that and not dropping their coverage.'"
Preventing employers from firing workers merely in order to game the system may seem like common sense, but not to conservative media. Outlets like Fox News immediately lambasted the safeguard as "Orwellian," while The Wall Street Journal blamed the health care law for forcing businesses to fire employees:
Either Obamacare is ushering in a worker's paradise, in which case by the White House's own logic exempting businesses from its ministrations is harming employees. Or else the mandate really is leading business to cut back on hiring, hours and shifting workers to part-time as the evidence in the real economy suggests.
On the February 10 edition of Fox's The Kelly File, Fox News' Megyn Kelly scoffed at the idea that employers shouldn't be permitted to fire workers merely to avoid giving them health insurance:
KELLY: That is the government telling you, employers, 'you will not fire a single person, you will not lay off a single person if you want to take advantage of our gift, and you have to certify under penalty of perjury to the IRS that you didn't do that, that no layoff was due to Obamacare.'
Wow, so now, if a small business employer wants to lay off a person under pain of perjury he has to convince people at the IRS that he's not doing it because of Obamacare.