Fox host Neil Cavuto pretended that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) ban on gender discrimination, which requires all policies to include maternity care coverage, was never "telegraphed" to the American people when the law was first discussed -- Cavuto is right, if you ignore repeated remarks made by President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and multiple media outlets prior to the bill's passage.
Under the ACA, all insurance plans are now required to cover maternity and newborn care, one of the law's 10 categories of 'essential health benefits' that every policy must include. The maternity care requirement puts an end to the systemic discrimination against women that pervaded the insurance industry. Previously, many companies charged women higher rates than men for the same plans and denied coverage or increased premiums for women who become pregnant, actions which the law prohibits.
Fox host Neil Cavuto referenced this requirement on the November 15 edition of Your World while discussing the ACA with MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. After Gruber explained the impetus behind the rule, Cavuto claimed that it "was never, ever" explained to the country until now:
GRUBER: The key thing is, if you want to end discrimination, for example by gender, if you want to say that women should not have to pay more than men for health insurance, then that means that everyone has to share the cost of maternity coverage. Now if you don't think that's right, that's a totally legitimate position to take --
CAVUTO: But that was never telegraphed. When all of this started, Jonathan -- that's fine, if you want to say that now though -- none of that was telegraphed, as was the fact that many people would lose their plans and many more would pay a lot more for plans. None of that was this Utopian view that you would do better by doing some good, maybe paying more, but in the net positive the country would benefit. That was never -- that was never ever said.
What Cavuto claims was "never, ever said" was said, repeatedly -- by the media, the president, and the Health and Human Services (HHS) cabinet secretary, all before Congress passed the ACA on March 23, 2010.
Rush Limbaugh invoked eugenics and the holocaust in an attack on health care reform architect Jonathan Gruber's use of the phrase "genetic lottery" while describing discrimination in the health care system.
On the November 13 edition of MSNBC's Daily Rundown, host Chuck Todd asked MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber about the discriminatory nature of the health care system that the Affordable Care Act is designed to address. Gruber explained that "we currently have a highly discriminatory system where if you are sick... you cannot get health insurance":
That means that the genetic winners, the lottery winners who've been paying an artificially low price because of this discrimination now will have to pay more in return. And that, by my estimate, is about four million people. In return, we'll have a fixed system where over 30 million people will now for the first time be able to access fairly price and guaranteed health insurance.
During the November 15 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh railed against Gruber's comments, denying that health insurance discriminates against the sick. Limbaugh distorted Gruber's comments to claim that he, like President Obama, believes "some people and some races are inherently genetically inferior." Limbaugh compared this belief to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, saying "the Nazis thought that the genetic lottery losers should be murdered, Adolf Hitler believed that Jews were genetic lottery losers and what did he do about it? Now Obama doesn't think that, apparently Obama and Mr. Gruber believe that genetic lottery losers should be compensated for their lousy genes":
Media figures are comparing the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to the Bush administration's botched response to Hurricane Katrina. This comparison ignores a crucial difference: Nobody has died because of problems with HealthCare.gov, whereas at least 1,833 people died as a result of Katrina.
The media have repeatedly referred to crises during the Obama administration as "Obama's Katrina."
From the November 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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After attacking Obamacare by highlighting easily debunked personal anectodes, Fox hosted another guest who falsely claimed the health care law would harm him personally without checking to make sure his story was accurate.
In a November 14 Salon post, former senior counsel to Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT), Eric Stern wrote about a conversation he had with Bill Lawrence, a man featured on Fox's The Kelly File after writing a letter to Fox News explaining that he and his partners "had to sell our company because we couldn't afford the almost $400,000 in either penalties and fines or insurance premiums that we would have to pay as a result of ObamaCare." In the uncritical interview, host Megyn Kelly responded to Lawrence by asking his "thoughts on having your livelihood directly affected based on what politicians in Washington felt was best for you."
Stern contacted Lawrence after the segment aired and Lawrence admitted that he had sold his Texas-area car wash for multiple reasons, many of which had nothing to do with the ACA:
Right-wing media figures capitalized on provocative advertisements for Obamacare from non-profit groups in Colorado to attack a woman who uses free birth control as a "slut," "whore," and "prostitute."
