Right-wing media claimed opposition to the Affordable Care Act influenced the Virginia governor election despite polls that show the health reform law was an insignificant factor in the race.
Fox News dismissed the devastating effect that delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act would have on the millions of Americans who would be left without adequate insurance and be forced to delay treatment for serious health conditions.
During her November 6 testimony to Congress, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pushed back on congressional demands to delay implementation of parts of the new health care law, noting that a delay of the law could mean delaying access to necessary and life-saving medical treatment for Americans who currently lack insurance or are underinsured (via Nexis):
SEBELIUS: Now, some have asked, why not just delay implementation of the new law until all of the problems are fixed? And there's a pretty straightforward answer: Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn't delay people's cancer or diabetes or Parkinson's. Didn't delay the need for mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. Delaying the Affordable Care Act doesn't delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills. It doesn't delay the higher costs all of us pay when uninsured Americans are left with no choice but to rely on emergency rooms for care.
So for millions of Americans, delay is not an option. People's lives depend on this. Too many hard-working people have been waiting for too long for the ability to obtain affordable health insurance.
We want to save families from going bankrupt. We want to save the lives of more of our friends and neighbors by allowing them to detect medical issues early. We want to keep prices down. Delay is not an option.
The next morning on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed Sebelius' warning as "disingenuous," and implied that only people in third-world nations lacked access to adequate health care:
KILMEADE: She also said something I thought was totally disingenuous. When asked over and over again by Max Baucus and other Democrats, why don't you delay, she says, well, doing so wouldn't delay people's cancer, diabetes or Parkinson's disease. What are we, Cambodia? Are we some third-world nation? Are we all in the waiting room until this passes and this website gets up? That's, these are the types of statements where people feel as though this is one big game.
In fact, more than 47 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 2012, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that a one-year delay to the individual mandate -- the portion of the health care law that penalizes individuals for not signing up for insurance by March 2014 -- would cause at least 11 million more Americans to remain uninsured in 2014. The majority of the uninsured are low-income working families.
Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck misleadingly hyped a specific security concern with the HealthCare.gov website without mentioning that the problem has been fixed.
On November 7, Hasselbeck interviewed South Carolina resident Tom Dougall, who explained that he had entered personal information into HealthCare.gov only for it to erroneously be sent to someone else who logged into the website. Hasselbeck used this incident to scare people into thinking it could happen to them, asking Dougall if anyone should "be logging onto a site that puts them at risk for security fraud, identity fraud."
But the Fox News segment never brought up the fact that the particular software issue that lead to the leak of Dougall's information has been fixed. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner testified before the Senate on November 5 that "she became aware of the mistake on Monday and told the committee a 'software fix' had remedied the problem." McClatchy DC further reported:
A top Obama administration official on Tuesday tried to assure anxious senators that Americans' personal information was secure on the troubled HealthCare.gov website, which erroneously provided a South Carolina man's personal information to a man in North Carolina last week.
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the problem was caused by a piece of software code that needed to be fixed. She said the fix was made, tested and the system is working properly.
Bataille said it was the only such incident reported to HHS, but she would not speculate about whether other, similar incidents have occurred.
Many problems have been made apparent since HealthCare.gov launched. In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on November 6, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the government is working on fixes for a "couple of hundred" problems with the website. The problem highlighted by Hasselbeck was a serious issue, and she should have mentioned that this particular software problem has been resolved.
Fox News cherry-picked from reports by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General to single out undocumented immigrants for improperly benefitting from Medicare drug benefits, taking the opportunity to smear them as "illegal aliens." However, undocumented immigrants are partially responsible for keeping Medicare solvent.
On October 30, the OIG released reports showing that Medicare inappropriately paid out millions in benefits for dead patients and drug benefits for undocumented immigrants. But in highlighting the reports, Fox News reported only on the Medicare drug benefits data in an apparent attempt to demonize undocumented immigrants.
On the November 11 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade teased the segment by saying, "Many Americans can't even get prescriptions they need but illegal immigrants are getting them for free. Who's paying for that?" Co-host Steve Doocy followed with a short report noting that $29 million is "how much the federal government spent on prescription drugs for illegal aliens as part of the federal Medicare Part D program." He added: "Great."
But Fox News' reporting on the OIG reports ignored important facts -- the first being that undocumented immigrants are indeed paying some of the payroll taxes that sustain Medicare.
In fact, a Harvard study released in May found that undocumented immigrants are keeping the federal health care program partially solvent to the tune of $14 billion a year -- even as native-born Americans accounted for a $31 billion deficit to the program. As Bloomberg News reported:
Immigrants to the U.S. contributed $115.2 billion more to the Medicare Trust Fund during the past decade than they withdrew, casting doubt on criticism they overburden the health plan, Harvard University researchers said.
