According to the Urban Institute, 8.2 million Americans, disproportionately women and children, may become uninsured as a consequence of King v. Burwell. But for right-wing media, pointing out the dangerous consequences of the loss of health care subsidies is nothing more than a "scare tactic."
The Wall Street Journal is once again promoting a right-wing challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by repeating misinformation about the case, calling on the Supreme Court to strike down some health care subsidies while falsely claiming the law's "plain text" renders them illegal.
On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a case that could block the availability of federal health care subsidies. The plaintiffs in King argue that because a subclause of the ACA states that subsidies are available "through Exchanges established by the State," consumers who buy insurance over the federal exchange aren't eligible to receive tax credits from the IRS to offset the cost. Without subsidies, people who live in one of the 37 states that don't operate their own health care exchange would be unable to afford insurance.
In a March 2 editorial, the Journal made its final pitch before oral arguments, calling the challenge an opportunity for "the Justices to vindicate the law's plain text." The editorial, like the challengers in King, ignored the context of the ACA as a whole and claimed that the decision to strike down the subsidies should be an easy call for the Supreme Court because the "English language is clear" and the law is unambiguous:
In King, the High Court will scrutinize this IRS decree using the traditional canons of statutory construction. The English language is clear: Congress wrote that subsidies would be available on state exchanges only, so Washington cannot deputize itself as the 51st state -- especially when the black-letter law is as consistent, tightly worded and cross-referenced as the Affordable Care Act.
To take one example, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was empowered to grant unlimited sums of money to states to establish exchanges. But the law appropriated not a penny for the federal exchanges, and HHS raided internal slush funds to build them. If there is no legal difference between the federal and state exchanges, why did HHS need this budget ruse?
ObamaCare's history shows Democrats made a deliberate choice. As they tried to assemble 60 votes in the Senate, holdouts like then Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson intensely desired state partners. Because the federal government couldn't commandeer the sovereign states by mandating participation, the subsidy bait was Congress's constitutional option to encourage buy-in.
The Journal's attempt to make the plaintiffs' case by arguing that the subsidies are illegal because the Department of Health and Human Services had to rely on a "budget ruse" to build the federal exchanges ignores the facts. According to a report from The Washington Post, the Republican-controlled Congress "repeatedly rejected the Obama administration's requests for additional funds" to implement the ACA, including those exchanges Republican-controlled states refused to set up.
Following former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's announcement that he is exploring a 2016 presidential run, Hispanic media outlets have celebrated his Mexican-American family and fluency in Spanish, portraying them as appealing to Latino voters. This focus on biographical details has come at the expense of reporting on Bush's positions on health care and climate change -- issues on which his positions are at odds with the interests of most Latinos.
For instance, Jorge Ramos, host of Univision's Al Punto, helped feed the narrative of Bush as a "Hispanic candidate" (Spanish-language video clip) during a January 18 conversation with Carlos Gutierrez, who was commerce secretary under George W. Bush. Throughout the discussion, Ramos left Bush's policy stances unquestioned, relying on Gutierrez's glowing review of Bush's personal leadership qualities. At one point, Ramos suggested that Bush could be grouped with other potential Republican presidential candidates who are Latino.
Other Spanish-language outlets like the newspaper El País have also credited Bush's Mexican wife and children with making him a "Hispanic candidate," calling these personal factors an "advantage" to win the Latino vote. Briefly glossing over his "moderate" foreign policy stances -- a popular trope in English-language media -- El País highlighted Bush's Mexican wife yet again to address Bush's claims that he is not like his brother George W. Bush. MundoFox, a Spanish-language cable channel that is partly owned by Fox News' parent company, has celebrated Bush's ability to speak Spanish fluently as well as his Mexican wife to position him as a GOP front-runner several times since Bush's announcement in December.
When Hispanic media outlets do cover Bush's policy positions, they rarely go beyond the single issue of immigration. And while it is encouraging to see positive coverage of Bush's multicultural family and bilingualism, a review of Al Punto episodes and close monitoring of El País' and MundoFox's websites following Bush's announcement reveal that they have not covered his conservative stances on climate change and health care reform.
On climate change, Bush has admitted denialism, claiming that "the science has been politicized." As The Guardian's Suzanne Goldberg wrote, Bush is in "lock-step with the other climate deniers in the Republican party."
