Health care policy experts are speaking out against Dr. Ben Carson's proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act with a healthcare savings account and $2,000 annual federal stipend, calling it "near worthless" and a plan "for the very rich."
Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and Fox News contributor, is beloved by conservatives for his vitriolic attacks on Obamacare. He has received a raft of recent media attention due to the strong fundraising totals posted by the independent National Draft Ben Carson political action campaign, which promotes a Carson 2016 presidential run.
In an interview with Politico Magazine, Carson says that he supports eliminating Obamacare and that under his plan, "The only responsibility of the government would be providing $2,000 per year for every American citizen -- around $630 billion annually, about 20 percent of what we currently spend on health care -- to provide everyone with a health savings account."
Carson says the current health care system has created "generation upon generation of people who just live that way, waiting for government handouts."
But as Politico Magazine notes, while Carson's celebrated medical record "puts weight behind his criticisms of Obamacare," his acknowledged skill as a surgeon "does not imply an elevated or even rational perspective on health-care policy."
Indeed, several experts who have studied and formulated health care reforms told Media Matters that the plan, if implemented, could have devastating consequences for millions of Americans.
"For a person who has serious health problems or for a person who has a low income, a $2,000 health care savings account is worthless, or near worthless" said Timothy Jost, professor of law at Washington and Lee University who specializes in health care regulation and law. "It would not either allow them to buy health insurance or allow them to afford health care or anything other than very routine primary care and some medications."
"I wouldn't mind the government giving me $2,000 for a health savings account because I have great health insurance from my employer," Jost added. "I'm sure if you are a doctor at Johns Hopkins, this is a great idea. You have $2,000 in your pocket. But if you are from the wrong side of Baltimore, it is not going to help very much. It is not going to help you get insurance and not cover more than basic primary care."
Jonathan Gruber, a health economics expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who advised both Gov. Mitt Romney and President Obama on their health care plans, echoed Jost's concerns, calling Carson's approach "just a plan for the very rich who would not be discriminated against by the insurance market."
"It's not really insurance," he added. "It is leaving you self-insured for any risk above $2,000. The typical heart attack in the U.S. can cost about $100,000. This is typical of the poverty of ideas on the right on health care right now."
Carolyn Engelhard, assistant professor of public health sciences and director of the Health Policy Program at the University of Virginia, agreed.
Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson is trading on his medical reputation to ride a wave of media hype, but upon closer examination, many of his views are contradictory or emulate the uninformed chatter of a right-wing radio shock jock.
Carson rose to prominence in the conservative media last year for a speech attacking the Affordable Care Act at the National Prayer Breakfast with President Obama. After that, he was hired by Fox News, became a regular on the conservative speaking circuit, joined Newt Gingrich's dubious political action committee, and launched an online magazine in coordination with the Washington Times (where he also writes an opinion column).
The Washington Times' new digital magazine targeted at "conservative blacks" features Ben Carson as its "founding publisher," his business associate as "executive editor," and in its first issue it wants you to know how great Ben Carson is.
In the Washington Times press release about the launch of American CurrentSee, the digital magazine is described as a publication that "aims to empower its readers to embrace an agenda of economic opportunity, moral leadership and freedom from government dependency."
In practice, the magazine is loaded with praise for Times columnist and Fox News contributor Ben Carson.
Clinging to persecution fantasies that seem to grow darker each year, conservative voices continue to hype doomsday scenarios in which President Obama is scheming to confiscate firearms, socialize American medicine, silence his critics through brute political force, and wage violent class warfare. Allegedly under siege at every turn as their freedoms are stripped away, conservatives embrace an imagined status as perennial victims.
The result? Wallowing in self-pity and convinced of the dark forces moving against them, conservatives launch attack after attack, insisting they're fighting forces at home akin to Hitler's Nazi storm troops. They complain louder and louder that America has become like Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler when 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Nazi analogies aren't new and conservatives didn't trademark them. But the cries have become far more frequent during Obama's sixth year in office.
Four years ago, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes accused the management of National Public Radio of having "a kind of Nazi attitude" for firing commentator Juan Williams. Former Fox host Glenn Beck frequently immersed himself in offensive Hitler rhetoric during Obama's first years in office, while the then-burgeoning Tea Party movement did the same. And so did Rush Limbaugh, who obsessed over Obama-Nazi comparisons in 2009: "Adolf Hitler, like Barack Obama, also ruled by dictate."
In 2009, the Anti-Defamation League, led by Holocaust survivor Abe Foxman, documented the Tea Party's growing reliance on "Nazi comparisons" as a way to express its anti-Obama rage. Yet today the Nazi claims arrive effortlessly and on a depressingly regular basis as conservatives line up to compare this president, his allies, and this country to one of the worst chapters in civilized history.
The thoughtless rhetoric not only captures how detached Obama's critics have become from reality (not to mention the blanket insensitivity involved), but it also reveals the bizarre view conservatives have of their alleged political strife.
Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson recently claimed America is now "very much like Nazi Germany" in that it has a government "using its tools to intimidate the population." Carson defended the insulting comparison by suggesting American conservatives are being targeted and intimidated by the government: "Maybe if I don't say anything, I won't be audited, people won't call me a name."
Audited? Name-calling? Historical note: Those were certainly among the least painful afflictions Jews suffered during the Nazi reign of terror. "I know you're not supposed to say 'Nazi Germany,'" said Carson. "But I don't care about political correctness."
Nine Fox News hosts and contributors are headlining 2014 fundraisers for Republican organizations across the country. The network employees are participating in Lincoln Day Dinners, annual fundraisers usually held near the beginning of the year that provide significant support for local party groups.
The Fox fundraisers include hosts Mike Huckabee, Oliver North, and Andrea Tantaros; and contributors John Bolton, Deneen Borelli, Ben Carson, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, and Allen West.
The Republican events can bring in big money for local Republicans. A Huckabee event in 2011 "grossed over $100,000" for Texas' Harris County GOP, while Ben Carson and Laura Ingraham have spoken at Palm Beach GOP's (FL) Lincoln Day events, which reportedly "typically takes in around $100,000" each year. Event tickets often reach into the $100s, and can increase with private reception opportunities, photos, and book signings. The events also often sell sponsorships ranging in the thousands.
Lincoln Dinners can also mean big money for the speakers. In prior years, Oregon's Lane County Republican Party paid Tucker Carlson $23,500 to keynote its 2011 dinner and John Bolton $28,330 to keynote its 2012 dinner, according to Oregon Secretary of State data and confirmed by Media Matters with a party official. Laura Ingraham was paid $12,500 for speaking in Palm Beach in 2013, according to local records. Then-Fox contributor Dick Morris received $10,000 to speak at a 2012 Lake County (FL) dinner. (Data for 2014 events isn't currently available through local campaign finance records, and even accessing older records can be difficult since some local governments do a poor job putting data online.)
The Lincoln Day speeches aren't much different from what's heard on Fox. In Sarasota, FL, Allen West reportedly "said that Democrats have repeatedly failed the black community." In Naples, FL, John Bolton took to "[c]alling the Obama administration's foreign policy weak, ineffective or nonexistent." In Sangamon County, IL, Ben Carson suggested the country has gone "from a free society to a communist or socialist society" because of the Affordable Care Act.
Dinner promotions have touted the speakers' affiliation with Fox News -- a regular practice with Republican events. The chair of the Sangamon County GOP told a local newspaper that they picked Carson because, "He's a conservative and (is) currently visible on TV, which makes him a celebrity draw."
Media Matters previously documented how over 30 Fox News hosts and contributors campaigned for Republican candidates and organizations during the 2011-2012 election cycle.
The following is a list of nine Fox Newsers, and the Republican Party apparatuses they're helping so far in 2014:
Fox News contributor Ben Carson joined the growing list of American conservatives praising Vladimir Putin's Russia for its ultraconservative social policies, asserting that Russia is "gaining prestige and influence throughout the world" thanks to Putin's hardline brand of Orthodox Christianity.
In a February 12 column for TownHall.com, Carson echoed Pat Buchanan and Breitbart.com in musing that the former Soviet Union - once pilloried as the "godless, evil empire" - has long since overtaken the United States in the realm of "Christian values." Carson lauded Russia's religious conservatism while endorsing Putin's recent remarks suggesting that the U.S. and western Europe have become "godless" (emphasis added):
We used to characterize the Soviet Union as a godless, evil empire. Like many societies based on communism or socialism, the Soviets saw fit to minimize the importance of God and, in many cases, wreaked unimaginable persecution on religious people.
Why is faith in God anathema to such states? It's because they need to remove any authority other than themselves as the arbiter of right and wrong.
Interestingly, last year Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Euro-Atlantic countries, including the United States, of becoming godless and moving away from Christian values. Some may bristle at such an accusation, but when you consider that many Americans are hesitant even to mention God or Jesus in public, there may be some validity to his claim.We also casually have tossed out many of the principles espoused in the Bible and have concluded that there's no authority greater than man himself.
As secular progressives try to remove all vestiges of God from our society, let us remember the godly principles of loving our fellow man, caring about our neighborhoods, developing our God-given talents to the utmost so that we become valuable to the people around us, and maintaining high principles that govern our lives. Our Judeo-Christian values led this nation to the pinnacle of the world in record time. If we embrace them, they will keep us there.
While we Americans are giving a cold shoulder to our religious heritage, the Russians are warming to religion. The Russians seem to be gaining prestige and influence throughout the world as we are losing ours. I wonder whether there is a correlation.
The media has extensively reported on the Republican National Committee's decision to boycott MSNBC following an offensive tweet for which the network subsequently apologized. But they've spent far less attention on the fact that the RNC denounced MSNBC while on Fox News -- a network that has frequently aired offensive and derogatory comments.
Fox News contributor Ben Carson has joined CNN host Newt Gingrich's American Legacy PAC to fundraise for efforts opposing the Affordable Care Act. Despite purporting to support conservative campaigns, Gingrich's PAC has given less than 3 percent of total contributions to candidates in 2013, according to records filed today.
