Once again the right-wing media is pushing a falsehood based on their misrepresentation of whether a Democratic proposal involving doctors is mandatory.
The right-wing media is falsely claiming that President Obama is requiring doctors to ask their patients if they have guns, a claim that echoes their 2009 freak-out about supposed "death panels" in a proposed health care bill. In fact, as was the case with the end-of-life counseling provision in the health care bill, Obama's policies related to doctors and guns are voluntary.
In July 2009, shortly after a Democratic health care bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey claimed that a provision of the bill would "absolutely require" seniors to "submit" to regular counseling sessions "that will tell them how to end their life sooner." This was false: the provision would have actually ensured that voluntary advanced care planning session where doctors and patients could discuss options like living wills were covered by Medicare - a proposal that had previously been supported by Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).
Nonetheless, after McCaughey offered up her false claim regarding the provision, the right-wing media - led by Rush Limbaugh -- was quick to trumpet it. And the falsehood took on an even greater intensity after Sarah Palin claimed that under the proposal, "my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel,'" an absurd statement that was quickly adopted by Fox News.
Meanwhile, mainstream outlets repeatedly debunked the claim - more than 40 times in the month after McCaughey offered her initial claim. But in spite of the media's effort to debunk the right-wing's claims, the provision was dropped from the Senate's health care bill, and did not become law with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
A similar pattern is unfolding with regard to a policy on guns and doctors President Obama's unveiled during his January 16 announcement regarding gun violence prevention policies he supports. Among a variety of other proposals, the White House announced that the administration would "issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not ban doctors from asking patients "about firearms in their patients' homes and safe storage of those firearms."
While nothing in the White House proposal suggests that this is a mandatory requirement that doctors ask patients if they have firearms in the home, right-wing media quickly began suggesting that the proposal did just that.
On his January 16 broadcast, Limbaugh claimed that under that policy:
So now doctors are being ordered, instructed to talk to patients and get information from them about gun ownership, where they are in their house, who has access to them, where the ammunition is kept.
He later added: "The doctors are now under the thumb of Obamacare. They had better comply. This is not a choice." Fox News' Andrew Napolitano also fearmongered over the provision.
As soon as President Obama's new recommendations for gun violence prevention became public, right-wing media immediately claimed the president was issuing an executive action requiring doctors to ask patients about their guns. This is false. The president's released proposals only clarify that nothing in the Affordable Care Act changes longstanding law: doctors are still free (but not required) to discuss with their patients any health hazards, including a lack of gun safety at home or elsewhere.
Among the White House proposals for gun violence reduction, the president announced that the administration will "[c]larify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes." Nowhere in his proposal did he instead require doctors to ask about guns. The Drudge Report, however, immediately splashed across its website this graphic:
Rush Limbaugh picked up on this flatly inaccurate claim that the president required doctors to ask their patients about "gun ownership." Rather than explain the president's executive action only indicated future orders, regulations, or guidance will clarify that no law - including the ACA - prohibits them from discussing gun safety with their patients, Limbaugh reported it as a new directive that "deputizes gun-snitch doctors":
RUSH: So now doctors are being ordered, instructed to talk to patients and get information from them about gun ownership, where they are in their house, who has access to them, where the ammunition is kept. Doctors are now, quote, unquote, "permitted," unquote, to do this. It makes 'em deputies, agents of the state.
RUSH: They're trying to bring a screeching halt to the effort to stop the instances of doctor-patient relationship where the doctor gains the information and passes it on. That's why the reference to Obamacare. If you go back and read Obamacare, despite what the president said in his little release today Obamacare does limit the government when it comes to gun in terms of doctors and what they can collect. They're now trying to reverse that. That's what this is about today. They're trying to stop any effort that would change what's already in place, which is doctors reporting on citizens via patient conferences.
RUSH: Yep, and people are getting upset with it. They never have liked it. This section in Obamacare, it's too much legalese to read to you. But the summary of it is it does in fact limit what data the authorities can collect from patients, what information the doctors can collect from patients and report to the authorities. That section in Obamacare was put in by the NRA. It was a sop given to the NRA. What the regime is doing today is, A, saying, "No, it's not really there; Obamacare does not prevent this," when it does, and, "It doesn't matter anyway because we're now gonna require it even more than we already have."