According to recent polling from The New York Times, Stanford University, and the nonpartisan environmental group Resources for the Future, 63 percent of Hispanics, compared to 49 percent of whites, agreed that the "federal government should act broadly to address global warming." Furthermore, 54 percent of Hispanics said that global warming is "extremely or very important to them personally, compared with 37 percent of whites." The Times quoted Latino Decisions researcher Gabriel Sanchez pointing out that "Hispanics often live in areas where they are directly exposed to pollution, such as neighborhoods near highways and power plants." Sanchez also said that Latinos are key advocates in the fight for climate change awareness: "There's a stereotype that Latinos are not aware or concerned about these issues. ... But Latinos are actually among the most concerned about the environment, particularly global warming." Experts agree that Hispanics are "particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts."
Similarly, Bush has criticized the Affordable Care Act (ACA), calling it "flawed to its core" and a "job killer." However, the Los Angeles Times highlighted a September report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund that found the ACA "has dramatically increased coverage among Latinos," who are "a historically underinsured community." As the Times reported, the report found, ¨Overall, the percentage of Latinos ages 19 to 64 lacking health coverage fell from 36% to 23% between summer 2013 and spring 2014.¨ And according to the New York Times blog The Upshot, the "biggest winners from the law include people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people who live in rural areas." The Times also noted that parts of Nevada, New Mexico, and southern Texas -- all places with high percentages of Latinos -- are among the areas with the "largest increases in the health insurance rate."
Fox News is reporting on an unsubstantiated rumor that the Obama administration has a "secret plan B" to deal with the fallout of an upcoming Supreme Court case that could invalidate tax credits for millions of Americans. But administration officials have repeatedly denied that such a plan exists -- and there is little the administration could do to restore the credits if the court strikes them down.
On March 4, the Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, a case that could block the availability of health care subsidies for consumers who purchased insurance over the federal exchange, which operates as the sole health insurance marketplace in the 37 states that don't operate their own. The lawsuit is based on a right-wing misinterpretation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that claims that the law allows the IRS to provide tax credits only to those who bought insurance over "Exchanges established by the State," and not the federal government. In addition to the congressional authors of the ACA, the vast majority of health and legal experts agree that this strained reading of the law is not only incorrect, but contrary to the way the Supreme Court generally interprets statutes -- as a whole, and in context.
Despite the lawsuit's clear flaws, right-wing media have acted as a booster for its potential to gut the ACA -- and only recently figured out that without the subsidies, millions of Americans would be faced with ruinous health care costs. As The New York Times explained, "if the court decides to limit federal tax credits, the result could essentially be the creation of two American health care systems. The haves -- in mostly Democratic states -- may not be impacted, while the have-nots -- in 37 mostly red states -- could face spiraling costs."
But now Republicans are attempting to shift the blame to the Obama administration by claiming that the administration actually does have a super-secret contingency plan, and multiple statements to the contrary are an effort "to influence the court ahead of the March 4 arguments," according to The Hill.
Even though the administration has said that there is no such plan -- secret or otherwise -- Fox News was happy to pass along this unsubstantiated rumor on the February 26 edition of America's Newsroom. In a report about a congressional hearing on the ACA, Fox's Doug McKelway stated that Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell would be facing questions about the administration's "contingency plans" if the tax credits are struck down. McKelway went on to report that "there are rumors circulating that senior HHS officials do have a secret plan B should the Supreme Court rule against Obamacare":
A Michigan pediatrician refused to work with the baby of a same-sex couple, citing her anti-gay religious beliefs. It's another case that highlights the potential dangers of conservative media's campaign to champion "religious freedom" in the face of anti-gay discrimination.
In October of 2014, Krista and Jami Contreras brought their six-day-old baby Bay Windsor to meet her pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigan. The couple, who legally married in Vermont in 2012, soon discovered that Roi had refused to come into the office and see them, citing her religious beliefs. The couple was instead met by a different pediatrician, who they had not selected.
Four months later, they received a letter from Roi apologizing and explaining her decision:
After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients. I felt that was not fair to the two of you or to Bay.
Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.
The Contreras incident is yet another example of the dangerous consequences of right-wing media's campaign to justify anti-gay discrimination under the banner of religious liberty. For years, conservative media have used "religious liberty" as a rallying cry while lobbying against basic legal protections for LGBT people. Now, in the face of a potential Supreme Court loss on the issue of same-sex marriage, "religious liberty" has become the central argument for a number of state RFRA bills promoted by right-wing media that would greatly expand the right of businesses and individuals to refuse service to LGBT people on religious grounds.
