The Las Vegas Review-Journal erroneously claimed that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is providing special treatment to part of his staff by not requiring them to purchase insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange, despite the fact that the law does not require leadership staff members to participate in the exchange.
A December 7 Review-Journal editorial attacked Sen. Reid for not forcing his leadership staff off of their employer-based coverage and onto the health insurance exchanges before misleadingly claiming that the GOP had "no culpability" in obstructing improvements for the ACA:
The Affordable Care Act requires the official staffs of each federal lawmaker to abandon their medical coverage through the Federal Employee Health Benefit program and purchase subsidized insurance through the law's exchanges. But, as reported Thursday by the Review-Journal's Steve Tetreault, the law allows the staff of congressional committees and leadership offices to stay off the exchanges and keep their current benefits, if their lawmaker bosses so decide.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., nonetheless diverted their entire staffs to the exchanges to obtain health insurance. Sen. Reid did not.
Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Sen. Reid, said her boss is following the law and has proposed a fix to the staff coverage discrepancy, but Republicans won't go along. Imagine that: The GOP, which has no culpability in this mess, actually wants something in return for votes that are politically beneficial to Democrats whose poll numbers are tanking.
The attack on Sen. Reid is an attempt to score political points in an on going partisan battle over the ACA. The Review-Journal and conservative opponents are criticizing Reid for following the Grassley Amendment, an amendment to the ACA proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) that forced members and legislative staff onto the exchanges instead of allowing them to keep their own employer-based insurance as millions of Americans have under the ACA. This tweak to the ACA law made the decision to place leadership committee staff on the exchanges optional.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal claimed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is hurting employment by forcing businesses to shift workers to part-time to avoid offering health insurance. However, substantial evidence proves that the ACA is not having any widespread impact on employment patterns.
In a November 25 article, the Review-Journal claimed the large service industry of Nevada would be hit hard by the health care law's mandate to count employees working more than 30 hours a week as full time -- the threshold for which employers must begin offering health insurance benefits to employees -- because it will give employers an incentive to cut worker hours to avoid offering health insurance:
So local businesses and unions alike want to know: What's another tweak or two?
They've set their sights on proposed federal laws that would change an Obamacare provision on who gets health insurance through work. The rule says employees who work more than 30 hours a week qualify as full-time, and employers have to offer them insurance or risk fines of $2,000 to $3,000 per worker. The rule applies to any company with more than 50 full-time-equivalent workers.
The threshold is causing unintended consequences as employers cut hours to drop workers below the 30-hour threshold.
That could be a huge issue in Las Vegas, with its high share of hourly service jobs in hospitality and restaurants, said Shaun O'Brien, assistant policy director for health and retirement for big labor group AFL-CIO. And with average weekly hours worked coming in at 33.7 in August, according to local research firm Applied Analysis, plenty of locals hover close enough to the threshold to cross it.
The article quoted Randi Thompson, the Nevada state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), to bolster the claim that the ACA will force employers to cut hours. However, as the Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms (CHIR) reported, Thompson's own organization conducted a survey that concluded the opposite. According to the survey by NFIB, only 13 percent of small businesses surveyed would cut employees or employee hours as a result of the law. Furthermore, the survey found that these decisions to "reduce employee hours seem strongly tied to profitability rather than ACA."
In support reduction in hours argument, the article referenced a survey sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce that found that franchised businesses have "already cut hours more than a year before the employer mandate." However this survey was conducted by Pulse Opinion Strategies, a known Republican polling firm and, according to an NFIB researcher, still doesn't prove the ACA is creating a part-time workforce:
The numbers contrast with a survey released two weeks ago by the National Federation of Independent Business finding that only 13 percent of 921 small companies plan to cut hours. The NFIB, like the [International Franchise Association] and the Chamber [of Commerce], thinks people working less than 40 hours shouldn't count as "full-time." But the group admitted that its numbers don't show Obamacare creating a part-time workforce. Many of those planning to cut hours were too small to be subject to the mandate, anyway. "If they cut or were cutting, it's almost assuredly due to the profitability rather than the ACA for those people," NFIB researcher William Dennis said.
These findings have been backed up by economists as well. In his analysis of the ACA's effect on weekly hours, economist Dean Baker explains that while some employers may reduce hours to avoid providing coverage to employees, "the number is too small to show up in the data." Furthermore, few work near the 30-hour full-time cutoff:
An analysis of data from the Current Population Survey shows that only a small number (0.6 percent of the workforce) of workers report working just below the 30 hour cutoff in the range of 26-29 hours per week. Furthermore, the number of workers who fall in this category was actually lower in 2013 than in 2012, the year before the sanctions would have applied. This suggests that employers do not appear to be changing hours in large numbers in response to the sanctions in the ACA.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities further explains that the number of involuntary part-time workers has decreased since the implementation of the ACA, instead of expanding as the perpetrators of the myth would lead one to believe:
A more rigorous test examines the recent trend in the share of involuntary part-timers -- workers who'd rather have full-time jobs but can't find them. If health reform's employer mandate were distorting hiring practices in the way critics claim, we'd expect the share of involuntary part-timers to be growing. Instead, as shown in Figure 1, it is down about one percentage point from its peak.
Nor do the employment data provide any evidence that employers have cut workers' hours below 30 hours a week to avoid the requirement to provide health insurance. During the first half of this year, the share of workers putting in 30 or more hours a week actually rose to 80.7 percent from 80.2 percent in the comparable part of 2012. Although the increase is small, it refutes the claim that shortening of the workweek is widespread.
Multiple media outlets have targeted young Americans in an attempt to spread misinformation and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), claiming that coverage is too expensive, the ACA provides too much coverage to young adults, and that Millennials are better off not signing up for coverage, despite vast evidence showing that young people both need and want coverage under the ACA.
A Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial left out key details of the insurance market prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the affordability of current ACA plans to attack the law and claim it should be repealed.
The November 20 editorial discussed insurance companies terminating certain Americans' current health plans while claiming that those seeking insurance will have to pay higher costs under the new ACA-compliant plans:
So the insured were part of the problem all along. The people who were responsible enough to purchase coverage that fit their needs and their budgets, without being threatened with a penalty tax, were too dumb to understand they were actually buying "predatory" garbage. The people who gave themselves an economic incentive to take care of their health, who willingly paid cash for routine medical care, needed to be forced to pay even more for coverage they didn't want or need.
Obamacare strikes out on premium affordability, too. According to the Manhattan Institute, Obamacare is projected to increase individual-market premiums by 179 percent in Nevada, the biggest jump in the nation. Sticker shock, not technical failure, is the major reason why so few people are buying insurance from Obamacare exchanges. The Twitter account @MyCancellation documents the cancellation notices Americans are receiving, as well as their outrageous new premium quotes. One tweet this week read "From Alabama: Old plan canceled was $180/mo w/ $6,700 ded. New plan under #ACA $400/mo &ded nearly doubles $12,000."
Americans were lied to. No amount of revisionist history can save this law or make its awful consequences acceptable. Are you paying attention, Sen. Reid? Repeal and replace.
The issue isn't so much with the insured as the companies providing insurance. As the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute explained, "Pre-ACA, consumers faced a 'wild west' when buying health insurance." Providers were allowed to indiscriminately change plans and raise premiums without any safeguards. As Consumer Reports explained, the pre-ACA individual insurance market was "a nightmare" with many uninsured being unable to afford an individual plan, or if they did have insurance, most disliking their coverage. The article further noted:
Because of the new health care law people like these, who did nothing wrong except to have the bad luck to be stranded in the individual market, can now get health coverage at a price they can afford. Insurers can't turn them down or exclude coverage of the treatments they need the most. They can't slice and dice risk pools to drive longtime policyholders away. They can't charge them more because of pre-existing conditions.
In addition, insurance companies misled their clients by introducing non-ACA compliant plans without informing them that the plans they had would only be available for a short period of time, or in the case of Humana, sent threatening cancellation letters or letters that omitted crucial information about the ACA. As a Talking Points Memo investigation found, insurance companies around the country "have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces," which could save consumers thousands per month.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal promoted several myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) including that men will have excessive coverage, that young people will not sign up for insurance on the exchanges, and that heavy Medicaid enrollment will jeopardize the exchanges.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal penned an editorial attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over high premium prices, but failed to provide more than a pair of anecdotes that misrepresented Nevada's uninsured population to support its claims.
The October 8 editorial promoted the idea that people will turn against the ACA as they learn the price of coverage under the exchanges, and according to the Review-Journal, the only thing preventing that scenario are technical glitches that have slowed the process:
It wasn't part of the Obama administration's shutdown theatrics, but healthcare.gov had to close for the weekend, and it was closed again early Tuesday. The website was taken offline because of myriad glitches that have plagued the national health insurance exchange (and state exchanges across the country) since the Oct. 1 rollout.
The technical problems are significant because huge numbers of people are being prevented from learning how much their newly mandatory health insurance will cost. Once potential enrollees can review exchange plans, their premiums and deductibles, there will be yet another uproar -- one with the potential to force changes to Obamacare or at least delay enforcement of its individual mandate.
The Review-Journal went on to give two examples of Californians over the age of 50 who claim to have been quoted at higher premium prices than they had paid in the past. Because the editorial did not include any information about the pair's previous insurance situation, tobacco use, or any other indicators, however, it is hard to verify or explain why these individuals were quoted at higher premiums. But this lack of information did not stop the Review-Journal from extrapolating their experience onto a wider population and predicting a delay to individuals' requirement to have insurance, an action that would gut the law and cripple insurers' ability to cover those with pre-existing conditions.
The editorial also highlighted the rates these individuals will pay without mentioning that older populations can only be charged up to three times what young and healthy adults can be charged. According to the Congressional Research Service, 49 percent of Nevada's uninsured are between the ages of 19 to 21, as compared to 26.4 percent for ages 21 to 64, and 1.9 percent for ages 65 and over. Using two older buyers as a sample of Nevada's insurance-buying population gives a misleading picture of prices and experiences.
Furthermore, the piece made no mention of the federal tax credits that will help make coverage affordable for many young Americans. Nationally, tax credits will allow 6.4 million people to purchase insurance for less than $100 each month. Including the subsidized prices for plans bought on the exchanges is critical to understanding the actual cost of insurance because the law "provides sliding-scale subsides to help people with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level." As the Kaiser Family Foundation explained in a primer on the makeup of the uninsured:
Most people without health coverage are in working families and have low incomes. Adults make up a disproportionate share of the uninsured population because they are less likely than children to be eligible for Medicaid. While a plurality of uninsured people are White non-Hispanic, racial/ethnic minorities are at especially high risk of being uninsured.
Health insurance makes a difference in whether and when people get necessary medical care, where they get their care, and ultimately, how healthy people are. The consequences of reduced access to care over time can be serious, including preventable hospitalizations, poor overall health, disability, and premature death.
Local conservative blogs and opinion sections seized on reports of initial technical glitches with the online health care exchanges to broadly slam the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and failed to recognize similar challenges with implementing Medicare Part D.
The online health care exchanges opened on October 1 to assist people in selecting an insurance provider in compliance with the ACA. Since the launch, several local opinion outlets have framed the story to maximize frustrations over technical glitches and paint the federal government as incompetent in preparing for enrollment. These same outlets have been repeatedly critical of the ACA.
For example, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran an editorial that called the exchange launch "an information-technology disaster." Other outlets have been openly rooting for the exchanges to fail, such as North Carolina's Civitas Institute which called for readers to submit "Obamacare horror stor[ies]." Watchdog.org published a reporter's first-hand "maddening" experience with trying to log onto the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.