Limbaugh concedes that the executive action doesn't literally say that doctors are required to ask about gun safety, but rather, in his interpretation, "the executive action today is almost essentially requiring it." The president's proposal was likely a direct response to these types of wildly erroneous interpretations of the health care reform law and executive orders that were already floating around the right-wing blogosphere, before Limbaugh added his analysis. For example, on January 9, a Breitbart.com writer claimed the ACA says "the government cannot use doctors to collect 'any information relating to the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition.'" But the relevant provisions within the health care reform law are explicitly limitations on what the secretary of Health and Human Services can do, not "the government" at large, and nowhere is there a prohibition on doctors inquiring about gun safety. In fact, such a prohibition has been held to be an unconstitutional violation of a doctor's First Amendment rights. As explained by the White House proposal released today:
Some have incorrectly claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking their patients about guns and gun safety. Medical groups also continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions. The Administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms.
The administration is basing their interpretation on the text and intent of the law itself. The amendment may indeed have been a last-minute lobbying success for the NRA, but right-wing media inflate its reach in addition to their false claims about what the president actually did today. As reported by NBCNews.com, "[t]here are some who believe the health-care law outlaws doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes. But that's not true." From Kaiser Health News:
Did you know the Affordable Care Act stands up for gun rights? The "Protection of Second Amendment Gun Rights" section says the health law's wellness programs can't require participants to give information about guns in the house. It also keeps the Department of Health and Human Services from collecting data on gun use and stops insurance companies from denying coverage or raising premiums on members because of gun use.
The massacre in Newtown, Conn., renews the controversy about whether gun violence is a public health issue. Should health authorities view guns in the same category as pneumonia and car crashes? The debate has been going on for years, with epidemiologists arguing firearms can kill just as many as a bad flu season and gun-rights advocates viewing any attention from public health officials as a step toward gun confiscation -- the beginning of the end of the Second Amendment.
The ACA language, which does not prohibit doctors from inquiring about guns in the household, was included at the request of Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader and a gun rights supporter. Reid's office did not respond to a request for comment.
The language was inserted after the act cleared the Senate Finance Committee and before it was voted on by the full Senate.
The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment.
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.
From the January 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey appeared on Fox News to continue pushing debunked falsehoods about the health care reform bill, including claims that the government will dictate care and that employees will be forced into a "one-size-fits-all" health care plan.
Appearing on the January 14 edition of Fox & Friends to promote her upcoming book, Beating Obamacare -- which she said is "a no-spin, easy-to-understand guide" to the law -- McCaughey claimed that employees who gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act would be given a "government-mandated one-size-fits-all plan." McCaughey further claimed health care exchanges will "only sell the government mandated plan" like "a dealership that sells four-door sedans." McCaughey also repeated the falsehood that the ACA "puts the federal government in charge of your health care for the first time."
But despite co-host Gretchen Carlson's promotion of McCaughey's claims, all of them have been thoroughly debunked. The health care bill doesn't create "one-size-fits-all" health care plans but does require plans to provide a minimum level of coverage. There is nothing in the law which prohibits insurers from offering additional benefits above the basic requirements.
In addition, McCaughey's suggestion that the exchanges would only offer one plan is absurd. The entire purpose of the exchanges is to provide a market where consumers are offered a choice of affordable plans. In fact, the ability of exchanges to provide competition is one reason they were endorsed by the American Medical Association:
From the January 10 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Right-wing attorney Jay Sekulow appeared on Fox News to argue that for-profit corporation owners' religious beliefs trump federal law when it comes to contraception, even while they take advantage of the legal benefits corporate status provides.
On America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer featured Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, who is also known for claiming that President Obama was threatening military voters and promoting laws outlawing homosexuality. The show gave Sekulow a platform to promote attacks on the Affordable Care Act's provision requiring employer-provided health plans to include contraception coverage.
Sekulow's group and others have sued to block the mandate on behalf of corporations seeking to deny access to contraception on religious grounds. The results have been mixed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit blocked the law as it applied to the owners of Korte & Luitjohan Contractors.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, however, denied Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based corporation, the relief it sought.
In discussing the Hobby Lobby case, Hemmer asked Sekulow to explain "why you believe legally they win this." Unchallenged, Sekulow touted his court wins on other cases regarding the enforcement of the mandate, stating:
Well, for the same reason, Bill, we've won three cases that we brought so far. And that is the right of free exercise of religion, applies to these companies that have principles that the owners of these companies have religious convictions and to force or compel someone to violate their conscience is exactly what the free exercise clause of the constitution of the United States was designed to prevent.
But Hemmer failed to push back on Sekulow's claims and provide an accurate picture the current state of the law. In fact, the highest level ruling reached the opposite conclusion. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (sitting as circuit justice reviewing decisions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit), denied Hobby Lobby's request for an injunction relieving them of their obligation to provide this coverage to their thousands of female employees. She noted that:
This Court has not previously addressed similar [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] or free exercise claims brought by closely held for-profit corporations and their controlling shareholders alleging that the mandatory provision of certain employee benefits substantially burdens their exercise of religion.
Many legal scholars have also rejected Sekulow's and Hobby Lobby's position.
