Fox Panel Teams Up To Promote A Bushel Of Misinformation On Health Care Reform
Research ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL
A seven-minute segment on Fox News' America Live featured a deluge of falsehoods and distortions about President Obama's health care reform record, including the false suggestion that PricewaterhouseCoopers found that health care reform is responsible for rising costs. In fact, Pricewaterhouse found that reform is "expected to have minimal impact on [the] medical cost trend in 2012."
Camerota References McKinsey Survey, Ignores That Survey Was Not Intended To Be "Predictive"
Camerota: "We've Told You About A McKinsey Report." Guest host Alisyn Camerota began the segment by stating, "President Obama's health care law facing more heat today. We've told you about a McKinsey report saying nearly a third of American employers could drop their health care plans." [Fox News, America Live, 6/21/11]
McKinsey & Co.: "The Survey Was Not Intended As A Predictive Economic Analysis." Following pressure to release its methodology, McKinsey & Company released a statement on June 20 saying that it "stand[s] by the integrity and methodology of the survey," but that it "was not intended as a predictive economic analysis." [McKinsey & Company, 6/20/11]
Research Expert Likened McKinsey Survey To "Push Polling." Floyd Fowler, "a Senior ResearchFellow at the Center for Survey Research at University of Massachusetts, Boston, and author of the book Survey Research Methods," said of the McKinsey survey:
"There is no doubt that the answers one would get after priming respondents the way they did would be expected to include more expressed interest in the possibility of not insuring employees than a question asked in a nonprimed context."
"[T]he fact that someone spent time thinking up, then outlining to corporations, ways to circumvent the law in such amazing ways seems like a pretty good story all by itself," Fowler says. "... What is intriguing to me is whether in fact they may have increased corporation interest in exploring ways to avoid providing insurance to their employees by the act of suggesting these possible approaches. In the political polling world, as you probably know, push polling is used to plant ideas in voters' heads: If I told you that CANDIDATE A has had two abortions and stopped going to church at an early age, who would you be most likely to vote for: A or B? Such a question will change the distribution of answers, but also may disseminate ideas about candidate A." [Talking Points Memo, 6/23/11]
Fox Has Relentlessly Hyped McKinsey Survey. Numerous Fox News hosts, including Camerota, have promoted the McKinsey survey's findings, but have ignored the company's statement that it "was not intended as a predictive economic analysis." [Media Matters, 6/21/11]
Fox Business' Casone Falsely Suggests PWC Study Found Reform Is Responsible For Rising Health Care Costs
Casone: "Look At What The Costs Are Doing To American Companies." From the June 21 edition of Fox News' America Live:
CAMEROTA: Cheryl, I want to start with you. Are employers just using this new health care reform as an excuse to be stingy and to cut costs, or will their costs really rise because of the new health care law?
CHERYL CASONE (Fox Business anchor): No, I mean, look, the CBO gave us one amount of numbers, they gave us some numbers. PricewaterhouseCoopers -- I'm going with their numbers. Absolutely not. Look at what the costs are doing to American companies. They are rising. In 2011, 7 1/2 percent to 8 percent rise in what it costs a company to cover the benefits for an employee. Absolutely not.
This is not funny business, this is not an excuse. This is business. You are in business, not charity. This is not welfare. Of course they want to give their employees health benefits, but if you can't afford to stay in business, if you can't afford to keep that employee on the books, you're going to have to let them go or you're going to have to let go of the health care coverage for said employee. That's the numbers. [Fox News, America Live, 6/21/11]
In Fact, PricewaterhouseCoopers Found Reform Is "Expected To Have Minimal Impact On Medical Cost Trend In 2012." From a PricewaterhouseCoopers report on medical cost trends for 2012:
Health reform expected to have minimal impact on medical cost trend in 2012
Most of the major provisions under the PPACA are in the future. The Medicaid expansions, health insurance exchanges, subsidies to buy private insurance, mandates for employers to offer insurance, and mandates for individuals to buy it -- all of these take place in 2014 or later.
The provisions that took place prior to 2012, such as elimination of lifetime limits, dependent coverage through age 26, and no preventative benefits without cost sharing won't affect trend in 2012, because they were small changes and employers will have fully adjusted to them before 2012.
As shown in Figure 12, three key provisions take place in 2012:
- Funding for states to develop health insurance exchanges, which will open in 2014. It's still uncertain how health insurance exchanges will affect healthcare costs but the effects will begin in 2014 or later.
- Medicare ACOs begin to operate. This program, which allows providers to share in savings on Medicare beneficiaries, could have a spillover effect if an ACO's efficiencies are passed on to privately insured patients as well.
- Reductions in Medicare Inpatient PPS Update. The update factor will be reduced to account for increased productivity.