From the November 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the November 13 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Rush Limbaugh highlighted a series of ads produced by private Colorado nonprofits that promote the contraception provisions of the Affordable Care Act to revive attacks on Sandra Fluke, the law student and reproductive choice advocate that he labeled a "slut."
Nonprofit organizations ProgressNow Colorado and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative released a series of ads encouraging Colorado residents to apply for insurance through the state's health insurance exchanges. The ads included messages that highlighted increased access to contraception through insurance coverage. The Denver Post reported that the ads were targeted at young people and have ignited controversy:
In one of the most discussed "Got insurance?" ads, produced by the liberal ProgressNow Colorado and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a young woman holds a packet of birth-control pills and stands next to a young man, his hand wrapped around her waist.
So what's she thinking?
"OMG, he's hot! Let's hope he's as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers," read the words in the risqué advertisement.
While the groups say the aim is to encourage young people to enroll in the state's new health insurance exchange -- a pillar to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act -- some have said it belittles women. It also adds to the partisan back-and-forth over the new health care law.
Limbaugh used the ads to recall Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who testified before congress about reproductive access, leading Limbaugh to label her a "slut" and "prostitute." On the November 13 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh claimed he was vindicated by the ads and revived his attack on Fluke:
LIMBAUGH: All right, now, here's the ad. I'm gonna turn the Dittocam on. You've heard me read the text. Here is the ad. That ad is promoting promiscuity. That ad is associating promiscuity with Obamacare. Obamacare will get you your birth control pill so you can get him and you can get her. And you can get each other between the covers. You don't have to worry about anything because Obamacare's got you covered because you got insurance.
Let me show you this one more time. I have to pull this down because I've got the Dittocam really focused in. I think back, ladies and gentlemen, when I predicted, I warned everybody that's where this was headed. I forget that woman's name now, Snerdley, the one that was in that fake congressional hearing press conference. But she was sitting there, and she was basically saying, "Look, I want to have limitless, endless sex, I want you to pay for it. It's costing me $3,000 a month for my birth control, but I can't afford that with my tuition and everything else and I want you all to pay for it." And I was like any normal, responsible person, I was insulted by this, that we were being told we have to pay for this, which is behavior we don't sanction. We don't think there's anything good that can come of it.
Fox News' Chris Stirewalt adopted the false, GOP-inspired label of "government run health insurance" during Fox's coverage of House hearings on the Affordable Care Act health reform rollout.
On the November 13 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum used a House hearing on the health exchange website to ask Stirewalt to comment on problems in the rollout of Obamacare's exchanges. Stirewalt claimed that problems accessing the website are a major problem because people have been "compelled against their wishes to purchase government run health insurance."
But the ACA is not "government-run" health insurance. The Affordable Care Act creates exchanges in which consumers can purchase health insurance that will be managed and operated by private health insurers. The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog pointed out that the ACA "builds on the existing private insurance" much like Massachusetts health insurance reform of 2006. Politfact called the claim that the ACA is a "government takeover of health care" the 2010 "Lie of the Year," explaining that the law "relies largely on the free market":
Media fell for another misleading leak from the House Oversight Committee when they hyped allegations that the Obama administration ignored HealthCare.gov security warnings -- though the warnings were for a portion of the site that will not be operational until early 2014.
On November 11, a CBS News report cited selectively leaked partial transcripts from Affordable Care Act (ACA) opponent Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to claim that "the project manager in charge of building the federal health care website was apparently kept in the dark about serious failures in the website's security." The network was criticized by Maddow producer Steve Benen when he found that the warnings referenced a function of the health care website that won't be active until early 2014 and has nothing to do with the parts of the website that are currently in use. A Democratic staffer Benen talked to also said that this part of the website "will not submit or share personally identifiable information."
CBS' faulty report aired just days after the network faced widespread criticism and was forced to apologize for failing properly vet an unreliable source that was prominently featured in the network's October 27 60 Minutes report on the Benghazi attack. But CBS wasn't the only outlet to promote misleading claims from the leaked Oversight Committee transcript.
On November 11, The New York Times reported that The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' Henry Chao, "[t]he chief digital architect for the federal health insurance marketplace," was "not aware of tests that indicated potential security flaws in the system, which opened to the public on Oct. 1," citing excerpts released by Issa. The same day, FoxNews.com claimed that Obamacare security concerns had been "withheld," but never mentioned that its story was based on a partial transcript. CNN's New Day, and Fox News' America's Newsroom and On The Record with Greta Van Susteren all ran the story on November 12. The Associated Press repeated the claim "Chao was unaware of a memo earlier that month detailing unresolved security issues" as late as November 13 -- after contradictory reports had surfaced.
