Right-wing media continue to push the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a "death panel" provision, and years after the birth of this smear, it continues to have an impact on public perception and find its way into Republican legislation.
When the House first introduced the health care bill that would eventually become the ACA in 2009, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed the bill would "require" end-of-life counseling for seniors to "tell them how to end their life sooner." The baseless claim was later amplified by Sarah Palin and the notion quickly gained steam as the right-wing media echo-chamber championed the idea.
Despite being conclusively debunked as Politifact's "lie of the year" in 2009, conservative media still persist in trumpeting the death panel lie. In 2014, Fox News' Eric Bolling compared the Veteran Affairs health care system to the ACA, citing them as examples of "a big, bureaucratic, government-run health care system." He concluded, "whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is." Rush Limbaugh, Fox's Sean Hannity, and other conservative media outlets trotted out the death panel lie last year as well, in the midst of good news about enrollment and reductions in the nation's rate of uninsured people.
The death panel falsehood is still reflected in both the public's perception of the health care law as well as the Republican legislative agenda. As Sarah Kliff explained in a March 23 post for Vox, 26 percent of Republicans and 12 percent of Democrats still agree that "a government panel helps make decisions about patients' end-of-life care" is "part of the law."
The myth even continues to make its way into GOP legislation critical of the health care law. The Washington Post's Stephen Stromberg noted in a March 22 post that despite having been debunked, "the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has hold on the party" and was "written explicitly" into the House GOP's 2016 budget proposal:
Experts and professional fact-checkers have debunked the notion that the Affordable Care Act would empower a faceless government board to deny critical health-care procedures, the Obama-era equivalent of pushing inconvenient seniors onto ice floes. But the GOP's death-panel nonsense still has a hold on the party, its illogic written explicitly into the House's budget.
"This budget repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected, unaccountable board of 15 bureaucrats charged with making coverage decisions on Medicare," the document reads.
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."
Conservative media issued catastrophic predictions and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, despite ample evidence that the health care law is working. Media Matters looks back at six claims about Obamacare that didn't pan out for the right-wing media this year.
From the December 17 edition of Fox News' Your World With Neil Cavuto:
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Fox News pivoted its stance on the public health threat posed by Ebola after leading the charge in media stoking fears about the disease in the weeks prior to the midterm elections. The network is now downplaying the urgency of increasing funding for Ebola research and relief efforts while criticizing President Obama's request of a multi-billion dollar Ebola emergency appropriation from Congress.
Right-wing media outlets have turned to serial misinformer Betsy McCaughey as their go-to expert on the Ebola outbreak. But McCaughey has a history of hyping false health care myths and was the chief architect behind the myth that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) included so-called "death panels," a discredited claim that McCaughey pushed even after being dubbed PolitiFact's Lie of the Year in 2009.
Fox News attempted to discredit a Congressional Budget Office report that estimated lower costs for the Affordable Care Act, while it also embraced a dubious survey claiming that health care premiums are skyrocketing.
On the April 14 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto brought on Fox contributor and serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey in order to baselessly attack the CBO's latest projections, which show that the ACA will cost $104 billion less over 10 years than previously projected and that premiums for the most popular plans under ACA are expected to rise only "slightly" for 2015. McCaughey unleashed a series of already debunked lies about the health care law. After Cavuto called the CBO's savings estimates "deceiving," Mccaughey agreed and denied there would be any savings,asserting that it is actually "a cost-shifting":
CAVUTO: So what is the CBO looking at? It's limiting it to what they expect it to be, that millions more will sign up under these exchanges, and I guess because of subsidies and special breaks see their premium increases actually stabilize. Do you buy that?
McCAUGHEY: Well, no, I don't buy that. I think the insurance company executives know exactly what they're talking about, and they're worried about the public pushback from these huge premium hikes ahead. That's only part of the bad news. You're also going to see a million people or more default. In other words, they've paid their first premium, but when they discover what it really means to pay a three or five thousand dollar deductible on their plan, they go to their doctor again and again and have to pay full freight even though they're paying their premium, they're going to stop paying their premium.
Another big problem ahead is the 25 to 30 million people who currently get on the job coverage who are going to lose it in the coming months when their employers realize that they're not going to be able to renew those old plans and they're stuck between the very costly Obamacare plans or sending their workers and their families onto the exchanges. And finally, you're going to hear a lot of desperation from cancer patients when they discover these Obamacare exchange plans won't let them go to any specialty cancer hospitals, even though the data show that, for example, women with ovarian cancer live longer when they're treated at a high-volume cancer hospital.
