Health Care Reform

Issues ››› Health Care Reform
  • As Polls Show Rising Support To Confirm SCOTUS Nominee, Wash. Post Lauds "Remarkably Successful" Opposition

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    The Washington Post credulously called the efforts by the discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) to prevent the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland "remarkably successful." But polls show the general public is increasingly at odds with JCN's position. Indeed, just last week the Post reported that the results of a new poll was evidence that "Democrats are winning the message war over Garland." The Post promoted the notion of JCN's success in an interview with chief counsel Carrie Severino, who was given a platform to rehash debunked smears about Garland's judicial record on guns and government regulations.

  • STUDY: Cable And Broadcast News Try To Cover The Economy Without Economists

    Economists Made Up 1 Percent Of Guests In The First Quarter Of 2016, While Shows Focused On Campaigns, Inequality

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON & ALEX MORASH

    Expertise from economists was almost completely absent from television news coverage of the economy in the first quarter of 2016, which focused largely on the tax and economic policy platforms of this year’s presidential candidates. Coverage of economic inequality spiked during the period -- tying an all-time high -- driven in part by messaging from candidates on both sides of the aisle, but gender diversity in guests during economic news segments remained low.

  • NY Times Editorial Board Debunks Conservative Myths About Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times editorial board debunked the “big myths” Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are “peddling about the Affordable Care Act and also their ill-conceived plans of what might replace it.” The board wrote that Trump and Cruz are “willing to mislead the public any way they can” to “trash the Affordable Care Act” by “inventing problems that don’t exist and proposing solutions that won’t help.”

    Right-wing media have smeared Obamacare for years with baseless catastrophic predictions and falsehoods, and 2016 Republican presidential candidates have followed suit. That fearmongering has been stunningly wrong, and numerous reports have repeatedly highlighted the Affordable Care Act’s successes in bringing “historic increases in coverage.”

    In an April 19 editorial, the Times’ editorial board explained that, contrary to Trump and Cruz’s misleading attempts to trash the Affordable Care Act, “the law has helped millions of Americans, especially low-wage workers … who previously struggled to pay for coverage.” From the Times’ editorial board:

    “Disaster.” “Incredible economic burden.” “The biggest job-killer in this country.”

    Central to the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz has been the claim that the Affordable Care Act has been a complete failure, and that the only way to save the country from this scourge is to replace it with something they design.

    [...]

    Mr. Cruz claimed that “millions of Americans” had lost their health insurance because of the health reform law.

    […]

    Insurers did stop offering some plans after the law took effect, including those that didn’t provide required benefits like maternity care or that charged higher premiums to older or sicker people. But people with those plans had the opportunity to sign up for others. And over all, the law has drastically reduced the number of Americans who lack health insurance. According to the Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 10 million between 2010, when the law passed, and 2014. While critics said employers might stop offering health insurance because of the law, three million people actually gained coverage through their employers between 2010 and 2014.

    [...]

    Mr. Cruz has called the Affordable Care Act “the biggest job-killer in this country” and said “millions of Americans have lost their jobs, have been forced into part-time work” because of it. This is false. The unemployment rate has fallen since the law took effect, PolitiFact notes, as has the number of people working part time when they would rather work full time. A 2015 study using data from the Current Population Survey found that the law “had virtually no adverse effect on labor force participation, employment or usual hours worked per week through 2014.”

    [...]

    [T]he biggest obstacle stopping insurers from setting up in more states is not regulation; it’s the difficulty of establishing a network of providers in a new market. And such a structure would destroy the longstanding ability of states to regulate health insurance for their populations. Some states, for instance, require coverage for infertility treatment and others have chosen not to. Allowing cross-border plans would encourage insurers to base themselves in low-regulation states, and the result might be a proliferation of poor-quality plans.

    The Affordable Care Act is not perfect.

    [...]

    But the law has helped millions of Americans, especially low-wage workers like cashiers, cooks and waiters who previously struggled to pay for coverage. In inventing problems that don’t exist and proposing solutions that won’t help, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz show that they don’t care about helping Americans get health care, which has never been their interest. They want to trash the Affordable Care Act, and they’re willing to mislead the public any way they can.

  • Conservatives Were Stunningly Wrong About Obamacare, New Report Finds

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    A New York Times analysis found “historic increases” in those covered by the Affordable Care Act, destroying right-wing media predictions about health care reform including that it would “topple the stock market” and enslave Americans. The Times analysis is just one of many pieces of research that have highlighted the successes of the Affordable Care Act.

