Fox News hyped a new GOP health care proposal as a viable alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that it claimed could reduce health care costs, lower premiums, and extend coverage more than the ACA. But Fox omitted other analyses that found the new GOP proposal would allow insurance companies to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions, reduce Medicaid expansion, and charge older Americans more for coverage.
On January 27, Republican Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Richard Burr (R-NC) released their legislative proposal, The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act (or CARE), as an alternative to the ACA.
During the January 31 edition of Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox's chief congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel highlighted a friendly analysis of the CARE Act from an organization opened by former Congressional Budget Office director and McCain presidential campaign adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Emanuel said that according to this study, the CARE Act would "reduce health care costs, lower premiums, and provide health care coverage to more Americans than Obamacare":
But other reports on the CARE Act have found that it may negatively affect many Americans with its stated goal of repealing the ACA. On the Washington Post's Wonkblog, Sarah Kilff reported that the GOP plan has "structural similarities to Obamacare," but would end the ACA's guarantee that insurance companies will cover individuals with pre-existing conditions:
The Republican proposal would do this in a more limited way: It would end pre-existing conditions limitations for those who remain continuously insured. That means if you lost your job and health insurance, and immediately purchased a plan on the individual market, your insurance company could not use your medical history to set prices. If your coverage did lapse, however, there would be the possibility of facing underwriting fees when purchasing an individual plan.
Kliff also pointed out the GOP plan would limit Medicaid expansion to pregnant women and children living below the poverty line:
The Republican plan puts less emphasis on expanding Medicaid; Obamacare relies on that public program for half of the entire insurance expansion. The replacement plan would limit any Medicaid expansion to pregnant women and children living below the poverty line, and give states the option to decide whether to participate. And even then, those people would have more of a choice: They could decide whether to participate on Medicaid, or use a tax credit to buy private insurance. Under Obamacare, there isn't that option.
Edwin Park, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' Vice President for Health Policy, explained that these provisions of the CARE Act proposal would likely:
- lead to federal Medicaid funding shortfalls that could cause many poor beneficiaries to lose needed care;
- leave coverage unaffordable for many low-income people by significantly raising their premiums, co-payments, and other charges compared to current law; and
- drop or significantly weaken the ACA's consumer protections and market reforms, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.
NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner explained that the CARE Act would allow health insurance companies to charge older enrollees more than they are allowed to under the ACA:
The GOP plan also would let insurers charge older people more than the ACA does, which could lower premiums for younger people. The ACA limits premium differences for older people to three times more than those for young people; the GOP proposal would allow premiums for older people to be as much as five times higher, although states could opt for different "age rating," staffers said.
Besides these negative effects that received no mention from Fox News, the analysis mentioned by Fox isn't as great for the CARE Act as Fox suggested. According to the analysis, only 1 percent -- just 1 percent -- more Americans would be insured by 2023 compared to the ACA. And after reports questioned how much the proposal's financing plan would harm Americans receiving insurance from their employers, TPM reported that a new explainer was posted to the proposal, changing how much it taxes employer-sponsored insurance plans in a major way.