Hemmer also gave Sekulow a pass on his assertion that corporations, which are not human beings, have religious rights like people do. This presented an imbalanced and inaccurate view not only on religious liberty but also on corporate law. As Supreme Court analyst Lyle Denniston observed:
[B]usiness people who form corporations do so to keep themselves independent from it: one of the main advantages of the corporate form is that the owners are not targeted when their company gets sued.
Hobby Lobby and Sekulow are trying to have it both ways: when a creditor comes to collect a bill or a party sues the corporation they own, they don't have to pay because a corporation is separate. Then they turn around and claim that they are not obligated to abide by a law they don't like because they and the business are one and the same. If courts adopted the theory that corporations have religious rights, corporate owners could game the system, hiding behind corporate status when convenient and discarding it when it's not.
Fox News misrepresented how Darden Restaurants and Denny's are responding to the Affordable Care Act in order to suggest that the Affordable Care Act is harming workers and driving up prices.
An owner of a number of Wendy's restaurants in Omaha, Nebraska announced that the franchise would cut employees' hours to avoid providing health care for many of its workers. Fox Business host Stuart Varney dishonestly argued that the decision by this one Wendy's franchise owner was part of larger trend, citing moves by Darden Restaurants and Denny's to bolster his claim.
But Varney's reference to Darden Restaurants and Denny's is wrong. Darden, the owner of the Olive Garden, announced in October that the company would scale back employee hours to avoid having to provide health insurance. Darden subsequently backed off and confirmed it would not move full-time employees to part-time status.
In the case of Denny's, John Metz, the owner of dozens of Denny's restaurants, announced a plan to institute a five percent surcharge to all his customers' checks but later did not go through with his plan. After Metz announced his plan, Denny's chief executive John Miller contacted him to express that the surcharge was "inconsistent with our values." Miller told the Huffington Post in an email that he was disappointed "that [Metz's] comments have been interpreted as the company's position." Miller added:
"Unfortunately, the comments of this franchisee, who represents less than 1 percent of our system and who owns restaurants in other concepts, has been portrayed as reflective of the entire Denny's brand," Miller said. "I am confident his perspective is not shared by the company or hundreds of franchisees/small business owners who make up the majority of the Denny's community. Specifically, his comments suggesting that guests might reduce the customary tip provided to their server as an offset to his proposed surcharge are inconsistent with our values and approach to business throughout our brand."
Metz did not go through with the 5 percent surcharge.
These fast food restaurants have rescinded their plans to cut hours or increase prices, in part as a result of strong negative public reaction. In addition, a study conducted by the Urban Institute found that the health care law would have a "negligible impact" on most business' costs and could save money for small businesses employing 100 or fewer workers.
From the January 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News misrepresented how Planned Parenthood uses the federal funds it receives, falsely suggesting the organization spends hundreds of millions of federal dollars on abortions. In fact, Planned Parenthood's federal dollars go to other critical women's health services and the organization spends a small percentage of its overall budget on providing abortions.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy discussed Planned Parenthood's newly-released 2011-12 annual report and focused on the $542 million the organization received from the federal government during the twelve months covered by the report. Doocy asserted that the $542 million constituted "a lot of abortions."
In fact, Congress has barred Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortion service. The federal funds Planned Parenthood receives are strictly required by law to fund only family planning services, not abortion. Later during the segment, frequent Fox News guest host Laura Ingraham acknowledged that Planned Parenthood segregates its federal funds and does not use any of it on abortion, but she dismissed this fact, claiming that the money is fungible and Planned Parenthood makes about "400-something million off of the abortion procedure."
Ingraham's fungibility argument makes little sense, however, because abortion services make up a very small part of the services the organization provides. According to Planned Parenthood's latest annual report, abortion services made up a mere three percent of the services performed in 2011:
Furthermore, Ingraham's claim that Planned Parenthood makes $400 million from abortions is completely incorrect. According to its annual report, the organization actually received $311.5 million from non-governmental sources for the health care services it provided in 2011-12. According to Politifact, anti-abortion activists generally claim that Planned Parenthood receives far less than $400 million for abortion services, and even if their claims are correct, Planned Parenthood receives only 13 percent of its total revenue from abortion services.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto and Fox guest Stephen Moore agreed that President Obama is wrong to suggest that federal spending growth is driven by health care costs, when in fact Obama is right. Health care spending is the only category of federal spending projected to grow substantially over the next two decades, and government health insurance is actually more efficient than private sector insurance. And the president's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains provisions that aims to contain and reduce national health care costs.
