The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review cherry-picked data surrounding the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) effect on health care premiums for small businesses, failing to explain that a small rise in prices for some will allow a more fair premium rating policy for all and could save small businesses money in the long term.
The March 11 editorial references a misleading Investor's Business Daily editorial which cites a Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) claim that a number of small businesses will see health care premium increases as a result of the ACA by 2016:
The latest ObamaCare fabrication, exposed by the health system's own numbers cruncher, is that government-directed medical care somehow will reduce small-business premiums by 4 percent -- and by as much as 25 percent in 2016.
But the dream proffered back in 2009 by President Obama has become today's nightmare, as detailed by the actuary for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services: 65 percent of small businesses offering insurance will see their rates go up.
And that will affect about 11 million workers, according to Investor's Business Daily.
Although the actuary's report doesn't say how much rates will rise, studies cited by Investor's Business Daily peg the hike between 12 percent and 20 percent. Which businesses are likely to see their rates inflate? Why, those that employ younger -- and healthier -- workers, who under ObamaCare inevitably must pay more to keep the scheme afloat.
However the CMS report cited by the Tribune-Review and Investors Business Daily provides a narrow look at how small businesses are affected by the ACA by leaving out other factors which could relate to premium prices. In addition, CMS also admits "there is a large degree of uncertainty associated with this estimate" (emphasis added):
This analysis focuses on the number of people with health insurance coverage through their employer whose premium rates are expected to increase or decrease as a result of the guaranteed issue, guaranteed renewability, and premium rating provisions of the ACA only. Other factors affecting rates such as changes in product design, provider networks, or competition are not considered. In addition, other provisions of the ACA, including the coverage expansions, the extension of dependent coverage to age 26, the individual mandate, and the employer mandate will impact the availability of coverage, the take-up of that coverage, and the premium rates charged to those who currently have employer-sponsored insurance, but those impacts are not included in this estimate. We prepared a more complete report on the financial effects of the ACA in 2010.11 As mentioned previously, the effect on large employers is expected to be negligible, therefore our evaluation examines the impact on employees of fully-insured small firms.
There is a rather large degree of uncertainty associated with this estimate. The impact could vary significantly depending on the mix of firms that decide to offer health insurance coverage. In reality, the employer's decisions to offer coverage will be based on far more factors than the three that are focused on in this report so understanding the effects of just these provisions will always be challenging.
Recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review coverage of the electoral defeat of two Pennsylvania mayors who were members of gun violence prevention group Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) demonstrates how media cherry-pick data to falsely suggest mayors risk losing their jobs by joining the group.
MAIG, a coalition of more than 1,000 mayors, is best known for its Demand Action campaign in support of expanded background checks on gun sales and recent partnership with the 130,000 member grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
In recent months the Tribune-Review has suggested that Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane and Butler Mayor Maggie Stock lost their re-election campaigns because of their MAIG memberships. The paper hasn't mentioned the MAIG memberships of any of the mayors who won reelection in 2013; 95 percent of Pennsylvania MAIG members were reelected.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review cited deceptive statistics from the Heritage Foundation to attack the immigration reform effort, falsely claiming that the Obama administration is not enforcing current laws and arguing that it would continue this practice under a comprehensive immigration reform law.
A December 15 editorial by the Tribune-Review cited a post by the Heritage Foundation to claim that "the deportation of illegal aliens, in fact, has sunk to its lowest level in 40 years" and that the Department of Homeland Security has accepted 81 percent of 580,000 applicants for provisional legal status under a program called the Deferred Act of Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Tribune-Review argued that these numbers show that the Obama administration is not committed to border enforcement and therefore should not be trusted to roll out a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
But the Tribune-Review's analysis should be taken with a grain of salt since its Heritage Foundation numbers come from "secret numbers" obtained by the anti-immigrant nativist Center for Immigration Studies, which is known for fabricating information and pushing misleading studies.
Ignoring the dubious source of the numbers, the editorial still fails to take into account the nearly 2 million people the administration has deported over the course of President Obama's tenure. The pace of deportations under Obama's administration is actually faster than the previous Republican administration. Even with possibly decreasing deportations -- which could also be a result of lower numbers of undocumented immigrants due to alternative enforcement measures coupled with the administration's priority of deporting high-risk individuals given its finite resources, the cost of deportation, and the current backlog of cases -- the Obama administration has prosecuted a record number of undocumented immigrants in 2013.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review highlighted a right-wing think tank study which found that premiums would significantly increase for 27-year-old Pennsylvanians without pointing out any other costs savings for young people due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The October 14 Tribune-Review editorial cited a study by the Commonwealth Foundation to claim "premiums [will] go up 121 percent for 27-year-old males and 62 percent for same-aged females in the Pittsburgh area." The paper also included sparse anecdotal evidence to come to the sweeping conclusion that there will be "outrageous cost hikes."