  • TV News Ignores Historic Findings That Uninsured Rate Drops To “Record Low”

    Broadcast And Cable News Fail To Inform Viewers About Major Obamacare Success Story

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    According to an April 7 update to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for the first quarter of 2016, the uninsured rate among American adults dropped to 11.0 percent -- the lowest rate of uninsurance in the 8-year history of the poll. The uninsured rate has dropped over 6 percentage points since the third quarter of 2013, the last recording period before the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare" went into effect in October 2013. A Media Matters review found that none of the major television outlets reported on Gallup’s historic findings.

  • NY Times Report On Employer-Provided Insurance Puts Another Nail In The Coffin Of Conservatives' ACA Fearmongering

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Times article debunked the right-wing myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would cause employers to stop providing health benefits to employees, reporting that "widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves" were "largely wrong." In fact, according to the Times, "Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance."

    Right-wing media have relentlessly hyped debunked myths and evidence-free claims about the ACA since its passage, including the claim that the health care law would lead employers to cut jobs or shift workers to part-time, that millions would lose their employer-based coverage, and horror stories about rising costs and scaled-back coverage.

    The April 4 article explained that"emerging consensus" holds that the health care law "has not upturned the core of the country's health insurance system," noting that employers are expected to "remain the source of coverage for a majority of working Americans for the next decade" and even "seem to be staying the course even more strongly than they did before the law." The article pointed out that, in fact, "health care remains an important recruitment and retention tool" in the labor market, and employers are accordingly "responding" to employees' expectations of receiving health benefits: 

    The Affordable Care Act was aimed mainly at giving people better options for buying health insurance on their own. There were widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves.

    But those predictions were largely wrong. Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance.

    As it turns out, health care remains an important recruitment and retention tool as the labor market has tightened in recent years. Desirable employees still expect health benefits, and companies are responding, new analyses of federal data show.

    "We're more confident than ever that we'll offer benefits," said Robert Ihrie Jr., a senior vice president for Lowe's Companies, the home improvement retailer.

    Companies get a sizable federal tax break from providing the insurance. And if they dropped the coverage, many workers would expect the money in their paycheck to increase enough to pay for outside insurance -- or would look for a new job.

    The reversal in thinking about employer benefits is so stark that even government budget officials are singing an optimistic tune. They lowered the number of people they think will lose coverage because of the health law and now predict employers will remain the source of coverage for a majority of working Americans for the next decade.

    The surprise turnaround adds to an emerging consensus about the contentious health law: It has not upturned the core of the country's health insurance system, even while insuring millions of low-income people.

    [...]

    Employers seem to be staying the course even more strongly than they did before the law. The percentage of adults under 65 with employer-based insurance held firm for the last five years after steadily declining since 1999, according to an analysis of federal data released last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which closely tracks the health insurance market.

  • New Study: Conservative Media Is An Echo Chamber That Increases Partisanship

    Vox Highlights Study: "Republicans Rely On A Media That Is More Likely To Echo Their Partisan Biases, And Democrats Rely On Media That Does Not Pick A Side"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox's Dylan Matthews highlighted a study from two political science professors which found that Republicans "rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases" and create parallel media outlets, creating an echo chamber which "increase[s] partisanship and ideological commitment."

    Right-wing media has a noted effect on shaping its viewers perceptions.The conservative media echo chamber has been partly responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, by consistently providing a platform for his ideas and defending him when attacked. In addition, conservative media has created the environment where presidential candidates feel comfortable enough to claim that the media has a liberal bias and therefore shouldn't be trusted. This leads candidates to mold their candidacies towards what those who listen to conservative media want to hear and parrot popular conservative media hosts ideas and rhetoric.

    In the April 1 article, the study highlighted by Matthews found these media echo chambers created by conservatives are having an impact. The study, conducted by two political science professors, argued that conservatives' "distrust of the mainstream media" caused them to "set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out." Therefore, "Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise)." The study also found that this echo chamber effect "has huge implications for how Democrats and Republicans view politics", "increas[ing] partisanship and ideological commitment":

    The numbers come from a new study from political scientists Matt Grossmann and Dave Hopkins collating five years of Public Policy Polling data on which major news networks people do and do not trust. PPP's data shows that Republicans are just as distrustful of mainstream outlets as of MSNBC, and Democrats are about as trusting:

    [...]

