Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is the Cabinet official responsible for implementing the Affordable Care Act. That she would testify before Congress about the problems with the law's implementation makes all the sense in the world, given that it is her responsibility. In certain corners of the conservative media, however, Sebelius' October 30 testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee was an act of political cowardice by President Obama, who, by sending Sebelius before Congress, was using her as a "human shield."
Here's the lede to Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger's October 31 column:
A reader remarked last week that Barack Obama is running out of human shields. With the father of ObamaCare unavailable to explain the greatest fiasco of his presidency to Congress, the American people had to settle Wednesday for his surrogate, Kathleen Sebelius.
And here's Fox News pundit Andrea Tantaros on the October 30 edition of The Five:
Right-wing media are ignoring the dangers of underinsurance in their attacks on the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) requirement that new insurance plans offer at least a minimum level of coverage, including ten "essential health benefits."
Research has shown that medical costs contribute to a high percentage of bankruptcies filed in the U.S, and a 2007 study from Harvard University found that more than three-quarters of people with medical debt had health insurance. Beginning January 1, 2014, the ACA will begin to tamp down on the type of "swiss cheese" coverage that can leave consumers facing catastrophic health costs by requiring that all health plans on the new health care exchanges cover ten "essential health benefits" that will provide consumers with a basic level of coverage for things like hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health services, and preventative care.
Right-wing media are attacking this shift toward providing an improved health insurance product and insisting that insufficient insurance is not a problem. An October 30 Wall Street Journal editorial blasted the change as "command-and-control regulation" and said "Democrats are openly instructing adults that they don't know what's best for their own good." In his own October 30 column, the Journal's deputy editorial page editor, Daniel Henninger, wrote called the push for increased consumer protection "progressive coercion," emblematic of "politics by cramdown."
During the October 31 Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox Business host Stuart Varney obscured the dangers of "cut-rate" insurance plans to characterize the administration's claim that the insufficient levels of coverage in some existing plans led insurers to tell policyholders that they had to change their coverage as "flat-out outrageous" -- even though a study published in Health Affairs found that, in 2010, more than half of Americans who purchased their own insurance had plans that fell short of ACA standards. Later in the show, Doocy and Fox Business host John Stossel bashed the health care law's requirements for new insurance policies:
DOOCY: Now we're going to have to buy insurance that is up to the government's standard even though maybe we would rather just save money.
STOSSEL: We chose those policies and yet the president says you didn't choose well, I need to choose for you.
These attacks all ignore the consequences of being underinsured, which carry many of the same risks as having no insurance at all. According to Kaiser Health News, some uninsured people "avoid going to the doctor or getting prescriptions filled because they can't afford it," and noted that others "end up with medical debt and other severe financial problems." The April Commonwealth Fund study found that half of the underinsured "said they had not received needed care because of cost" and explained that 55 percent of underinsured Americans "reported medical bill problems are accrued medical debt" -- more than twice the rate of those with adequate insurance coverage.
Huffington Post health care reporter Jeffrey Young defined the underinsured as those with health insurance plans that "offered too little coverage and exposed them to high out-of-pocket costs." He highlighted an April study by the Commonwealth Fund that found 30 million people, or 16 percent of the U.S. population were underinsured in 2012. The study also found that lower-income Americans were underinsured at higher rates. The Commonwealth Fund study also stated that 85 percent of those who were underinsured could be eligible for coverage under the ACA's Medicaid expansion or qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance plans on the exchanges, which have a certain standard of coverage, and so "[m]ore people insured and better-quality coverage will likely lead to less medical cost-fueled debt and fewer cost-related access problems."
According to a September 2011 study by the Commonwealth Fund, once fully implemented, the Affordable Care Act could reduce the number of underinsured adults by 70 percent.
From the December 7 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
Loading the player reg...
From the July 5 edition of Fox News' America Live:
Loading the player reg...
From the July 2 edition of Fox News' Journal Editorial Report:
Loading the player reg...
From the June 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
Loading the player reg...
In an April 21 column, The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger wrote that President Obama is "sounding more like Travis Bickle ('You talkin' to me?') than the president of the United States." He further wrote that "Obama.2011" has been "testy, petulant, impatient, arrogant and increasingly a divider."
From Henninger' column:
If it is true, as Michelle Obama said in February, that her husband isn't smoking anymore, maybe he'd better start mellowing out with the cigs again before it costs him the presidency.
The Barack Obama we've been seeing lately is a different personality than the one that made a miracle run to the White House in 2008.
Obama.2008 was engaging, patient, open, optimistic and a self-identified conciliator.
Obama.2011 has been something else -- testy, petulant, impatient, arrogant and increasingly a divider.
This Monday, after wrapping up a White House interview with a Dallas TV reporter, the station reported that Mr. Obama said: "Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview, alright?"
This self-referencing, snappish tone tracks with the president's "open mic" comments last week at a Chicago fund-raiser. Dismissing the GOP as "nickel and diming" him on budget negotiations, he asked, "You think we're stupid?" White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president wasn't embarrassed. But he should be. Not because his comments were caught, but because suddenly he's sounding more like Travis Bickle ("You talkin' to me?") than the president of the United States.
The Obama migration from the high road to the low road is evident even in nonpolitical settings. Here he is last weekend talking about the White House phone system: "You know the Oval Office always thought I was going to have like real cool phones and stuff. I'm like 'come on guys, I'm the president of the United States.' Where's the fancy buttons and stuff, and the big screen comes up? It doesn't happen."
I'm like? Real cool phones and stuff? