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.
The Union Leader published a misleading op-ed written by Greg Moore, state director of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which promoted tired conservative myths surrounding Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire.
Moore's op-ed in the September 30 Union Leader attempted to discredit Medicaid expansion currently being debated by a panel of state lawmakers who are expected to make a final recommendation by October 15. The piece pushed previously debunked claims that Medicaid expansion would force people off private health care and onto Medicaid, would create long wait times to see doctors, and that the government will be unable to pay for expansion:
According to a report commissioned for the state Department of Health and Human Services by the Lewin Group, expansion would result in 20,500 people being dropped from their high-quality private health insurance into a substandard Medicaid program.
With expansion, we will also need to be prepared to wait longer to see our doctors. A study of Oregon's expansion published in May's New England Journal of Medicine showed that under Medicaid, with its lack of deductibles and minimalist co-payments, health care utilization of those covered exploded. With a major new demand in doctors' time and no new supply of doctors, it means that under expansion doctors will be stretched thin and we should all be prepared to wait more to get an appointment or a referral.
Then there's the question of money. Obamacare supporters claim that the federal government will pay for the entirety of expansion for three years and the vast majority as far as the eye can see, and that the federal government will "always" keep its promise.
With a nation that's $17 trillion in debt, it's just a matter of time until the federal government steps away from the high cost of expansion, which starts at more than $350 million each year in New Hampshire and then grows. If state taxpayers have to pick that up, it's hello to a state income tax.
Moore's first point concerning the 20,500 people expected to move from private health care to Medicaid, according to the Lewin Group study, fails to explain the whole story. While denying Medicaid expansion would keep the estimated 20,500 on private insurance, it would also deny 58,000 people any sort of coverage. According to the Lewin Group, failing to expand Medicaid would also result in a need to provide higher uncompensated care:
Although health systems would see more of an improvement in their bottom line, they would need to provide a greater volume of uncompensated care without the Medicaid expansion.
Uncompensated care costs hospitals millions of dollars each year, and with recent cuts to state reimbursement, this could cancel out savings that hospital systems see from denying Medicaid expansion. According to New Hampshire Public Radio:
"Uncompensated care cost our members a little over $300 million this past year," Steve Ahnen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, says, "and obviously the state did not pay out anywhere close to that to hospitals."
Furthermore, the Lewin Group study estimated health systems -- which include hospitals, physician groups, skilled nursing facilities, freestanding surgical centers, and home health agencies - would "see an increase in net income of about $113.1 million" under expansion.
Moore's second point dismissed benefits of giving the uninsured access to health care, claiming that when Oregon expanded care to those in need, "health care utilization of those covered exploded." He continued, making the case that the newly covered would create backlogs in the health care system that would mean limited access to doctors. However, according to The Washington Post, a survey in Michigan found that doctors were willing to take on more patients in the event of Medicaid expansion. Furthermore, New Hampshire has more doctors per capita than Michigan, meaning there are more doctors available for each person.
Finally, Moore suggests that the federal government may not be able to pay for its share of the Medicaid expansion, thus shifting costs to the state; however, this myth has been previously debunked. According to The Washington Post, "there just isn't a history of the federal government 'dumping' new spending on the state."
Moore's organization, Americans for Prosperity, is a notorious media manipulator that is funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. The Union Leader's op-ed page continues a pattern of support for AFP by repeatedly publishing its misleading talking points.
The New Hampshire Union Leader exaggerated reports concerning the narrow insurance networks soon to be available on the state's health care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by claiming residents of New Hampshire will have their "health care choices constrained by Obamacare." In fact, narrow insurance networks are not a new concept and allow insurance companies to create plans that are more affordable and accessible to low-income citizens.
The New Hampshire Union Leader ran a story promoting the conservative organization Americans For Prosperity's (AFP) misinformation campaign against the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without mentioning major factual concerns with AFP's campaign.
The September 10 news story highlighted JustExemptMe.com, which is a website run by Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire (AFP-NH) to allow New Hampshire residents to sign a petition asking to be exempted from provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The article pushed the myth that Congress is exempt from the Affordable Care Act while only citing the state director of AFP-NH as a source for the piece:
AFP-NH said the administration has given exemptions to numerous groups, including members of Congress, labor unions and employers in House Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi's congressional district.
"When the unions came to the President to ask for an exemption from ObamaCare, he gave it to them," said Greg Moore, AFP-NH state director.
"When members of Congress said they needed a subsidy, he gave them one. When big insurance companies said they needed relief from a cap in out-of-pocket costs in ObamaCare, the President obliged.
The Union-Leader article is just a reformatted version of a press release issued on September 10 by Americans for Prosperity. Yet by repeating those talking points in its news section, the paper legitimizes the message of an indefensible organization that has a partisan agenda, and aids its campaign to manipulate politicians and media coverage of the ACA.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial promoted inaccurate claims regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including an exaggeration of the effects of the ACA on employee benefits, a false claim on rising premium prices, and a warning that Medicaid expansion would shift costs to hospitals, even as the hospital community praised the ACA for being financially beneficial.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial attacked Planned Parenthood for receiving "navigator grants" to help Americans enroll in health insurance, claiming the organization's "core business includes abortion-on-demand" and quoted a source questioning whether the group should receive these funds. In fact, more than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood's work is in preventative care, and the organization meets the qualifications for the grant money.
The New Hampshire Union-Leader whitewashed the effects of sequestration on the Head Start program, ignoring research to falsely claim the program has no measurable benefits.
In a May 4 editorial, the Union-Leader discussed the closure of two Head Start programs in New Hampshire due to budgetary constraints following sequestration. While downplaying the effects of the schools' closures, the editorial also claimed that research has showed that the program is "a well-intentioned boondoggle with no measurable lasting impact on the children it serves."
The grim ax of sequestration has swung again. The target is New Hampshire's children. Don't believe that story.
Jeanne Agri of Southern New Hampshire Services, using the same talking points as her counterparts in other Head Start programs across America, told the Union Leader that a 5 percent cut in federal funding means closure for Head Start in Hudson and Newmarket. Cuts are planned in Hampton Falls.
Although the value of its services is not clear, Head Start has long been politically untouchable. Before the sequester, spending rose year after year even though research from liberals and conservatives showed that it is a well-intentioned boondoggle with no measurable lasting impact on the children it serves. Even with the 5 percent cut, its federal budget is higher than in Fiscal 2011. Next year, spending in New Hampshire will still be nearly $14 million.
The Head Start program has had wide ranging benefits for many American children and their parents. Studies have found that children from "high risk households" have seen substantial gains through the program, allowing them to be more prepared for kindergarten. In addition, the health benefits associated with the Head Start program have lowered mortality rates in students ages five to nine enrolled in the program, while simultaneously helping them acquire insurance, receive immunizations, and receive continuous medical and dental care.
The New Hampshire Union Leader downplayed the effects of the impending sequestration cuts despite the devastating impact they would have on necessary programs in New Hampshire.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial on February 25 attacked the premise that sequestration would have devastating effects by claiming that it's "NOT the end of the world as we know it" and that it just means "government must start managing its money":
First, sequester is NOT the end of the world as we know it. Even if those mandated budget cuts occur, it does NOT mean that government, essentially, is shut down. It does not mean the end of services. It does not mean meat or drugs, would go unexamined, and, thus, would disappear from store shelves. It need not mean the air traffic control system must shut down. It does not mean the military would not be able to defend the United States.
It DOES mean government must start managing its money - and end non-essential activities. It does mean there might be far fewer $1,000 hammers purchased by the Pentagon. It probably means there will be far fewer colonels acting as aides to far fewer generals roaming the corridors of the Pentagon. It does mean priorities must be set. It does mean some things will no longer be affordable - and it does, very likely, mean that some people, particularly those employed in government, will lose their jobs.
Despite the Union Leader's assertion, the sequestration cuts would have devastating effects beyond those employed in government. As Politifact points out, the sequestration cuts would be indiscriminate, meaning that almost all non-defense discretionary spending would be cut by 5.3 percent, and would target far more than just "non-essential activities." Using the Union Leader's example, while meat and drugs will eventually be examined, the cuts will lead to furloughs among inspectors and potential delays in processing meat.
New Hampshire specifically would feel the effects of sequestration for essential activities in education and public health funding. According to a White House fact sheet, this year alone New Hampshire could lose of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in necessary programs. The state is set to lose "approximately $1,078,000 in funding for primary and secondary education" which would mean less funding for about 1,000 students and 10 schools. The cuts to public health benefits and childhood vaccinations would also be drastic. From the White House fact sheet:
- Vaccines for Children: In New Hampshire around 680 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $46,000.
- Public Health: New Hampshire will lose approximately $126,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events. In addition, New Hampshire will lose about $330,000 in grants to help prevent and treat substance abuse, resulting in around 300 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs. And the New Hampshire State Department of Health Statistics and Data Management will lose about $60,000 resulting in around 1,500 fewer HIV tests.
Though the Union Leader admitted that the cuts might slow economic growth initially, it failed to point out that even low-end estimates of nationwide job losses are around 750,000 with some estimating approximately one million jobs lost due to the cuts.
A two-part Media Matters examinantion of the largest newspapers in CO, NH, NV, OH, PA and VA from July 1-August 15 and from August 16-October 31, 2012 revealed a variety of shortcomings in the way clean energy and regulatory issues are covered by those publications.
Two days after the widespread publication of Mitt Romney's controversial declaration that 47 percent of Americans are "dependent on government," the largest newspaper in Nevada, a swing state in the 2012 election the 2012, has thus far failed to cover the story. Additionally, on September 18, the "Swing States Project" at the Columbia Journalism Review noted that another important swing state publication -- New Hampshire's Union Leader -- had also failed to cover the Romney comments.
A story published yesterday by the Columbia Journalism Review pointed out that the New Hampshire Union Leader -- New Hampshire's largest newspaper by circulation according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations -- had failed to cover Mitt Romney's comments that 47 percent of Americans will support Obama "no matter what" and that they are "dependent upon government."
While the Union Leader still has not published a news story on the topic, it did publish an editorial defending Romney's comments explaining that it was obviously a "statement of campaign strategy, not policy." From the editorial:
Naturally, the media portray this as Romney not caring about half the country. Absurd. It was a statement of campaign strategy, not policy, and every single national political reporter knows that.
In contrast to the Union Leader's limited attention to the issue, the Review-Journal -- Nevada's largest newspaper by circulation -- has not published anything on the subject at all, according to a Media Matters search of Nexis records and the Review-Journal website. In fact, despite not mentioning the comments once in its news or opinion sections, the Review-Journal has published two unrelated stories on Mitt Romney since Monday -- including a story discussing a private fundraiser Romney was planning on having in Las Vegas this Friday.
While 41 swing state newspapers made the Romney comments a front page story, the Review-Journal has mentioned it only once in an online-only blog post by opinion columnist and former publisher, Sherman Frederick, who, unsurprisingly, defended Romney for his "admirable truth-telling." Unfortunately, it seems that similar to the Union Leader, over 200,000 print subscribers of the Review-Journal can't count on their hometown paper to report a story with national implications if it doesn't look good for its preferred candidate.
The New Hampshire Union Leader's editorial board attacked the new Medicaid expansion provisions in the Affordable Care Act and instead proposed a block granting scheme, but experts say block granting Medicaid would be detrimental to the most vulnerable Americans and decrease the quality of health care.
The Union Leader, New Hampshire's most-read newspaper, published an editorial yesterday urging the state House of Representatives and the Governor to approve SB 289, a bill passed by the state senate that would require voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. SB 289, the Union Leader editors argued, is necessary to protect the integrity of New Hampshire's electoral results from the corrupting danger of rampant voter fraud. Their evidence? The work of discredited liar and undercover videographer James O'Keefe, whose attempted investigation of "voter fraud" in New Hampshire last January drew rebukes from election law experts who believed his scheme may have broken the law.
The Union Leader wrote:
Last year, Gov. John Lynch vetoed a voter ID bill, proclaiming, "There is no voter fraud problem in New Hampshire." This year he cannot make that claim with a straight face. The Project Veritas sting on Primary Day in January showed how easy it is to obtain a ballot fraudulently in New Hampshire.
Project Veritas, which is run by O'Keefe, is a surprising source for a mainstream publication to cite, given his history of lies, deception and hyper-partisanship. More importantly, O'Keefe's "sting" in New Hampshire didn't come close to establishing that voter fraud has been committed in New Hampshire at all, much less on any scale that would affect the outcome of an election.
In fact, the specter of a voter fraud epidemic is largely a figment of right-wing imagination. In a 2007 report, NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found that allegations of widespread voter fraud are often exaggerated and that many claims of voter fraud "simply do not pan out." According to the Justice Department, prosecutions for voter fraud are generally few and far between. Even conservative commentator and voter ID proponent Hans von Spakovsky has admitted that there is no "massive fraud in American elections."
Voter ID laws do, however, have the potential to strip fundamental constitutional rights away from many otherwise eligible citizens, especially students, the elderly, and racial minorities. The Brennan Center estimates voter ID laws could exclude millions of eligible voters:
Ahead of the 2012 elections, a wave of legislation tightening restrictions on voting has suddenly swept across the country. More than 5 million Americans could be affected by the new rules already put in place this year -- a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
Unfortunately, the Union Leader -- and legislators in New Hampshire -- are arguing over how strict the law should be, not whether requiring photo identification is a bad idea for the people of New Hampshire.
On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Union Leader penned a misleading editorial about the tax rates different groups of Americans paid as a percentage of their income. The piece attacked President Obama's call for wealthy Americans to pay more by claiming "the rich and super-rich pay a far higher percentage of their income in taxes than the lower and middle classes do." From the Union Leader:
As you can see, the rich and super-rich pay a far higher percentage of their income in taxes than the lower and middle classes do. On average, people who earn more than $500,000 a year pay more than three times the percentage that people earning less than $100,000 a year pay.
When looking at all federal taxes paid, the richest 20 percent of Americans paid 68.9 percent of them. The richest 1 percent paid 28.1 percent. Despite recent rhetoric from the President, the rich shoulder a much larger share of the federal tax burden than everyone else.
It's quite apparent from the editorial that the Union Leader is leaving out a substantial amount of information about taxation and the rich in America. First of all, from 1983-2009 the top 5% of Americans accounted for 81.7% of the wealth gain in the United States. Despite gaining a bigger piece of the pie, thousands of millionaires and billionaires are paying a smaller share of their incomes in taxes than millions of middle-class Americans; in 2009, for instance, 1,470 of the richest Americans paid no federal income taxes at all.
Tax rates for the wealthiest Americans have been steadily falling over the past 50 years. In 1960 the top marginal income tax rate was 90% while today it is just 35%. However, given the Union Leader's own data, it doesn't seem like many are paying that rate anyway. What is notable from the Union Leader's data is that after the $2 million to $5 million dollar bracket the percentages begin to decrease again -- evidence that many of the wealthiest earners are paying a lower percentage of their income in taxes than those that make less than them.
By only referencing income tax rates, the Union Leader deceptively omits the fact that the middle class shoulders a disproportionately excessive burden when it comes to payroll, excise and state and local taxes. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out:
Considering all taxes -- federal, state, and local -- the bottom 20 percent of households pays an average of 16 to 17 percent of their incomes in taxes. The next 20 percent of households pays about 21 percent of income in taxes, on average.
It's disingenuous for the Union Leader to put up income tax numbers and claim the burden on the rich is so onerous. Ultimately the hardship and burden falls on those making the least, not the most. As Jonathan Chait, formerly of The New Republic, explained in an October 2010 column:
It would be nice if nobody had to pay taxes. Given that we do, though, shifting a greater share of the burden onto the rich causes less hardship. (Raise Paris Hilton's taxes by 1 percent and that's one less vacation home for her grandchildren; raise her maid's taxes by 1 percent, and her kids are sweltering because they can't afford air-conditioning.)
From the December 4 edition of NBC's Meet The Press:
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On January 5, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that Sen. John McCain "told employees at BAE Systems that [Mitt] Romney's loss [in the Iowa caucuses] was due to his negative campaigning." In another January 5 article, the Union Leader reported McCain's assertion that "negative ads don't work." While both articles noted that Romney has been running negative ads "suggesting McCain supports amnesty because of his earlier support for a bipartisan immigration bill," neither article mentioned that McCain has run negative TV and Web ads against Romney including one his campaign released the same day McCain spoke to BAE Systems employees.