Roi's refusal to work with the Contreras family is not illegal - though it does violate the rules of the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, which both strongly oppose discriminating against patients on the basis of sexual orientation. Nor is what happened to the Contreras family an isolated incident. Studies have found that LGBT people face high rates of discrimination in health care, especially in states that have adopted "broad religious exemptions" from medical non-discrimination laws:
Conservative media have endlessly peddled horror stories of wedding photographers, florists, and bakers who were legally prohibited from refusing to offer their services for same-sex wedding ceremonies. But as the Contreras family's experience demonstrates, the right-wing insistence on broad religious liberty protections could impact far more than just same-sex weddings.
While Fox News continues to disregard journalistic best practices in reporting on transgender people, MSNBC has repeatedly demonstrated how to properly cover stories about transgender medical treatment, inviting actual transgender guests to offer expert testimony about the importance of health care for the transgender community.
When Private Chelsea Manning - the former soldier currently serving a 35-year prison term for leaking thousands of classified documents - came out as transgender in August 2013, major media outlets proved just how ill-prepared they were to cover transgender stories. Both Fox News and CNN repeatedly misgendered Manning, disregarding GLAAD's Media Reference Guide, which calls on news organizations to refer to transgender people by their preferred gender pronouns.
Manning is back in the news after a February 13 report by USA Today revealed that Manning has been approved to receive hormone therapy as part of her transition. And the story has once again highlighted the need for responsible coverage of transgender stories:
While MSNBC took steps to include transgender voices and cover Manning's transition with intention and accuracy, Fox News ignored journalistic guidelines while continuing to mock and degrade transgender people in its coverage. (CNN briefly mentioned the story without editorial comment)
Fox continued to misgender Manning when discussing her healthcare. Misgendering a transgender person violates journalistic guidelines established by the Associated Press, New York Times, GLAAD, and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which all instruct journalists to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns. In addition to misgendering Manning, Fox continued its year old tradition of playing music to mock transgender people.
Fox also neglected to mention that denying transgender prisoners with treatment could have severe health consequences - instead fixating on the cost of Mannings' treatment.
In sharp contrast, MSNBC's Ronan Farrow and Joy Reid both provided exemplary, accurate coverage of Manning's story. Both Farrow and Reid held to the GLAAD best practice that "transgender people are the experts to talk about transgender people," and invited transgender women and activists - Allyson Robinson and Jennifer Boylan - on as expert guests to educate viewers about transgender health care. In doing so, the two gave viewers an opportunity to learn about the necessity of trans health care.
MSNBC proved that it is easy to follow the guidelines in covering transgender stories by using correct pronouns, and ensuring accurate coverage by inviting the experts - transgender people themselves - to educate viewers about transgender issues.
Video created by Coleman Lowndes.
Conservative author, filmmaker, and Fox News darling Dinesh D'Souza attacked President Obama as a "boy out of the ghetto" and "vulgar man" following the president's recent appearance in a BuzzFeed video promoting health coverage through HealthCare.gov.
YOU CAN TAKE THE BOY OUT OF THE GHETTO...Watch this vulgar man show his stuff, while America cowers in embarrassment pic.twitter.com/C9yLG4QoOK-- Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 18, 2015
I know Obama wasn't actually raised in a ghetto--I'm using the term metaphorically, to suggest his unpresidential conduct-- Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 18, 2015
TRANSLATING FOR OBAMA GROUPIES: A guy without class doesn't become a classy guy, even when he's in the White House-- Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 18, 2015
Right-wing media are indignant that President Obama appeared in a BuzzFeed video taking a selfie and saying "YOLO" as part of a promotion for HealthCare.gov.
The Supreme Court will soon hear King v. Burwell, a right-wing challenge to the Affordable Care Act that could strike down the subsidies that Americans rely on to purchase health insurance. Here is a media guide to some of the health care and legal experts -- including conservative industry groups, members of Congress, and state officials -- who are asking the Court to reject the challengers' reading of the ACA, which flouts common sense and rules of statutory interpretation.
A Fox News Special Report segment hyped fears that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could impose a penalty on taxpayers who received an advanced premium subsidy to help defer the cost of health care insurance. But the report failed to note that the IRS offers penalty relief to some taxpayers.
According to The New York Times, many ACA enrollees who qualified for a subsidy and chose to have it paid in advanced based on their projected 2014 income may have to pay for subsidy overpayments. The Times explained, if "their actual income was higher -- because they got a raise or found a new job -- they will be entitled to a smaller subsidy and must repay the difference, subject to certain limits."