The Commonwealth Foundation, which has a dubious funding record from right-wing mega-donors and ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), published a study claiming that, compared to current insurance premiums on ehealthinsurance.com, 27-year-olds in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia would see their premiums rise significantly. Although left out of the Tribune-Review editorial, the study itself notes that "the comparison does not take into account the tax credits available to individuals" or "out-of-pocket costs, including co-pays and deductibles" which have been predicted to fall under the ACA.
By failing to note the impact of subsides, both the editorial and the study leave out a significant portion of savings that would manifest as a result of the ACA for young adults. According to a report by FamiliesUSA, almost 900,000 Pennsylvania residents would be eligible for premium tax credits or subsidies in 2014. Of that number, young adults -- those between the ages of 18 and 34 -- are "the likeliest age group to be eligible for premium tax credits, making up approximately 36 percent of all those who are eligible."
A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editorial mischaracterized Common Core education standards as "central planning," claiming that "a bureaucracy far removed from any school district" would now control local education. In fact, the standards were developed by states with input from local schools; moreover, no school is required to adopt them.
Media outlets cherry-picked facts from a recent Health and Human Services report on the Head Start education program to promote the myth that the program is a failure. However, neither the HHS report nor other studies confirm those claims, and reports actually show the program has had a positive impact both early on and later in students' lives.
Major newspapers in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Nevada have urged their governors to reject expansion of Medicaid -- the shared state-federal program that provides health care coverage to low income Americans -- under the Affordable Care Act, citing high costs that they claim would add to the states' financial burdens. In fact, a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the Medicaid expansion would substantially reduce the number of uninsured at little cost to their state budgets.
As governors continue to decide whether to implement key aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the editorial boards of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Las Vegas Review-Journal urged the rejection of Medicaid expansion, while the editorial board of The Oklahoman applauded the recent decision by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin to reject the funding.
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
As stipulated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Medicaid eligibility will expand to an additional 800,000 Pennsylvanians -- in effect, placing a quarter of the state's residents on government insurance, according to the Commonwealth Foundation. Never mind that Medicaid currently consumes 30 percent of the state's operating budget.
Once fully realized, ObamaCare will have all the appeal of a perpetual flu.
From the Las Vegas-Review Journal:
The accompanying Medicaid expansion, meanwhile, would throw millions of additional Americans into a system that's already bankrupting state governments and increasing costs in the private market. Geoffrey Lawrence of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, noting last week that Gov. Sandoval is pondering whether to expand Medicaid eligibility in Nevada, said any Medicaid expansion would mean reduced access to care for those currently enrolled.
President Obama won re-election this month, but the states hold the future of ObamaCare in their hands. Knowing the harm the law would do to our citizens, the economy, and the quality of American health care, Gov. Sandoval should join with many of his colleagues and decline to become the enabler of a vastly expensive, European-style medical rationing system that poll after poll has shown most Americans do not want.
From The Oklahoman:
Oklahoma has joined a growing list of states that won't expand Medicaid or implement state-run health exchanges, two key components of Obamacare. Predictably, the political left argues Republicans are being obstructionist. But why would state Republicans rush to implement a bad law to benefit a president who's made clear he would never do the same if the tables were turned?
As of June 2011, Medicaid programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia provided health care coverage to 52.6 million people. However, as the economy has improved, the rate of growth of enrollment in the program has slowed down. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government wants to expand the program in an effort to decrease the number of uninsured by providing coverage to those with an income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Previously, qualification for the program varied depending on factors such as age or employment status. Despite the claims from these editorial boards, the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion provision will in fact achieve its goal, at only a slightly higher cost than what those states currently pay for Medicaid.
A recent study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that if all states expanded Medicaid it could lead to health care coverage for an additional 21.3 million people nationally with a total cost of around $1 trillion. Yet, the combined costs to states would only be approximately $76 billion as the federal government will cover the other $952 billion.
Specifically, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Oklahoma would see significant increases in the number of people insured for only small changes to their current spending.