The user complaints are not completely unwarranted, as very real technical issues attributed to heavy traffic on the sites and software problems have been reported. High demand to access the health care exchanges drove 8.6 million unique victors to HealthCare.gov in the first 72 hours after the exchanges went live.
However, much of the negative local coverage of the rollout fails to take the exchanges in perspective. Few reports question whether it is reasonable to expect such a large and complex undertaking to run smoothly right out of the gate. The 2005 enrollment of millions of seniors in Medicare Part D - the government program to subsidize the cost of prescription drugs for Medicare patients - is the closest way to put the ACA exchanges in perspective.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Sherman Frederick hyped two debunked myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the false claim that the Cleveland Clinic is cutting costs as a direct result of the ACA and that "skinny networks" will limit access to quality care.
In his September 28 column, Frederick claimed the truth about the ACA was revealed when Eileen Sheil, corporate communications director for the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said that the clinic would be cutting its budget and making other employment decisions due to the law. The column continued:
Ms. Sheil announced that in order to prepare for Obamacare, the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world's best health care providers, would slash up to 6 percent of its 2014 budget, put some 3,000 employees into early retirement, hold positions vacant longer and, if necessary, lay off employees.
Let that sink in. Just like that, the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic brought to bended knee by Obamacare. If this law can do that to one of our best medical institutions, what's going to happen to the quality of our local hospitals? How will isolated, rural facilities cope?
The problem with Frederick's assertion is that it's not true. The Atlantic reached out to Sheil who "seemed a bit confused by the emphasis on Obamacare in reports" and explained that the clinic had been "working on reducing costs for years" in order to remain viable, and the ACA was just the catalyst to implement those decisions. Fox News' Greta Van Susteren also debunked this myth when she backpedaled on initial Fox reports after speaking with Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the clinic.
Anti-Affordable Care Act (ACA) group Generation Opportunity placed a misinformed op-ed aimed at Millennials in at least a half dozen local papers in an effort to prevent younger Americans from enrolling in the Affordable Care Act 's individual exchanges.
Generation Opportunity's op-ed ran in at least a half-dozen newspapers over the weekend of September 28, including in Nevada's Las Vegas Review-Journal and Florida's Sun-Sentinel. The piece was authored by former unsuccessful Congressional candidate from Pennsylvania and president of Generation Opportunity -- a Koch-brothers backed anti-Affordable Care Act group -- Evan Feinberg. The editorial attempted to frame the ACA as a "bad deal for young people" and urged them to "opt out" by claiming it will cost them a lot of money and that it "relies on a system of generational redistribution":
Apparently they think Millennials are gullible. But no veneer of popularity can mask the exchange system's deep problems. The simple fact is that they are a bad deal for young people. And as a result, it makes more financial sense for Millennials to opt out and purchase a non-Obamacare policy on the private market.
The most obvious problem with the exchange system is how it perversely relies on a system of generational redistribution. Quite simply, the law takes from the young to subsidize the old. That's why the White House is so dead-set on getting young people to sign up -- without our money, the system won't work, and the exchanges will enter what has been called a "death spiral."
Despite conservatives' constant attempt to turn young people away from the ACA, many Millennials are able to understand that having health insurance can save thousands of dollars in cases of serious injury or illness and that gaining coverage through the exchanges, employer benefits, or through private plans also allows them to access affordable prescriptions, and afford preventive care which can help prevent minor issues from becoming major health concerns.
