Right-wing media continue to pretend that dozens of conservative lawsuits challenging various provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are principled legal challenges to supposed overreach from the Obama administration. In reality, these lawsuits are radical attacks on well-established law, and have been widely rejected by both legal experts and the courts.
Fox News stoked fears about the security of HealthCare.gov, all but ignoring the fact that a top official testified to Congress on January 16 that the website is secure.
The January 16 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier featured a panel discussion on the security of the health care website consisting of Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, Fox News Legal Analyst Andrew Napolitano, and frequent Fox guest A.B. Stoddard. Baier and his guests roundly panned the website's security, relying on testimony by cyber security expert David Kennedy, who claimed that HealthCare.gov remains insecure:
From the January 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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2013 was an epic year of right-wing media misinforming the public on the health care debate, particularly on women's health issues. Ignoring women's health experts, conservative media spent this year stoking fears about everything from birth control to maternity care, ignoring science, distorting state and federal regulations, and demonizing women's health care options in the process. These are the top six scare tactics from 2013.
Pope Francis pushed back on attacks from conservative media figures who described him as a "Marxist" after he commented on wealth inequality.
Pope Francis recently released Evangelii Gaudium, which included criticisms of the "idolatry of money" and wealth inequality around the world. In response, numerous conservative media figures attacked him.
Rush Limbaugh described the Pope's writings having "gone beyond Catholicism" and into "pure Marxism."
Other conservative media figures soon followed suit. Fox Business host Stuart Varney said the Pope was engaging in "neo-socialism" while Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano said the document "reveals a disturbing ignorance" by the Pope. FoxNews.com called him "the Catholic Church's Obama," adding, "God help us."
In an interview with Italy's La Stampa newspaper, Pope Francis defended his remarks: "Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don't feel offended." He added, "There is nothing in the exhortation that cannot be found in the social doctrine of the church."
The Pope expanded on his critique of "trickle-down" economics, noting that "The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor."
After Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortation -- in which he criticized global inequalities of wealth and the tenets of so-called trickle-down economics -- right-wing media went on the attack, characterizing the pope's treatise as "disturbingly ignorant" and "pure Marxism."
Fox's Andrew Napolitano mischaracterized the the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate, pretending the law would force employers to provide insurance coverage for abortion.
On Fox's America's News HQ, network senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano hyped a legal challenge to the ACA by Notre Dame University, which refiled a lawsuit this week contesting the law's birth control mandate. Napolitano claimed the suit is "based upon Obamacare's imposition of an obligation on Notre Dame -- full disclosure, I'm an alumnus of Notre Dame -- which forces it to acquire health insurance which provides coverage for contraception and abortion, both of which violate Catholic core teaching."
Notwithstanding Napolitano's incorrect characterization, the ACA does not require employers to pay for insurance covering abortions. Instead, it requires states to provide at least one health plan that does not cover abortion in order to accommodate employers whose religious beliefs conflict with providing abortion coverage:
From the December 3 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Company:
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Fox News claimed the Obamacare rollout has "clearly" been worse for the American people than the government shutdown, because the shutdown's "biggest inconvenience" was a few closed national parks and memorials -- ignoring the shutdown's cuts to domestic violence centers, women and children's food and health care, stalled scientific research, and severe economic losses.
On the November 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano held a "pop quiz" to determine "[w]hich was more harmful to your personal freedoms," Obamacare or the government shutdown? Both decided that there was no contest: Doocy proclaimed that Obamacare was "clearly" worse than the "slimdown," and Napolitano agreed that it was "[n]ot even a close call." As evidence, Napolitano pointed out that "the biggest inconvenience" of the government shutdown was "a couple hundred well-intended people trying to get into national parks and monuments and the government had closed them." In contrast, he claimed that Obamacare hurts people by forcing them to buy expensive "high end, one-size-fits-all" health insurance policies.
Fox's faulty comparison ignored the significant impacts of the government shutdown, which harmed the economy and slashed funding to necessary programs for low-income Americans.
Because of the shutdown, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that helps provide health care for at-risk babies and "helps new mothers feed themselves and their babies properly," saw its funding slashed, and states that were unable to lend the program local funds were forced to stop accepting enrollees. The shutdown also cut federal funding to at least 2,000 shelters for victims of domestic abuse, workplace safety inspections were halted, federal workers stopped inspecting toxic waste sites, and the CDC stopped monitoring the spread of the flu. National Geographic further reported that the shutdown caused long-term setbacks in scientific research, and The Washington Post detailed how the shutdown's fallout cost low-income workers their economic stability.