The data, published in the journal Health Affairs, suggest immigrants, mainly those without U.S. citizenship, help subsidize the nation's health program for the elderly and disabled. While American-born citizens took $30.9 billion out of Medicare in 2009 alone, immigrants provided a surplus of $13.8 billion that year. The study looked at data from 2002 to 2009.
The findings undermine the belief that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. health-care system, a key issue in the debate about immigration reform, the researchers said. In 2009, payments from immigrants and their employers accounted for 14.7 percent of payments to Medicare, while their expenses represented 7.9 percent of its costs, the study found.
Fox News has stoked outrage over the plan changes in the individual health insurance market, charging Obama with "government malpractice" and calling him a liar for supposedly not informing people that plans would change. But Fox's hyperbolic attacks ignore the fact that these changes are not only common in the individual market, but also that the administration announced them years ago.
Fox News has repeatedly defended the claims of an alleged Benghazi "witness" who appeared in a discredited CBS report about the 2012 attack -- even after he accused the network of lying about his request for money.
An October 27 60 Minutes report featured an interview with "Morgan Jones," a pseudonym for private security contractor Dylan Davies, who claimed to have scaled a wall of the Benghazi diplomatic compound while it was under attack and struck a terrorist with his rifle. This claim differed from the account Davies gave to his employer for an incident report, obtained by The Washington Post, which stated that he "could not get anywhere near" the compound that night. Davies later claimed in a November 2 interview with The Daily Beast that he had lied in the incident report.
Fox dismissed these inconsistencies in order to defend Davies as a "credible" source. On November 4, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed that the incident report was leaked to "discredit a seemingly very credible witness about those attacks," and on November 5, Kilmeade asked Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to explain why it's significant that Davies was "outed in The Washington Post as he comes forward with a different version of the reality on the ground that night."
Not only did Fox continue promoting Davies' claims by glossing over the fact that he had lied, but the network has also ignored Davies' accusation that Fox News smeared him after reporter Adam Housley said on October 28 that Davies asked the network for money (emphasis added):
HOUSLEY: He reaffirms, really, what we've been reporting. In fact, Jenna, some of our reports for FoxNews.com last fall included this 60 Minutes' witness' account. He spoke to me on the phone a number of times and then we stopped speaking to him when he asked for money. But what he does do in his 60 Minutes appearance last night is once again kind of reaffirm the fact that this attack was vicious. That is was pre-planned. That they knew from the very beginnings of this attack this was not some random situation, this was a pre-planned attack.
In his Daily Beast interview, Davies denied the accusation that he asked Fox News for money:
Davies said he believed there was a coordinated campaign to smear him. This week, Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, sent a public letter to CBS News asking it to retract the 60 Minutes Benghazi piece on the basis of the Washington Post article. On the Fox News Channel, reporter Adam Housley claimed on air this week that Davies asked for money in exchange for an interview. Davies denied this charge. 60 Minutes has stood by its reporting.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
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.
From the November 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News cherry-picked numbers to suggest that the cost of extreme weather events has decreased in past decades in order to attack President Obama's executive order to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change. However, the damages from extreme weather events have been on the rise since 1980 and are projected to increase in part due to climate change.
On Fox and Friends' November 4 show, contributor Stuart Varney denied the link between climate change and certain extreme weather events in the United States, denouncing Obama's executive order on climate preparedness. To assist his claim, Varney cherry-picked statistics to falsely suggest that disaster costs have decreased since the 1980s -- including an incorrect statistic on Hurricane Sandy.
Though damages from Sandy totaled approximately $65 billion, according to the National Climatic Data Center, Varney incorrectly asserted that Sandy cost $19 billion in damages (this outdated number represented predicted damages to New York City only). He contrasted his $19 billion statistic to the $160 billion in losses from extreme weather events in 2005 -- the most costly year on record in terms of extreme weather events -- and the fact that weather disasters have cost the United States over $1 trillion since 1980. After prattling off these numbers, Fox and Friends co-anchor Brian Kilmeade exclaimed, "look how they've gone down, the number of disasters and the price!"
In reality, spending on weather disasters has increased since 1980, alongside the rise of extreme weather events costing at least one billion dollars in damages:
Despite Varney's claims, five top insurance companies have recognized that disaster losses are increasing, which may be related in part to climate change:
Republican and conservative media figures lauded a report from CBS' 60 Minutes on the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, using it to advance their attacks on the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton. But that report has since come under fire following the revelation that the piece's key Benghazi "eyewitness" had previously claimed he was nowhere near the compound on the night of the attack.
Fox News attempted to rehabilitate the reputation of an alleged Benghazi "witness" who appeared in a discredited CBS report about the 2012 attack, after the same "witness" admitted he falsified statements about where he was that night.