    Grossmann and Hopkins's broader argument is that Republicans' distrust of the mainstream media creates an asymmetry in how the parties approach the media. Democrats rely on the mainstream media both to get out their message and to cover events. Republicans generally distrust mainstream outlets and so have set up a parallel ecosystem to get their message out.

    The result is Republicans rely on a media that is more likely to echo their partisan biases, and Democrats rely on media that does not pick a side and at least claims to be objective and empirical (whether or not it lives up to that promise). "Democrats therefore remain relatively unexposed to messages that encourage ideological self-identification or describe political conflict as reflecting the clash of two incompatible value systems," Grossmann and Hopkins write. "Instead, the information environment in which they reside claims to prize objectivity, empiricism, and policy expertise."

    [...]

    Grossmann and Hopkins confirm this, citing a bevy of evidence demonstrating that increased access to only one side's media increases partisanship and ideological commitment in news consumers. The University of Pennsylvania's Matthew Levendusky experimentally exposed study participants to Fox and MSNBC, and concluded that "partisan media make citizens more convinced that their views are the 'right' one ... make citizens less willing to trust the other party and less willing to support compromise with them, thereby contributing to persistent gridlock ... [and] influence vote choice, as well as how citizens come to understand elections."

    [...]

    Grossmann and Hopkins's underlying explanation is that the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are fundamentally structurally distinct. Republicans are "chiefly defined by a common ideological commitment," while Democrats are a "coalition of social groups."

    [...]

    So on the one side you have an ideologically rigorous party/movement that relies on its own newsgathering and information-producing services, leading to an increasingly distinct worldview from Democrats or independents.

  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • New York Times' Linda Greenhouse Explains The Facts In "The Most Important Supreme Court Abortion Case In A Generation"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times' Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse explained the unequivocal facts "at the core of the most important Supreme Court abortion case in a generation," and the dire consequences at stake if the court fails to consider these facts.  

    On March 2, the U.S. Supreme Court will deliberate on Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, a case involving a Texas law that has already forced about half of the state's abortion clinics to close by placing requirements on providers that have been deemed "medically unnecessary" by both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    In a February 27 article, Greenhouse explained unequivocal facts "about the law's rationale and its impact" that the Supreme Court must consider:

    Fact No. 1: Texas has regulated abortion clinics for years through strict licensing requirements and annual inspections, achieving a commendable safety record. Along with other medical clinics that provide outpatient services, abortion clinics were required to have emergency procedures in place in case a patient needed hospital care. The clinic's doctors could either have hospital admitting privileges (which most doctors who provide abortions can't get) or a "transfer" agreement with another physician who had admitting privileges. The law eliminated the transfer-agreement option for abortion clinics.

    Fact No. 2: If the law goes into effect, the abortion clinics in El Paso will close, leaving no abortion services from San Antonio west to the New Mexico border. This is no problem, Texas maintains, because women who would have gone to El Paso can travel about 12 miles farther, across the New Mexico line, to an abortion clinic in Santa Teresa, N.M. The fact that New Mexico has neither the admitting-privileges nor mini-hospital requirements -- the very requirements that Texas maintains are necessary to protect the safety of abortion patients -- seems not to concern the state.

    Fact No. 3: After the bill, originally known as Senate Bill 5, or S.B. 5, cleared the State Senate, David Dewhurst, then the lieutenant governor, tweeted a map that opponents had circulated showing all the abortion clinics that would have to close. "We fought to pass S.B. 5 thru the Senate last night, & this is why!" he exulted. A subsequent tweet found him back on message, explaining that "I am unapologetically pro-life AND a strong supporter of protecting women's health. #SB5 does both."

    Why would the lieutenant governor -- perhaps on the advice of the state's lawyers, but that's just a guess -- water down his triumphant tweet by throwing health into the mix? The answer lies in abortion politics and abortion law. Both are highly relevant to Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the case before the Supreme Court.

    The emphasis on women's health is a reflection of the evolution of the anti-abortion movement during the years since the court, in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, declared a constitutional right to abortion. The movement's original emphasis on the fetus failed to achieve the goal of overturning Roe either by constitutional amendment or by changing the direction of the court. Groups including Americans United for Life, a strategic and highly effective policy generator for the movement, began to urge sympathetic politicians to invoke women's welfare as the reason for imposing new restrictions on abortion. Among the many model laws that Americans United for Life makes available through its "Women's Protection Project" are those requiring admitting privileges and "ambulatory surgical center" standards for abortion providers. More than a dozen states have enacted versions of the model laws.

