Fox News Sunday Coddles Health Insurance Industry LobbyistsNovember 17, 2013 3:14 PM EST ››› LAURA SANTHANAM
Fox host Chris Wallace tossed softball questions to health insurance industry lobbyists about people losing their coverage and ending up with more expensive plans, failing to mention that many insurance companies were recently exposed for only informing customers about pricier plans they offered, rather than more affordable options available on healthcare exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On the November 17 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace interviewed Karen Ignagni, the president and chief executive officer of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), which represents the health insurance industry nationwide. During the segment, Wallace highlighted a statement from AHIP that suggested that President Obama's recently proposed fix could "destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers." Wallace later asked Ignagni if most canceled policies will be reinstated and if, when Obama told people that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan," she knew "that was not possible under the terms of Obamacare":
Wallace's interview neglected to highlight that a number of health insurance companies were not forthcoming with consumers about less costly plans made available to them as a result of ACA implementation. An investigation by Talking Points Memo reported that "these insurers put their customers at risk of enrolling in plans that were not as good or as affordable as what they could buy on the marketplaces":
Across the country, insurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces -- which could lead to people [...] spending thousands more for insurance than the law intended. In some cases, mentions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote, which can be easily overlooked.
The extreme lengths to which some insurance companies are going to hold on to existing customers at higher price, as the Affordable Care Act fundamentally re-orders the individual insurance market, has caught the attention of state insurance regulators.
The insurance companies argue that it's simply capitalism at work. But regulators don't see it that way. By warning customers that their health insurance plans are being canceled as a result of Obamacare and urging them to secure new insurance plans before the Obamacare launched on Oct. 1, these insurers put their customers at risk of enrolling in plans that were not as good or as affordable as what they could buy on the marketplaces.
But Fox News Sunday's softball interview was par for the course on the network, which has consistently churned out misleading information about ACA "horror stories" that don't stand up against scrutiny.
On Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity invited a panel of people who claimed to have fallen victim to ACA implementation during the October 11 edition of his show. Business owners Paul and Michelle Cox insisted that ACA regulations forced them to "cut back on hiring full-time employees" and "keep [employees] below 30 hours":
MICHELLE COX: We received a letter from our insurance company stating that we would no longer be able to have our existing health plan, despite the president's promise that we would be able to keep that existing plan.
As a business, we are jumping through more hoops, more regulation, more paperwork. And we've also cut back on hiring full-time employees because of the health care costs involved, even though we'd love to do that.
HANNITY: You'd like to hire full-time employees --
MICHELLE COX: We would love to.
HANNITY: -- but you -- so you're going to keep them below 30 hours.
MICHELLE COX: Exactly.
PAUL COX: We've had to keep them below 30 hours or we wouldn't be able to -- you know, not that we wouldn't want to pay it, we just wouldn't be able to --
MICHELLE COX: Yes.
PAUL COX: -- stay in business and pay it. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/11/13]
It was later revealed that the Coxes overhyped their claims and would have saved money through the health exchanges. In fact, their business only employed four people, and is therefore unaffected by the law's 49-employee threshold, according to an October 18 post at Salon from Eric Stern, senior counsel to former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer:
First I spoke with Paul Cox of Leicester, N.C. He and his wife Michelle had lamented to Hannity that because of Obamacare, they can't grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers.
Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? "Well," he said, "I haven't been forced to do so, it's just that I've chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs." What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he'd call me back. He never did.
There is only one Obamacare requirement that applies to a company of this size: workers must be notified of the existence of the "healthcare.gov" website, the insurance exchange. That's all.