On October 27, CBS' 60 Minutes featured testimony from "Morgan Jones," a supposed "witness" of the September 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities who claimed that during the attack he scaled a wall of the compound and personally struck a terrorist in the face with his rifle. This story wildly diverged from the account he gave his superiors in an incident report that was obtained by The Washington Post, which stated he "could not get anywhere near" the compound the night of the attack. The Post also identified Jones' real name as Dylan Davies.
On the November 4 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade dismissed the inconsistencies in Davies' accounts, instead suggesting that the State Department or the White House had leaked the report to the Post to "discredit a seemingly very credible witness about those attacks, who witnessed those attacks." During the segment, guest Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) baselessly called Davies a "covert agent" -- though he worked for private security contractor Blue Mountain, not the CIA -- and Chaffetz and Kilmeade both attacked the Post for publishing Davies' name, suggesting the article had endangered his life by revealing his identity.
But Davies' account is not just inconsistent - he also admitted to The Daily Beast on November 2 that he had lied about his actions during the night of the Benghazi attack to his supervisors. He explained his differing accounts of the night of the attack by claiming that he did not personally write the Blue Mountain incident report and admitting he had lied in his account to the company because "he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders":
Davies said the version of the events contained in the incident report matched what he told his supervisor, called "Robert" in his book, who is a top Blue Mountain Group executive. Davies said he lied to Robert about his actions that night because he did not want his supervisor to know he had disobeyed his orders to stay at his villa.
The Daily Beast has redacted the true name of Robert out of his concern for his privacy.
"He told me under no circumstances was I to go up there. I respected him so much I did not want him to know that I had not listened to him," said Davies, referring to Robert. "I have not seen him since."
Davies also wrote in his book that Robert had instructed him not to go to the compound under any circumstances. Davies called Robert after going to the hospital, he said, but before his first visit to the compound on the night of Sept. 11. Davies says he told Robert the ambassador was dead but did not tell him what he was up to.
Executives at Blue Mountain Group, including Robert, did not respond to emails requesting comment.
Kilmeade also used the segment to rehash a number of debunked Benghazi myths, such as the false claims that the administration delayed labeling the Benghazi attack an act of terror and that a "stand down" order was given the night of the attack, continuing the network's desperate attempt to find a Benghazi "scandal" more than a year after the attack.
For more on conservative media myths about the September 2012 attack, read The Benghazi Hoax, the new e-book by Media Matters' David Brock and Ari Rabin-Havt.
Fox News obscured Republicans' role in creating a Medicaid coverage gap in the administration's health care expansion to hype one woman's coverage loss as an example of Obama's broken promises.
Fox host Elisabeth Hasselbeck welcomed guest Tammy Fiechtner onto the November 1 Fox & Friends to discuss a letter she received from her insurer explaining that she's being automatically moved to a new insurance plan. Hasselbeck hyped "what's being called the Obamacare coverage gap," saying, despite the letter, that she "hasn't gotten a new plan. In fact, she doesn't have coverage at all." Fiechtner's comments shed more light on her predicament; the new plan she was being moved to had a similar premium, but a higher deductible. Fiechtner then explained that after exploring her options, she found that she would have qualified for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s expansion of the program, but her Republican-led home state of Nebraska chose not to accept the Medicaid expansion (emphasis added):
FIECHTNER: When we went on the website, we found out that we didn't qualify for Obamacare because of how our business structure works. So, we were told that we had to go on Medicaid, which I don't understand why I have to be on Medicaid, but that's where they directed us to. Nebraska did not expand Medicaid, so there will be no help for people like ourselves. So we now are forced to buy a new plan all on own and face these expenses by ourselves.
As The New York Times reported, the ACA was "written to require all Americans to have health coverage" and "about 30 million uninsured Americans were to have become eligible for financial help" through subsidies for lower-income earners and the Medicaid expansion. According to the Times, the Supreme Court's 2012 decision to allow states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion left millions of low-income consumers without financial help in acquiring insurance:
But the Supreme Court's ruling on the health care law last year, while upholding it, allowed states to choose whether to expand Medicaid. Those that opted not to leave about eight million uninsured people who live in poverty ($19,530 for a family of three) without any assistance at all.
Hasselbeck's attempt to lay the blame for Fiechtner's situation on President Obama papers over Republicans' role in sabotaging access to affordable health insurance. As Politico reported in a November 1 story headlined "The Obamacare sabotage campaign," there is "a strong factual basis" for the charge that "calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step" has undermined key points of the law -- including the Medicaid expansion -- and has seriously damaged the overall rollout (emphasis added):
Fox News hyped a poll asking viewers whether members of Congress should be exempt from the Affordable Care Act, even though they are actually not exempt -- a poll finding that reflected Fox's misleading coverage of the issue.