    Laws like these, which single out abortion for special regulations that don't apply to medical procedures of similar or greater risk, are known in the abortion-rights community as TRAP laws, for "targeted regulation of abortion providers." The Texas case is the Supreme Court's first occasion to examine one. The decision -- if, in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia's death, there is a decision and not a deadlock -- will determine the future of abortion regulation. (A tie would leave the Texas law in place.)

    [...]

    Evidence matters to courts. Courts take evidence all the time. That's why we have trials, and judges. The notion that when it comes to restricting abortion, facts shouldn't count, is to give "abortion exceptionalism" a new meaning. It is a meaning the Supreme Court will reject if it is true to its precedents and principles.

  • Rubio And Cruz Echo Right-Wing Media With Their False Claims That Obamacare "Killed" Jobs

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    During CNN's February 25 Republican presidential debate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed that the Affordable Care Act "is a job-killing law." The assertions by Cruz and Rubio, which fact-checkers called "false" and "hard to square," echoed years of false right-wing media reports that the health care law would kill jobs.

  • Why Media Should Be Skeptical Of Koch Brothers' New Anti-Poverty Group

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Officials from the Koch brothers' funding arm have announced a new "venture philanthropy" project called Stand Together, with aims of "strengthening the fabric of American society," and focusing on "poverty" and "educational quality," according to USA Today. Media should know that: previous Koch-backed poverty and education efforts have been coupled with ideological proselytizing, Stand Together's executive director is a Koch veteran and former Republican congressional candidate who repeatedly fearmongered about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the group's top collaborator is associated with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's sham "anti-poverty" efforts.

  • Wall Street Journal Flip-Flops To Attack Obamacare, Praise GOP

    Journal Editors Praise "Reconciliation" In Attempt To Strip Health Coverage From Millions Of Americans

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Wall Street Journal praised the GOP for passing another repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

    Reversing on their past condemnation of the use of a budget procedure called "reconciliation," The Wall Street Journal praised Republicans for using the tactic in their latest attempt to repeal Obamacare. The Journal also bashed, the law falsely claiming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has resulted in "huge" premium increases, and showed little concern for the millions of Americans who would lose healthcare if the law is repealed.

    In a January 5 editorial, The Wall Street Journal praised Senate Republicans for narrowly passing legislation that would repeal the ACA via a parliamentary procedure called "reconciliation" -- a Senate budget tactic to avoid filibusters. After praising the GOP's repeal bill, which President Obama has vowed to veto, The Journal went on to attack the health care reform law, falsely claiming that the "law is failing on every level" and creating "huge" increases in health care premiums. From The Journal:

    Republicans are now using the special "reconciliation" procedure that allows a budget bill to pass with a simple majority--which can only be used once a year--to get around Harry Reid's bone yard. Kvetchers on the right who say the Congress never does anything should be pleased, unless their griping was merely for political show.

    This achievement is all the more notable for traveling through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations or blowing up century-old Senate rules, as some activists have demanded. The bill passed through patient, unglamorous legislative work, with House and Senate Republicans working together to make policy advances instead of degenerating into infighting and recriminations as usual.

    This is what the GOP promised voters in 2014. Fifty-two of the 54 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, which passed 52-47 over unanimous Democratic opposition. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois were the two GOP dissenters.

    Reconciliation is the process where the U.S. Senate can vote on budget amendments with a simple majority of 51 votes, and a senator cannot object to force a 60-vote threshold to move forward as is the case with all other bills and amendments. The Journal referred to Republicans using this tactic to attempt to gut Obamacare as a so-called "achievement" that traveled "through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations." But The Journal failed to mention that in the past its editorial board held the opposite view on the use of reconciliation to make changes to health care. The Journal also did not explain that perhaps the reason no "Armageddon-style confrontations" occurred is because the bill will be vetoed by the president and Republicans could only muster 52 votes in support of repeal, far below the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The bill is dead on arrival, as was the case the previous 60 times congressional Republicans passed symbolic repeal votes.