The media's failure to confirm the suggestions made by partial transcripts from the House Oversight Committee is a significant oversight, considering the committee chairman Darrell Issa's history of releasing misleading material the press.
Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers attacked the new health care law for requiring all new insurance plans to cover essential services such as maternity care and mental health care, ignoring the fact that individuals with these conditions are often discriminated against in the insurance market and that requiring coverage for these services will help the economy and reduce economic insecurity.
On the November 12 edition of Special Report, Powers complained that under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance plans are now required to cover benefits such as maternity care and mental health care, despite the fact that an individual might not ever need to use these services:
POWERS: The idea that they think that 50-year-olds should have maternity care is very concerning to me. You know, people are being forced to pay for things that they will not use. It is not for them to tell people -- I don't need to be told I need to have mental health coverage. If I wanted it, I would have gotten it. And I think people are getting a little fed up, even Democrats, with this stuff.
In fact, without the ACA's requirement that essential health benefits be covered by new insurance plans sold on the exchanges, Powers may not have been able to get mental health coverage or maternity care if she wanted it. Individuals who needed those services before the law's passage were routinely discriminated against while trying to obtain necessary health insurance, by being required to pay significantly more for coverage, left unable to get a plan offering specific coverage, or rejected from health insurance all together.
As CNNMoney explained, previously insurance companies were able to keep costs down for many by offering plans without some essential benefits, like maternity care and mental health services, and cherry picking "among applicants to only pick the healthiest ones." The New York Times reported that in 2011, "62 percent of women in the United States covered by private plans that were not obtained through an employer lacked maternity coverage," and a Washington Post columnist explained that according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly 20 percent of people currently in the individual market have "no coverage for mental-health cases, including outpatient therapy visits and inpatient crisis intervention and stabilization." (Approximately 57.7 million Americans experience a mental health condition per year, and half of all Americans will experience one in their lifetime.) Many individual market insurance plans did not offer these services.
The entire concept behind the Affordable Care Act was to change this, ensuring that all Americans, regardless of their personal finances or current health states, could have access to quality, comprehensive health insurance that covered their needs. The law thus mandates ten essential health benefits -- including maternity care and some mental health services -- that all new insurance plans must include at minimum for every American.
Powers' argument also ignored that requiring insurance companies to cover these essential services in all health plans has significant economic benefits.
Fox News overstated the costs of Medicaid expansion for states by ignoring research and evidence showing that expanding Medicaid actually saves money for many states because of the high share of the cost being picked up by the federal government in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the reductions in money spent by states on uncompensated care.
From the November 12 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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MediaTrackers Ohio attempted to distort local media coverage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using badly flawed comparisons to claim the ACA's exchanges will lead to "sticker shock" for Ohio residents. MediaTrackers' analysis applies to a small slice of Ohio consumers and doesn't take into account important parts of the law.
Local media looking at MediaTrackers' effort should note several omissions in their reports:
As part of its analysis, MediaTrackers published several articles comparing the costs of insurance premiums for plans on Ohio's federally run ACA exchange to quotes for plans at eHealth.com, an online marketplace that allows people to shop for insurance. MediaTrackers looked at costs for 27-year-old women and men and 50-year-old women and men. In all the scenarios, MediaTrackers compared "Obamacare 'Gold' plans from [the Department of Health and Human Services] and existing policies with similar deductibles listed at eHealth."
As The New York Times explained, all health insurance plans starting on January 1 must include essential benefits from 10 health categories meaning consumers are not forced to purchase insurance through the exchanges in order to qualify under the ACA and can purchase private insurance if it is cheaper for them.
However, even using MediaTrackers' scenario, it is misleading to present today's plans and the new ACA-compliant plans as equal. Replicating MediaTrackers' scant methodology as closely as possible, the cheapest current plans do not have several of the health benefits required under the ACA. For example, picking the cheapest plan on eHealth.com in Columbus, Ohio, with a $1,500 deductible will allow a 27-year-old man to pay around $100 per month, but it will not include mental health, substance abuse, oral, or vision care -- all benefits required under the ACA.