The shutdown also did lasting damage to the U.S. economy. Moody's Analytics estimated that the shutdown "cut real GDP by $20 billion, shaving half a percentage point off growth in the fourth quarter," according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. CRS also noted that "JP Morgan Chase's chief economist was quoted as estimating that the shutdown reduced fourth quarter growth by 0.5 percentage points, with half the reduction attributable to lower government spending and half to 'spillover effects and lost activity' in the rest of the economy." The shutdown also eroded consumer confidence and may have derailed our gradual economic recovery, and economists argue that the shutdown will have lingering effects on the labor market and overall economy for several months.
Napolitano's argument that "5,500,000 innocent Americans were told they don't - they won't have health insurance on January 1st" is also inaccurate. Fox has repeatedly worked to hide the fact that rather than losing coverage outright, most of these consumers are simply being offered new, often better, options because policies will be required to include basic standards of care. Moreover, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, though rocky, has successfully allowed hundreds of thousands of Americans to sign up for Medicaid.
Fox News pushed myths about the economic impact of raising the minimum wage as New Jersey voters decide whether to increase it.
A ballot measure in the November 5 election would, if it passes, increase New Jersey's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 and change the state constitution to tie future increases to inflation. According to The Washington Post, public opinion polls show an overwhelming majority of voters support the measure.
But the morning of the election, Fox & Friends misled New Jersey residents about the increase in wages. Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed the measure would reduce employment in the state and increase poverty:
NAPOLITANO: The minimum wage is something that the government uses to force employers to pay low-end employees more than they're worth, and it actually results in putting people out of work. When the minimum wage goes up and employers are forced to pay entry-level people more than they're worth, they'll hire few[er] of them. So the president says nobody who works full-time should be below the poverty line, he's actually going to put more full-time people into, below the poverty line, because he's going to kick them out of work. And if your and my fellow voters in New Jersey pass this, and it looks like they will, that's going to result in more unemployment.
Napolitano ended by confirming he was voting against the measure. He also called it "very dangerous" to enshrine automatic minimum wage increases in the constitution, but as the Post reported, four other states have already done this.
Numerous studies have shown that minimum wage increases have little to no effect on jobs, and may even increase hiring. In fact, after New Jersey enacted a minimum wage increase in 1990, economists David Carr and Alan Kreuger surveyed restaurants in south Jersey and Pennsylvania and found the number of jobs grew. Research also shows minimum wage increases improve the economic performance of small businesses, and the Economic Policy Institute predicts that nationwide minimum wage increases could grow the economy.
In July, Media Matters found that the vast majority of Fox News segments on the minimum wage included the myth that increasing the minimum wage would cause job losses.
Fox is accusing the Environmental Protection Agency of a "power grab" for proposing a rule to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. In fact, the new classification is based on sound science and intended to address years' worth of confusion surrounding the proper protection of the nation's waterways.
Newly-proposed guidelines would allow "greater consistency, certainty, and predictability nationwide by providing clarity in determining where the Clean Water Act (CWA) applies," per the EPA, specifically by incorporating recent research on the extent to which small streams and wetlands connect to larger bodies of water downstream. That research, which is under review by the EPA's Science Advisory Board, found that small streams, even those that only flow at certain times, "are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters," and that wetlands are similarly integrated, making them subject to CWA protection.
That is, unless you ask Fox News and Fox Business. This week, the networks have adopted the complaints of GOP lawmakers to claim that the EPA is only using the study to justify a "power grab." Lou Dobbs claimed on his show that the clarified jurisdiction represented "unprecedented control over private property" -- "maybe" extending to "mud puddles." And Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly asserted on Fox & Friends that the study is "bogus" -- merely a rationalization to "regulate all bodies of water" and "control more behavior."
Despite these claims, the new EPA study did not provide the basis for regulating "all bodies of water" (or "mud puddles"). It found that the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could evaluate small streams on a case-by-case basis to determine their impact downstream. The rule is necessary because the parameters of the CWA are currently quite muddled, as even conservative critics and industry lawyers have noted in the past. This process is in keeping with the March 2013 decision in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, which re-affirmed nearly unanimously that federal agencies are granted a wide berth in interpretations of their own rules.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that Congress' decision to raise the debt limit means that President Obama can now "spend as he wishes," even though the debt limit only affects the government's ability to meet past financial obligations, and government spending has always been checked by congressional allocations.
A day after Congress agreed to a deal that would end 16 days of government shutdown and avert the financial crisis that would have resulted from a failure to raise the debt limit, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy asked Napolitano to comment on whether the decision to raise the debt ceiling was "a deal or raw deal." In response, Napolitano summarized: "because the Democrats bullied the Republicans last night, they have the ability to borrow more money and the president can spend as he wishes for another 90 days." Meanwhile, an on-air graphic framed the congressional deal as a "borrowing binge."
But Napolitano misrepresented the way that government spending functions. As the Government Accountability Office has previously noted, the debt ceiling places a "limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred." Raising the debt ceiling would only allow the government to meet "existing legal obligations," which, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has pointed out, does not authorize new spending.