CAVUTO: But the argument that the CBO is raising that all those problems notwithstanding -- they're big ones, it's like saying "Outside that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the show?" -- they're still going to see premiums for those in these exchanges go down. But what I did look at in the CBO study, it's all dependent on these special write-offs and allowances and subsidies that those in a certain income group get to give you what seems like a deceiving savings.
McCAUGHEY: That's right, and I'ts really not a savings, Neil. It's just a cost-shifting.
In contrast to Fox's attack on the CBO report, earlier in the day it uncritically promoted a discredited Morgan Stanley survey claiming "rate acceleration" in ACA premiums. Correspondent Jim Angle appeared on both Fox's Happening Now and The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson to hype fears that fit into the channel's narrative that Obamacare will causes insurance premiums to soar. However, the report Angle cited has been discredited for its absence of methodology and small survey sample. Even Fox News' sister organization, Fox Business, pointed out problematic elements of the study, noting that "some states had only one broker respond to the Morgan Stanley survey so the results may not be reliable."
Fox News' willingness to dismiss a report from the respected and nonpartisan CBO while embracing a flawed study is just the latest effort in Fox News' struggling crusade to discredit the ACA by stoking fears of negative impact.
In the five years since President Obama's health care reform plan -- which became the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- was first introduced, the right-wing media has waged a continuous campaign to attack the law through misinformation, deception, and outright lies.
From the March 31 edition of Fox News' Your World:
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Conservative media's recent smear that surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy is controversial because he supports doctors discussing safe gun ownership with their patients is curious given frequent complaints from right-wing media -- albeit false -- that health care reform posed a threat to the inviolable doctor-patient relationship.
From the January 16 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that 25 million consumers in the small-group health insurance market would lose coverage due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), citing a controversial and widely criticized 2011 survey that admitted it "was not intended as a predictive analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act."
In a January 14 New York Post op-ed, McCaughey claimed the ACA "will hurt twice as many people as it helps" by making "employer-provided policies illegal" for millions of Americans. As evidence, McCaughey pointed to a February 2011 survey to claim that "a conservative estimate is that 25 million people, out of the 60 million in small group plans, get dropped in 2014":
Even the chance that ObamaCare's "employer mandate" will go into effect in 2015 isn't apt to deter employers from dropping coverage. The penalty for not complying with the mandate would add only 98 cents an hour for a 40-hour worker -- a bargain compared with the $1.79 cost of providing coverage plus the enormous amount of red tape, reporting requirements and fees that ObamaCare piles on employers who provide coverage. In truth, the law discourages employers from insuring their workers, making it far easier and cheaper to send them to the exchanges.
That's why the management consultants at McKinsey & Co. warned in 2011 that nearly a third of employers surveyed already were considering dropping coverage, with the figure rising among those familiar with the law's requirements.
So a conservative estimate is that 25 million people, out of the 60 million in small group plans, get dropped in 2014. Add that to the 5 million or so whose individual-market already canceled on Jan. 1, and you have a lot of losers.
McCaughey's "conservative estimate" was extrapolated from a two-year-old survey conducted by management consultant company McKinsey & Company that "offers a snapshot of attitudes that suggests the shift away from employer-provided health insurance could be greater than expected." But in the introduction to McKinsey's post on its own survey, the firm admits that the survey "was not intended as a predictive analysis of the impact of the Affordable Care Act." The survey's methodology further warns:
Fox News regularly turns to serial misinformers and right-wing activists to analyze the Affordable Care Act. Here is a guide to Fox's health care "experts" and their history of misinformation.
ABC's The View hosted Betsy McCaughey to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA), praising her as a "health care policy expert" and ignoring her history of misinformation, including inventing the persistent lie that the health care law contains "death panels."
On the October 29 edition of The View, co-host Barbara Walters introduced a segment with McCaughey by calling her a "health care policy expert" and asking if health care consumers "were not told the truth by the Obama administration," saying, "they are about to lose their current medical plans and they don't know what they are getting instead." The View provided no background about McCaughey aside from naming her as the author of a book opposing the ACA.
McCaughey, who is by no means a "health care policy expert," has no credibility to comment on the ACA. In 2009, during the legislative debate over the bills that would later become the ACA, McCaughey distorted language in the House version of the bill to claim that it would "absolutely require -- that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care." McCaughey's misinformation was echoed throughout the right-wing media, leading to the lie that the ACA contains "death panels" that will judge whether patients are deserving of life-preserving care.
McCaughey's history of health care misinformation doesn't end at death panels. In fact, during her appearance on The View, she solicited a question about senior care in order to push another of her debunked health care claims: that the ACA cuts benefits for Medicare patients. McCaughey has long pushed this false claim, consistently ignoring the fact that the ACA explicitly stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits will not be affected.