In Pennsylvania, if all states expanded Medicaid, the state would see a 52 percent reduction in uninsured citizens, while spending 1.4 percent more on Medicaid than current expenditures when accounting for the savings in uncompensated care. While Pennsylvania's expansion costs are higher than some other states, healthcare professionals note that this is because Pennsylvania currently has one of the more draconian Medicaid systems in the country. From WHYY in Pennsylvania:
New Jersey is on the opposite end of the spectrum, with projected costs of $1.2 billion with an expansion. And Pennsylvania? Almost $2 billion over 10 years, even after accounting for savings.
"Pennsylvania has not expanded to adults whereas other states have," said Ann Bacharach with the Pennsylvania Health Law Project.
"If you're a single, childless adult, there is not much that the state can offer in terms of coverage," Bacharach said.
So the new enrollees covered by an expansion would add costs, but the federal contribution would not provide the same savings in Pennsylvania as it will in Delaware.
Meanwhile, Nevada would see a 44.8 percent reduction in uninsured citizens for only 2.6 percent more in Medicaid spending if all states expanded Medicaid coverage. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Review-Journal's editorial board has attacked the Medicaid provision of the Affordable Care Act while neglecting to note any of the benefits expanding Medicaid would have on their state.
Lastly, Oklahoma would see a 54.4 percent reduction in uninsured for only 1.9 percent more in Medicaid spending if all states expanded Medicaid coverage. From Tulsa World:
[David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute] said the governor's calculations also leave out savings to the state in areas such as health, mental health and corrections that are currently outside the Medicaid system but could be included with expansion. Savings to those agencies has been estimated at more than $49.4 million a year.
Also missing from the calculation would be tax revenue increases the state would see as a result of the Affordable Care Act, he said.
For example, the state has a small tax on insurance premiums. If thousands of Oklahomans begin purchasing insurance through a federal health insurance exchange, that tax revenue goes up, he said.
If every state adopted the Medicaid expansion provision they would receive $9 in federal money for every $1 they spend to expand the program. As John Holahan, head of the Urban Institute's Health Policy Research Center and the study's author, said, "It's hard to conclude anything other than this is pretty attractive and should be pretty hard for states to walk away from." Unfortunately, the editorial boards of the Tribune-Review, Review-Journal, and The Oklahoman failed to provide that perspective and explain the overall benefit of Medicaid expansion to their readers.
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.
This week, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review attacked information sessions set up by non-profit organizations to help undocumented youth navigate President Obama's deferred action plan while avoiding scammers. The Tribune-Review, relying almost entirely on a single article from The Hill, tried to minimize the importance of these sessions by framing the issue as partisan, strictly because some Democrats are participating. However, these sessions are a helpful and necessary tool for undocumented youth and their families to ensure that those eligible are taking advantage of the deferred action properly and avoiding scammers -- all at no cost to taxpayers.
From the Tribune-Review:
"Outreach" programs are being organized to help illegals "navigate applications," understand fees and avoid rip-offs, The Hill newspaper reports. This, after Mr. Obama sidestepped Congress and ordered that "qualified" illegals brought into the U.S. as children could remain here -- temporarily.
But if these are, in fact, talented, achievement-oriented people, then they shouldn't need the Democratic Party's "help" filling out immigration forms.
And how much is this "reach-out" going to reach into taxpayers' pockets?
Despite the Tribune-Review's assertion that the outreach programs are unnecessary because qualified undocumented youth "are, in fact, talented achievement-oriented people," these programs are an essential tool for immigrant communities to receive proper information about their rights under deferred action. Instead of providing information about the sessions, the editorial mocks those eligible, some of whom are potentially still in their early teens.
Pennsylvania's five largest newspapers have generally failed to cover the mounting defections of lawmakers and corporations from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing advocacy group whose membership and model legislation have had significant influence on Pennsylvania government.
In recent days, The Washington Times and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review published op-eds by members of the Heritage Foundation containing the false claim that union autoworkers earn $75 an hour in wages and benefits. In fact, according to General Motors, these claims are based not only on current workers' hourly wages and benefits, such as health care and retirement, but also retirement and health-care benefits that U.S. automakers are providing for current retirees.
Political reporter and editorial page columnist Salena Zito suggested in a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review blog post that Sen. Barack Obama's 15-point lead over Sen. John McCain in a Newsweek poll foreshadows defeat for Obama by comparing him to 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.