This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act being signed into law, and the Columbus Dispatch is noting the occasion by turning over part of its opinion page to a series of articles from the right-wing Heritage Foundation attacking the law. The paper has provided no opinion pieces that support the law in the past week, according to a Nexis search.
In addition to providing no space for supporters of the legislation, the Dispatch is passing along a number of falsehoods about the law.
One of the columns the Dispatch features, penned by James Capretta of Heritage, criticizes the health care reform law for making cuts in payments to private insurers who offer Medicare Advantage plans. But Capretta overlooks several key facts about the positive ways that health reform affects Medicare - elements of reform that could have been explained had the Dispatch provided its readers with a more robust discussion of the bill's merits:
- The law does not cut traditional Medicare benefits
- The law closes the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole"
- Only the wealthiest Americans will pay a higher Medicare payroll tax
- Under the law, Medicare will cover annual wellness visits
- The law increases funding to fight fraud and abuse in Medicare and increase penalties for those found guilty.
Capretta also states that "The act also cuts Medicare by about $500 billion over the coming decade, mainly through deep payment-rate reductions for those providing services to Medicare patients." Dispatch readers are not told that the $500 billion he refers to is a "reduction in the growth of future spending over 10 years, not a slashing of the current Medicare budget or benefits" as Factcheck.org could have explained.
Finally, Capretta claims that "failure to reform Medicare and other entitlement spending will be ruinous to the nation's long-term economic prospects." Reform advocates could have told Dispatch readers that the reasoning behind the Medicare Advantage cuts is that the government currently overpays private insurance companies through the program. The changes to the program are projected to save over $100 billion over the next 10 years, according to the the non-partisan CBO.
Another column the Dispatch features comes from Edmund Haislmaier of Heritage under the headline, "Benefit Requirements Will Raise Health Costs." Haislmaier's main claim here is that under health care reform, premiums will increase. In fact, the CBO predicts that most people's premiums will decrease on the individual market, when factoring in federal subsidies:
The majority of nongroup enrollees (about 57 percent) would receive subsidies via the new insurance exchanges, and those subsidies, on average, would cover nearly two-thirds of the total premium, CBO and JCT estimate. Thus, the amount that subsidized enrollees would pay for nongroup coverage would be roughly 56 percent to 59 percent lower, on average, than the nongroup premiums charged under current law. [CBO, Letter to Sen. Evan Bayh, 11/30/09]
As Ezra Klein explains, the CBO also estimates that premiums in the group market will go down slightly.
Haislmaier ends by arguing that states, rather than the federal government, should regulate insurance markets. Dispatch readers remain unaware that states have the option to do that, thanks to a provision in the bill that allows states to obtain waivers to set up their own reforms.
In choosing Heritage, the Dispatch outsourced its editorial content to an organization that has been opposed to Obama's health care reform legislation from day one. Dispatch readers can read all about this opposition, in a lengthy report titled "The Case Against Obamacare," which can conveniently be accessed from the Dispatch's opinion page.
UPDATE: Today, the Dispatch published a piece on its editorial page that praised the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, titled "Health-care law already is helping families and businesses." The piece was written by James M. Galloway, an assistant U.S. surgeon general. Under Galloway's picture, the Dispatch prominently provided a link to Heritage's full report, "The Case Against Obamacare."