Carson announced in a January 27 email through American Legacy that "my friends at American Legacy PAC are launching an important new project called Save our Healthcare - and I will be serving as Chairman. .... It is our goal to recruit every American that believes we can do better than Obamacare, and make sure that our message is received loud and clear by every elected official and candidate in 2014."
Carson's email contains a donation button and also promotes a petition at the PAC's website. Signing the "petition" means giving the PAC your email address for future updates. The site then redirects to a donation page promising to send "a new generation of leaders to Washington" with "your help":
From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News' Eric Bolling and Ben Carson denied the positive effects of the Affordable Care Act(ACA)on slowing the rise of health care cost growth in recent years, despite economists crediting the law for partly being responsible.
A December 18 New York Times report explained that health care spending "is growing at the slowest pace ever recorded":
Nationally, spending on health care is growing at the slowest pace ever recorded. Annual spending on health care often grew more than 10 percent a year during the 1970s and '80s. Growth dipped in the 1990s, only to rise again, but starting in the early 2000s, the rate began falling. It is now just about 4 percent a year.
During the January 2 edition of Hannity, Bolling claimed that the ACA hasn't helped slow down health care costs, and denied that the rate of growth has even slowed:
BOLLING: Obamacare hasn't done a thing for the cost of health care. It hasn't done a thing. It has done something for the cost of health insurance, but not a darn thing for health care. Health care costs aren't slowing down, they are still rising.
Earlier, Fox contributor Ben Carson also denied the role of Obamacare's impact on slowing health care costs. Appearing on Fox's On The Record, Carson noted that health care costs began slowing during the recession, claiming that this proves Obamacare played no role in controlling health care costs.
But these claims ignore what economists have said about the ACA's role in slowing down the rise in health care costs. A November 20 report from the White House's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) explained that the recession is not the only cause of the slowdown in rising health care costs, and detailed how the health care reform law is contributing:
The ACA is contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending and is improving quality of care: ACA provisions that reduce Medicare overpayments to private insurers and medical providers are contributing to the recent slow growth in health care prices and spending. Other ACA reforms are reducing hospital readmission rates (see figure below) and increasing provider participation in payment models designed to promote efficient, high-quality care.
Intriguingly, recent economic research suggests that the ACA's reforms to Medicare may have "spillover effects" that reduce costs and improve quality system-wide, not just in Medicare. Accounting for "spillover effects" of the ACA's reductions in Medicare overpayments suggests that the ACA has reduced health care price inflation by 0.5 percent per year since 2010, which represents a substantial fraction of the recent slowdown in health care price growth.
Other economists, such as Paul Krugman, Dean Baker, and MIT's Jonathan Gruber, agreed with the CEA's assessment that the ACA is partially responsible for the slowdown in health care costs.
Additionally, an article published on December 26 in The New England Journal of Medicine, which examined the slowing growth in health care costs, recommended that the cost control provisions in the ACA should continue to be implemented:
A central finding of our analysis is that, regardless of what happens to cost trends, current spending is far higher than needed, and it demands continued efforts at cost control, including implementation of new ACA provisions. In recent months, many independent groups have put forth cost-control ideas that build on the health reform law and suggest common strategies that should be pursued to improve efficiency in the health system.
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From the October 11 edition of MSNBC's Martin Bashir:
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From the October 11 Values Voters' Summit:
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Dr. Ben Carson used his first day as a Fox News contributor likening the Affordable Care Act to socialism by using a quote he attributed to Vladimir Lenin. Fox's employment of Carson continues its support for a conservative figure heavily criticized for his inflammatory rhetoric.
Fox News announced it's hiring of Carson as a Fox contributor On October 9, continuing its ongoing campaign to elevate his status after criticizing President Obama at the White House Prayer Breakfast earlier this year. On his first Fox appearance on that day's The Kelly File, Carson told host Megyn Kelly that it wasn't surprising that Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) ridiculed the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing with IRS official Sarah Hall Ingram because they don't want to have a "real conversation" about IRS controversies (emphasis added):
CARSON: It's not terribly surprising. Because if you read Saul Alinsky's book Rules For Radicals, it talks about the need to ridicule. It also talks about never having a real conversation with your adversary because that humanizes them, and your job is the demonize them. And therefore we see people coming out and saying about those who oppose Obamacare, for instance, that they want older people to die, that they want kids to be deprived of food. You know, all these things are just straight out of the text. And what's really interesting is, you know, Vladimir Lenin, one of the founders of socialism and communism, he said socialized medicine is the keystone of the arch to the socialist state. In other words, you've got to get the socialized medicine as the foundation because it gives you control of the people. Once you have control of them, you can do what you want.
Earlier in the day on Sean Hannity's radio show, Carson used the same Lenin quote to attack the ACA. (The book The Social Transformation of American Medicine by Paul Starr notes that "The Library of Congress could not locate this quotation in Lenin's writings.")
From the October 9 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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