On the October 31 edition of Happening Now, correspondent Mike Emanuel claimed that senators are "trying to interpret the law more broadly" to exempt their staff from enrolling in Obamacare. Emanuel promoted a new Fox poll claiming that the vast majority of people surveyed want "members of Congress & their staff " to live under Obamacare.
Right-wing media are ignoring the dangers of underinsurance in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that new insurance plans offer at least a minimum level of coverage, including ten "essential health benefits."
Research has shown that medical costs contribute to a high percentage of bankruptcies filed in the U.S, and a 2007 study from Harvard University found that more than three-quarters of people with medical debt had health insurance. Beginning January 1, 2014, the ACA will begin to tamp down on the type of "swiss cheese" coverage that can leave consumers facing catastrophic health costs by requiring that all health plans on the new health care exchanges cover ten "essential health benefits" that will provide consumers with a basic level of coverage for things like hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health services, and preventative care.
Right-wing media are attacking this shift toward providing an improved health insurance product and insisting that insufficient insurance is not a problem. An October 30 Wall Street Journal editorial blasted the change as "command-and-control regulation" and said "Democrats are openly instructing adults that they don't know what's best for their own good." In his own October 30 column, the Journal's deputy editorial page editor, Daniel Henninger, wrote called the push for increased consumer protection "progressive coercion," emblematic of "politics by cramdown."
During the October 31 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business host Stuart Varney obscured the dangers of "cut-rate" insurance plans to characterize the administration's claim that the insufficient levels of coverage in some existing plans led insurers to tell policyholders that they had to change their coverage as "flat-out outrageous" -- even though a study published in Health Affairs found that, in 2010, more than half of Americans who purchased their own insurance had plans that fell short of ACA standards. Later in the show, Doocy and Fox Business host John Stossel bashed the health care law's requirements for new insurance policies:
DOOCY: Now we're going to have to buy insurance that is up to the government's standard even though maybe we would rather just save money.
STOSSEL: We chose those policies and yet the president says you didn't choose well, I need to choose for you.
These attacks all ignore the consequences of being underinsured, which carry many of the same risks as having no insurance at all. According to Kaiser Health News, some uninsured people "avoid going to the doctor or getting prescriptions filled because they can't afford it," and noted that others "end up with medical debt and other severe financial problems." The April Commonwealth Fund study found that half of the underinsured "said they had not received needed care because of cost" and explained that 55 percent of underinsured Americans "reported medical bill problems are accrued medical debt" -- more than twice the rate of those with adequate insurance coverage.
Huffington Post health care reporter Jeffrey Young defined the underinsured as those with health insurance plans that "offered too little coverage and exposed them to high out-of-pocket costs." He highlighted an April study by the Commonwealth Fund that found 30 million people, or 16 percent of the U.S. population were underinsured in 2012. The study also found that lower-income Americans were underinsured at higher rates. The Commonwealth Fund study also stated that 85 percent of those who were underinsured could be eligible for coverage under the ACA's Medicaid expansion or qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance plans on the exchanges, which have a certain standard of coverage, and so "[m]ore people insured and better-quality coverage will likely lead to less medical cost-fueled debt and fewer cost-related access problems."
According to a September 2011 study by the Commonwealth Fund, once fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act could reduce the number of underinsured adults by 70 percent.
Right-wing media are using the firing of fictional cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants to attack the social safety net and those who rely on it.
The New York Post reported on October 30 that in an upcoming episode of the Nickelodeon cartoon, SpongeBob is fired from his job working in the underwater fast food restaurant "the Krusty Krab" after his boss discovers he can save a whole nickel by eliminating SpongeBob from the payroll.
The Post used the cartoon's plot development to attack people who rely on government assistance, referring to individuals who rely on food stamps as "mooching off the social services" and applauding SpongeBob for instead quickly returning to "gainful employment":
So what's a hardworking sea sponge to do?
Lest he sit around idly, mooching off the social services of Bikini Bottom, a depressed SpongeBob sets out to return to gainful employment wherever he can find it.
No spoilers -- but it's safe to say that our hero doesn't end up on food stamps, as his patty-making skills turn out to be in high demand.
Fox News parroted the Post's attack, with Fox & Friends' Heather Nauert claiming that "the harsh economic climate has hit the underwater community," but "instead of mooching off social services at Bikini Bottom, that's the town, SpongeBob sets out to return to the work force."
Previously, Fox News repeatedly criticized a SpongeBob SquarePants book and video about manmade global warming, claiming the program based on scientific evidence was "pushing a global warming agenda" and "indoctrinating children."
Right-wing media have a long history of attacking the social safety net. Recently, Fox attacked low-wage workers in the fast food industry who have to rely on necessary federal benefit programs because they earn below subsistence wages.