Feinberg clearly recognizes the benefits of health coverage, as he suggests that young people "opt out and purchase a non-Obamacare policy on the private market." However, Feinberg leaves out the important detail that federal tax credits, often referred to as subsidies, are only available through the exchanges and are designed to make coverage affordable. Suggesting young people "opt out" and buy coverage through a private plan adds up to telling Millennials to pay more for private coverage that must meet identical standards as the plans offered on exchanges.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal took a news article from its own newspaper out of context to mislead about insurance coverage and provider networks in Nevada under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In a September 19 editorial discussing new coverage options under the ACA, the Review-Journal suggested that people would be forced from their current provider networks onto streamlined "skinny networks," which would offer fewer doctor and hospital choices but would also cut health insurer costs (emphasis added):
President Barack Obama's 2009 guarantee was emphatic. "We will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period."
ObamaCare exchanges roll out in less than two weeks. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- or at least the portions of it the president deems politically expedient -- takes effect Jan. 1. And many Nevadans are about to learn the value of the president's word -- and get notice worthy of an exclamation-point tirade.
As reported by the Review-Journal's Jennifer Robison on Sept. 12, Nevada's insurers are expected to control the costs of dozens of coverage mandates by slashing the number of doctors and hospitals they contract with, creating what local employee benefits consultants call "skinny networks."
If you like your doctor, and your doctor isn't in your new skinny network, then guess what? You will not be able keep your doctor. Period.
But the editorial is misleading for several reasons. First, the Review-Journal article to which the editorial referred actually indicated that those who already have health coverage through an employer or their own business wouldn't see any coverage changes at all unless they elected to switch (emphasis added):
Whether you'll see a trimmed-down network in 2014 depends on your current coverage. If you have a policy through a big company or a self-insured business, and you don't change plans Jan. 1, your network should stay the same. If you have to change plans, or if you're buying for the first time, you could see thin networks.
For carriers who offer them, skinny networks save money two ways. First, with fewer providers, consumers won't seek as much care. If the closest hospital in your network is 20 minutes away, you're less likely to make an unnecessary trip to the ER, for example. So the networks cut patient-use rates.
They also let insurers carve out the priciest providers. One carrier told Caparso a heart procedure that costs $19,000 at one local hospital runs $43,000 at another. With a skinny network, that carrier can offload the more expensive hospital and cut its reimbursement exposure by more than half.
The editorial also promoted the false claim that insurance rates "have to go up" under the ACA. However, a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that premium prices are expected to be 18 percent lower than previous 2014 projections:
In the eleven states for which data are available, the lowest cost silver plan in the individual market in 2014 is, on average, 18% less expensive than [Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation's] estimate of 2014 individual market premiums derived from CBO publications.
Lastly, the Review-Journal's editorial used common conservative scare tactics to stoke fears about fraud in the federal subsidies for health coverage. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on September 10 showing that income verification procedures are already in place to ward off potential fraud, and will be ready for the January 1 launch. As CNN reported, those applying for federal financial aid under the exchanges will have their incomes verified against federal records:
Exchanges must still check the applicant's income against a federal database, which will include information from his federal tax returns and a record of Social Security benefits.
The exchanges will be looking for disparities between what the applicant says and what's in the database.
If it looks like someone is understating his income by more than 10%, and the exchange doesn't have other sources to quickly check against, the exchange may choose to rely on what the applicant says.
But in those cases, the exchange must also conduct a random sample of similar applicants to make sure the verification process is working.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal failed to note that the author of a recent op-ed on the fast food worker strike is closely associated with a lobbying group for the fast food industry.
The August 30 op-ed titled, "Minimum wage hike means fewer jobs," was authored by Michael Saltsman, who the paper identified simply as the "research director at the Employment Policies Institute." Saltsman wrote that increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which fast food workers are currently demanding in strikes across the country, would leave employers with no choice but to "provide the same service with fewer employees," a common conservative myth which has been debunked.
The paper did not disclose that the Employment Policies Institute is one of several front groups started by corporate lobbyist Richard Berman. Berman, who has received the nickname "Dr. Evil" for the corporate clients he represents, was featured in an April 2007 CBS report which explained his lobbying efforts:
Rick Berman takes a certain pride, even joy, in the nickname "Dr. Evil." But the people who use it see nothing funny about it--they mean it.