On the February 6 edition of Special Report, guest host Chris Wallace claimed that "many tax-payers are getting a nasty surprise courtesy of the president's health care law." White House correspondent Kevin Corke reported that millions could have to pay a tax penalty due to the overpayment of income-based federal subsidies to purchase health insurance under the ACA. Corke claimed that "millions may have underestimated their tax snapshot and now have to pay":
Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan is backtracking and brazenly lying about his controversial remarks calling bipolar disorder "made up" and "the latest fad." While Sullivan now claims his remarks were taken "out of context," this defense is preposterous. He repeatedly dismissed the validity of bipolar disorder and the clip used by Media Matters was the same one posted by his employer with the headline "(AUDIO) Bipolar Woman Says She DESERVES Disability Benefits. Tom Tells Her She's WRONG!"
During his January 28 program, Sullivan told a caller who said she suffered from bipolar disorder that "bipolar is like the latest fad." He also claimed, "I just think it's something made up by the mental health business," and "I don't know why we have to create these new illnesses" for something that "wasn't a problem in the first place."
Sullivan's remarks generated condemnation from Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), members of the media, mental health advocates, people on social media, and online petitioners. Many have pointed out that comments like Sullivan's only further stigmatize those suffering from mental illness.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) criticized Fox News Radio host Tom Sullivan for his "unfounded" and "senseless" remarks last week calling bipolar disorder "made up" and "the latest fad."
In a statement provided to Media Matters, Napolitano said that Sullivan's "senseless speech discourages listeners and viewers from seeking treatment they need, halting the progress we have made toward the goal of eliminating stigma." She added: "Rather than minimizing people who have the courage to talk about their illness we should be lifting them up, so others know it is always okay to ask for help."
The California congresswoman is a longtime mental health advocate and was the co-chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus in the 108th through 112th (2003-2013) Congresses.
Sullivan, who is also a Fox Business contributor and regular guest anchor, said on his January 28 Fox News Radio program that people with mental illness have figured how to "game the system" by receiving disability benefits. He added, "they're mostly government employees and they know how to do it."
From the February 4 edition of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:
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Alex Jones defended ally and "listener" Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) from media attacks over his controversial vaccination remarks by lashing out at a CNBC anchor who challenged Paul. Jones, who helped Paul get elected to the Senate in 2010, called CNBC's Kelly Evans a "whore" and "pimp" for "signing on to a system of murder, you little piece of trash, tramp, filth, scum woman!"
Paul has been heavily criticized after he said this week that vaccines should be voluntary because there are purportedly "many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." Paul has faced further criticism for attempting to shush CNBC's Evans during their contentious conversation about vaccines.
Jones is a leading conspiracy theorist. His own biography states he "is considered one of the very first founding fathers of the 9-11 Truth Movement." He has also alleged bizarre conspiracies about the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, among many others.
In a February 3 video posted to his YouTube channel, Jones lashed out at critics of Sen. Paul.
Rand Paul's connection to leading conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is under new scrutiny after the Republican senator recently claimed vaccines could lead to "mental disorders."
In 2009, Paul was interviewed for Jones' Infowars.com and claimed "martial law" could lead to "mandatory" vaccinations. Paul is one of Jones' biggest enablers even though the radio host has pushed fringe theories about 9-11, mass shootings, and the federal government.
Paul has been heavily criticized after he said this week that vaccines should be voluntary because there are purportedly "many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also recently said parents should have "some measure of choice" about vaccinations.
The Washington Post reported that "Medical experts reacted with alarm" to their remarks. MIT professor Seth Mnookin, who has written extensively on the "devastating" anti-vaccine movement, said the comments were "incredibly, incredibly irresponsible." University of Pittsburgh Dr. Amesh Adalja said people like Paul are "giving credence to things that have been completely debunked" and "called the comments from Paul particularly troubling because Paul is a doctor."
Paul raised the specter of big government and "martial law" when talking about vaccines during an August 21, 2009 interview, as Media Matters Action Network reported in 2010. He said that "the first sort of thing you see with martial law is mandates. And they're talking about making it mandatory. I worry because the last flu vaccine we had in the 1970s, more people died from the vaccine than died from the swine flu."
Paul, who was a U.S. Senate candidate at the time, added that he would have taken the smallpox and polio vaccine, but urged caution on vaccines in general, stating: "I say you have to be careful, you have to weigh the risks of the disease versus the risks of the vaccine, but I'm not going to tell people who think it's a bad idea that they have to take it because everybody should be allowed to make their own health care decisions, and that's the problem with allowing more and more government."