From the December 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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A Wall Street Journal editorial echoed right-wing talking points to endorse an Ohio bill that would restrict asbestos victims from proving their claims at trial. But the editorial, which claims "rampant fraud" exists in asbestos-related litigation, provides no evidence of systemic abuse, conceals the fact that multiple companies can be legally responsible for asbestos injuries, and fails to disclose that the state legislation is a corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council bill pushed by top Republican ALEC officials.
Asbestos kills 10,000 people annually through cancer and catastrophic lung damage. Asbestos is still legal despite the fact that it is the proven cause of an ongoing epidemic, which is why companies that continue to produce or use asbestos may be sued for asbestos-caused disease. A victim can pursue legal relief against a bankrupt asbestos company by filing a claim against its trust. Personal injury law - tort law - generally holds that multiple actors can be legally responsible for the same injury and sued separately.
The WSJ, however, obscured this general tort principle in the editorial and misleadingly accused asbestos victims of "double-dipping" by filing claims against multiple companies who may all have contributed to the harm:
The [tort] reform drive remains alive in the states, including Ohio, which is poised to become the first in the nation to clamp down on the abuse of asbestos bankruptcy trusts.
[T]he trusts have not stemmed the flood of asbestos suits. That's because the plaintiffs' attorneys have taken to "double dipping"--first gaining payouts from multiple bankruptcy trusts, then filing lawsuits against solvent companies that had only a peripheral involvement in the asbestos business.
The reason behind the "flood" of asbestos suits is the heavy use of a product in the 1970s that has a latency period between 20 to 50 years, so many people who were exposed to the product are just now reporting the disease with a mortality peak expected in 2015. The WSJ, however, dismisses the litigation of these victims - projected to be as many as 100,000 in the next decade - as "rampant fraud." But the WSJ's evidence of a widespread "scam" consists of the actions of one lawyer's attempt to cover up an error the sanctioning court itself said was "innocuous" and "an obscure issue in a case fraught with dozens of more compelling issues." Furthermore, the WSJ does not explain why all or what sort of "peripheral" asbestos-caused harm should be insulated from liability, contrary to basic personal injury law.
Instead, the editorial repeats talking points of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in support of a bill not only modeled after ALEC legislation, but pushed by a Republican state senator, Bill Seitz, who was also co-chair of ALEC's "Civil Justice Task Force." After the bill passed the Ohio legislature, Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber's legal arm, stated:
"This bill will go a long way toward eliminating fraud in asbestos litigation, discourage 'double dipping' by plaintiffs' lawyers, and ensure that companies and bankruptcy trusts both pay their fair share of recoveries to claimants. It will also help Ohio manufacturing companies and protect jobs by ensuring that companies are not bankrupted by fraudulent claims."
Bill O'Reilly seized on the story of a shoeless man who was helped by a New York City police officer to call for cuts to government programs that help the poor.
O'Reilly opened his Thursday show by recounting an incident in November in which Officer Lawrence DePrimo bought a pair of boots for Jeffrey Hillman, a man in Times Square who had bare feet. A tourist took a picture of the DePrimo giving the boots to Hillman, and the image was widely circulated on the Internet.
While Hillman was initially said to be homeless, it has since been reported that he has an apartment. O'Reilly presented this fact as if it were a devastating revelation -- "here's the sad truth," he said before informing his viewers that Hillman has a home. O'Reilly also claimed that Hillman "has enough resources to live his life in a dignified manner."
What O'Reilly did not tell his viewers is that Hillman was homeless prior to last year. Nor did O'Reilly mention that Hillman uses veterans benefits to help keep his apartment.
NBC New York reported, "Hillman used to be homeless, but entered shelter in 2009 before moving into an apartment secured by Veterans Affairs in 2011, city officials said. He pays his rent using a lifetime voucher for homeless veterans and his Social Security income."
O'REILLY: Obviously, Officer DePrimo is a patriot, but here's the sad truth. Mr. Hillman's not homeless. He has an apartment, paid for by you and me. He's on government assistance. He has enough resources to live his life in a dignified manner. Yet Mr. Hillman doesn't do that. He prefers the street. And the boots Officer DePrimo have gave him have disappeared. Now, I'm not judging Hillman. Most cases like his involve substance abuse or mental illness. However, we must be honest. The government cannot provide a decent life for Hillman, no matter how much money it spends. We're already giving the guy tens of thousands of dollars a year, and it is doing nothing. There are millions of Americans like Jeffrey Hillman, and we all need to understand that some people simply will not -- will not -- save themselves.
While O'Reilly claimed not to be "judging" Hillman because most "cases like his involve substance abuse or mental illness," he began the segment by saying that "[a]ll of us need to wise up, and fast," and went on to use his abridged version of Hillman's story to demand cuts to entitlement programs.
From the December 6 edition of Fox News' O'Reilly Factor:
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