    In 2010, when the bill that would become the Affordable Care Act was being considered, The Journal was loudly opposed to Senate Democrats using reconciliation to pass legislation that conservatives were derisively calling "Obamacare." The Journal called passing Obamacare via reconciliation "an abuse of the traditional Senate process" and claimed "we have entered a political wonderland." Journal editorial board member Daniel Henninger even wrote a column proclaiming "reconciliation could damage the institution of the Senate for years."

    The Journal's January 5 editorial was not only a flip-flop on reconciliation, it was laden with inaccuracies about the law, some of which ignored The Wall Street Journal's own reporting. The one specific issue the paper wished to focus on as a so-called "failure" was the myth that premium increases have been unexpectedly "huge" since the law took effect and are set to spike in 2016. On the contrary, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently noted, premium costs and subsidies came in under expectations in 2014 and 2015. Typical health insurance premiums for 2016 are predicted to have a higher rate increase than the past two years, but The Journal failed to point out that much of this increase was not only expected, it will be covered by insurance subsidies.

    After accounting for available subsidies, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the average national premium rate increase from 2015 to 2016 will be 3.6 percent. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is predicting slower-than-expected premium growth, and has revised its numbers to show federal spending on premiums will be 20 percent less than previously projected:

    CBO Estimates of Budget Effects of the Insurgence Coverage Provisions of the ACA

    Furthermore, The Journal also failed to mention that insurance customers are free to choose new plans and providers every year, some of which may prove more cost effective than others. Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net pointed out that because individuals can change insurers, it is important to shop around and that those who do so may see smaller increases for 2016.

    In yet another flip-flop, The Journal falsely claimed that no one ever "argued that a new entitlement couldn't reduce the uninsured rate." In fact, The Journal made such claims in an October 25, 2015 editorial hyping fears that supposedly low insurance enrollment for 2016 meant health care reform "won't survive." Such enrollment fears from The Journal were later debunked and research showed enrollment numbers had been adjusted because more Americans stayed on employer-provided insurance than originally anticipated.

    In spite of its previous remarks against using reconciliation, its attempts to delegitimize enrollment numbers, and the fact that expected insurance premium costs have been revised downward, The Wall Street Journal still celebrated the latest, fruitless Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare, which if successful could strip health care coverage from at least 17 million Americans.

  • Once Again, The Right Wing's ACA Part-Time Myth Falls Apart

    New Study Finds "Little Evidence" That The Affordable Care Act Pushes Workers To Part-Time Employment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNBC reported that a study published by the journal Health Affairs "found little evidence that the ACA has caused increases in part-time employment as of 2015," debunking a long time conservative media attack on President Obama's health care law. 

    Despite being repeatedly debunked, right-wing pundits have continued to push the false claim that the Affordable Care Act would negatively effect American employment, claiming its enactment would drive losses in full-time jobs while increasing part-time employment -- though no data has supported this assertion.

    A January 5 article from CNBC reported that despite Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) assertion that the ACA has "forced millions of people into part-time work," "the analysis did not find such a shift to a reduction in work hours," and this speculative claim "isn't borne out by reality":

    A new study further undercuts a major claim by critics of the Affordable Care Act, who contended that the law would encourage companies to slash full-time workers' hours and shift them into part-time work in order to avoid having to offer them health insurance.

    The research "found little evidence that the ACA had caused increases in part-time employment as of 2015," according to a summary of the findings published in the journal Health Affairs on Tuesday.

    "We can say with a large degree of confidence that there is nothing we can see nationwide when we look at the whole workforce" that would support a claim that the so-called employer mandate or other Obamacare features have led to increases in part-time employment at the expense of full-time jobs, said Kosali Simon, a professor at Indiana University, and a co-author of the report.

    [...]

    Critics of the law have said that many employers, rather than subsidize workers' insurance plans or pay the Obamacare fine, would instead cut workers' hours so that they fell below the 30-hour-per-week threshold that would trigger the penalty.

    "There doesn't appear to be any substantial changes in the labor market as a result of Obamacare. The anecdotes are real, but I think it's just not happening in large numbers." -Larry Levitt, senior vice president, Kaiser Family Foundation

    But the research published Tuesday in Health Affairs strongly suggests that such "speculation that employers would reduce work hours to avoid the mandate that they must offer health insurance to full-time employees" isn't borne out by reality.

    "If this were true, one would expect to find increases in employment at the 'kink' just below the thirty-hour threshold," the paper noted.