His real name is Rick Berman, a Washington lobbyist and arch-enemy of other lobbyists and do-gooders who would have government control--and even ban-a myriad of products they claim are killing us, products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in. He's against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups and unions of every kind.
A Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial opposing minimum wage laws claimed that minimum wage jobs are only meant to be starting points for young workers who will later seek better paying jobs and that increasing the minimum wage would hurt youth employment, citing a fast food industry lobbyist's think tank to support these claims. In reality, studies show that minimum wage work is not limited to entry-level workers, increases in minimum wage would not hurt youth employment, and Nevada would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal hyped the need for entitlement reform, calling for an increase in eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare, means-testing or tying benefits to a beneficiary's income, and competition for Medicare. However, the Review-Journal neglected to mention that health care cost growth has been slowing down and that enacting these policy prescriptions would hurt seniors and low-income Americans.
Las Vegas Review Journal contributor Sherman Frederick penned a column claiming that state legislators are pushing a new bill seeking to bolster sex education in Nevada because they believe "Nevada girls are easy."
After discussing one Hispanic legislator's support of comprehensive sex education, which Frederick assumes is just teaching students "how to put a Ziploc bag over a cucumber," Frederick determines that the argument the legislator is making is that Hispanic girls are "really, really easy":
As easy as Nevada girls are, you see, Nevada's Hispanic girls are really, really easy. That comes from the mouth of Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas. According to him, that's because Hispanic parents never talk to their children about sex. So government must do it.
Lest you think I am making this up, take a look at this excerpt from the Reno Gazette-Journal's Ray Hagar, who interviewed Kihuen about AB230, and Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, who testified in favor of the bill and revealed that she got pregnant as a teen and had it aborted.
Instead, we have AB230. Social conservatives on one side. Liberals on the other. And wanna-be leaders unwittingly (I hope) contending that not only are Nevada girls easy, Nevada's Hispanic girls are really, really easy.
Frederick claimed that the "Nevada girls are easy" quote comes from a news report by Reno Gazette-Journal's Ray Hager. However, Hager said in a tweet "That's Sherm's quote. I, or anyone I've quoted, did not say that": (click to enlarge)
The Las Vegas Review-Journal promoted a plan to create a merit pay system for teachers, but failed to note that merit-based pay schemes have not succeeded and could hurt students in low-income areas.
In the May 1 editorial, the paper claims that criteria such as "teacher experience, credentialing, and graduate degrees do not translate to higher student achievement" and should no longer be the basis for pay increases. Instead, it advocates for a merit pay system, as proposed by former Nevada State Superintendent James Guthrie, which would increase teacher pay based on a testing criteria. The top earners would make $200,000 a year, which, in Guthrie's estimation, would attract some of the nation's top teachers and "rescue Nevada public education."
Teachers are currently paid less than comparable workers and their pay has been declining. However, switching to a merit based system is not a proven solution. A study by the RAND corporation which looked at a merit pay system that gave bonuses to better performing teachers, found that, while students performed better over the course of the study, "students of teachers randomly assigned to the treatment group (eligible for bonuses) did not outperform students whose teachers were assigned to the control group (not eligible for bonuses)." A similar RAND study analyzing New York City's experiment with bonuses for teachers found similar results, causing Education Week's blog to claim that it "put the final nail in the coffin" for the NYC program. According to Education Week, the study confirmed that the bonus incentive wasn't achieving its desired outcome:
Apparently the RAND study, commissioned by New York City's education department, was the final straw. The RAND researchers, like those in the previous studies, found the program did not raise student achievement in mathematics or reading in any grade, nor did it improve teacher job satisfaction. The findings led to the city's decision last week to eliminate the program.
Researchers suggested that the program had not adequately motivated staff to understand the program or buy in to the criteria for the bonuses, and noticed that both participating and control schools already faced intense pressure to improve because of the city's accountability measures.