Only the last item -- a reduction in the Medicare inpatient hospital annual -- update has potential to increase medical trend in 2012. All things considered, 2012 appears to be a slow year for health reform, at least from the standpoint of impact on medical trend. [PricewaterhouseCoopers, Behind the numbers: Medical cost trends for 2012, accessed 6/21/11 (registration required)]
Casone Falsely Claims Obama "Wouldn't Do" Cost Control, Tort Reform
Casone: "The Issue Came Up, He Wouldn't Do It." From America Live:
CASONE: You know, Doug, he wouldn't discuss cost control. I mean, the issue came up, he wouldn't do it. People talked about tort reform, the president wouldn't do it. [Fox News, America Live, 6/21/11]
TNR's Cohn: Health Care Reform Law Includes Cost Controls. New Republic senior editor Jonathan Cohn wrote:
The Affordable Care Act represents a serious and realistic approach to controlling the cost of medicine -- one that would be even more serious and realistic if the long-term budget changes President Barack Obama just recommended become law.
Like [Rep. Paul] Ryan's plan, the Affordable Care Act attempts to restrict the federal government's contribution toward health care expenses, via constraints limiting the growth in Medicare (although not Medicaid) costs as well as the tax subsidy working-age Americans get for employer-sponsored insurance. But the constraints are looser. For example, unlike Ryan's plan, which uses a fixed-value voucher to set Medicare spending, the health law sets less restrictive growth targets (which the president's debt plan would further tighten) and then calls upon an independent commission -- the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- to recommend reforms when Medicare costs exceed those targets. IPAB's recommendations can change what Medicare pays the providers of care, but the board, by law, cannot alter Medicare benefits or eligibility.
In addition, the health law's formula doesn't attempt to reduce spending by focusing exclusively on direct cuts to individual beneficiaries. On the contrary, the law distributes spending reductions across the health care system, affecting virtually everybody -- whether it's reducing Medicare payments to hospitals, eliminating extra subsidies for private Medicare Advantage plans or demanding greater rebates from pharmaceutical companies that contract with government insurance programs.
Most important, the Affordable Care Act doesn't merely limit health care spending, in the faint hope that consumers, on their own, will produce a more efficient market. The law also introduces reforms that will put in place technological infrastructure and financial incentives to promote higher quality care. To some extent, that means sweeping, system-wide changes like the introduction of electronic medical records or the creation of an institute that will determine which treatments work better than others. But it also means dozens of more narrowly focused efforts, like a new public-private partnership to promote quality care or pilot programs in "smart malpractice reform." The idea is to experiment with virtually every payment reform experts have tried successfully on a small scale, in the hopes of replicating the successful ones across the country. [The New Republic, 4/14/11]
AP: "Obama Pushes For Curbs On Malpractice Lawsuits." From a February 16 Associated Press article headlined "Obama pushes for curbs on malpractice lawsuits":
Putting his own stamp on a long-standing Republican priority, President Obama is launching a drive to overhaul state medical malpractice laws and cut down on wasteful tests doctors perform because they fear lawsuits.
Obama's budget calls for $250 million in Justice Department grants to help states rewrite their malpractice laws in line with recommendations that his bipartisan debt reduction commission issued last year.
Obama first indicated an interest in the issue during the marathon debate over his health care law. But all that actually wound up in the law was $25 million in grants to study the problem and potential solutions.
It's different this time, administration officials said. The new proposal calls for 10 times more money, and the grants would be used to change laws, not conduct more studies. [The Associated Press, 2/16/11]
Fox's Siegel Portrays Comparative Effectiveness Initiatives As "Rationing," Ignores That Rationing Is Already Happening
Siegel: Government Will "Issue More And More Regulations, More And More Committees Are Coming Out. That's Called Rationing." From America Live:
DR. MARC SIEGEL (Fox News medical contributor): And by the way, the whole Paul Ryan plan came about because of two words called "comparative effectiveness," where the federal government, as they panic and try to control costs with them spiraling out of control -- you know what they do? They start to issue more and more regulations, more and more committees are coming out. That's called rationing.
So, our best technology is going to be in huge trouble. Patients aren't going to get the services they're used to getting. That's why the Ryan plan started. Because he didn't believe that one treatment was better than another. Doctors need choices to make. [Fox News, America Live, 6/21/11]
But U.S. Insurance Companies Already Ration Care. WellPoint chief medical officer Dr. Sam Nussbaum said that "where the private sector has been far more effective than government programs is in limiting clinical services to those that are best meeting the needs of patients." [NPR, Morning Edition, 7/15/09] Moreover, in Senate testimony, Wendell Potter, a former senior executive at the health insurance company CIGNA, detailed ways in which the insurance industry makes cost-based coverage decisions, including how "insurers routinely dump policyholders who are less profitable or who get sick" and "also dump small businesses whose employees' medical claims exceed what insurance underwriters expected." [Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 7/24/09]
Fox Has Fearmongered That IPAB Will Lead To "Rationing." Fox & Friends gave platforms to Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros and former Republican Rep. John Shadegg to claim that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created by the health care reform law would lead to "rationing." [Fox News,Fox & Friends, 4/21/11; 5/18/11] In fact, the law specifically prohibits IPAB from making "any recommendations to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits." [Media Matters, 10/12/10; Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accessed 6/23/11]