Furthermore, Napolitano's claim that reopening the government would allow Obama to "spend as he wishes" is a common right-wing myth that has been repeatedly debunked. As PolitiFact noted, "[o]nly Congress can appropriate money. Obama can only spend what he's given." The "Power of the Purse" is a congressional responsibility that places restrictions on the executive branch's ability to spend.
The idea that a debt ceiling deal amounts to a "blank check" is a right-wing talking point frequently parroted by the media. Indeed, Fox has previously suggested that a debt ceiling increase would allow the president to take over Congress' power to dictate spending.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano baselessly claimed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will require doctors to disclose patients' health information to law enforcement and encourage patient dishonesty about health concerns, ignoring the fact that the ACA expands existing doctor-patient confidentiality protections.
On October 10, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that "the fine print" on the new health care exchange sites reveals that "your information can be used by law enforcement and for audit activities" and that "your e-mail could become public record." Napolitano further claimed that digital health records meant the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could now share private health information like cocaine use "with law enforcement or with the IRS," and suggested that the law would encourage doctors to report private health information to law enforcement rather than treat their patients, "incentiviz[ing] us to keep the truth from our doctors."
Doocy and Napolitano's claim that the ACA will incentivize lying to doctors relied on the false suggestion that the new law negates the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Actess (HIPAA), which in part established standards on how electronic medical information can be shared. But according to the American Medical Association, the new health law actually "expands" HIPAA rules. The National Conference of State Legislatures explained that under the ACA, the new rules "expand privacy measures," strengthening patients' rights and protections and strengthening the government's ability to enforce the privacy law against other business interests.
Under the ongoing HIPAA privacy standards, "covered entities" -- including doctors, clinics, nursing homes, pharmacies, health insurance companies, health care clearinghouses, Medicare, Medicaid, and the military and veterans health care programs -- are explicitly required "to protect the privacy and security of health information and must provide individuals with certain rights with respect to their health information."
Without patients' written authorization, the Privacy Rule prohibits these entities from sharing confidential health information with law enforcement officials except in very limited circumstances, including when a court order has been issued or when required by law. University of Virginia's Health Sciences Center summarizes these instances (emphasis added):
Confidentiality is the basis of the Physician-patient relationship. If the patient is uneasy about disclosing pertinent and privileged information, the ability of a physician to provide adequate care is severely compromised. It should be made clear to the patient that this information will not be disclosed unless required by law. The medical record is to be kept private with certain exceptions including:
- Treatment of minors
- HIV+ Patients
- Abuse of a Child or Adult
- Transportation Safety
- Duty to report harm/wounds
The digital privacy standards established by HIPAA continue to apply under the ACA, but the law includes some modifications to the Privacy Rule to expand patient protections. From the ACA's "Final modifications to the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Enforcement Rules":
- Make business associates of "covered entities" directly liable for compliance with certain of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules' requirements.
- Strengthen the limitations on the use and disclosure of protected health information for marketing and fundraising purposes, and prohibit the sale of protected health information without individual authorization.
- Expand individuals' rights to receive electronic copies of their health information and to restrict disclosures to a health plan concerning treatment for which the individual has paid out of pocket in full.
- Require modifications to, and redistribution of, a covered entity's notice of privacy practices.
- Modify the individual authorization and other requirements to facilitate research and disclosure of child immunization proof to schools, and to enable access to decedent information by family members or others
- Adopt the additional HITECH Act enhancements to the Enforcement Rule not previously adopted in the October 30, 2009, interim final rule (referenced immediately below), such as the provisions addressing enforcement of noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules due to willful neglect.
Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano falsely claimed that failure to raise the debt ceiling would only affect discretionary spending -- something he said "we don't really need as a country." This ignores the importance of discretionary programs and the far-reaching impact that failure to increase the debt ceiling would have.
Right-wing media dishonestly reacted to Secretary of State John Kerry's signature to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by promoting the National Rifle Association's conspiracy theory that the treaty -- which aims to stem the flow of weapons to human rights abusers -- would threaten gun rights and require the United States to create a civilian gun registry.
In fact, the treaty only regulates the international trade of arms and explicitly affirms the right of a nation to regulate domestic firearm ownership "pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system." As the American Bar Association noted in an analysis that found the treaty to be consistent with the Second Amendment, "the treaty would not require new domestic regulations of firearms."
Still, Fox News continued its checkered coverage of the ATT, promoting baseless conspiracy theories about the treaty.
On September 25, Fox host Heather Nauert reported on Fox & Friends that "gun supporters are opposing part of [the ATT] because it requires the United States government to adopt a new civilian gun tracking system, and that could sidestep the Second Amendment":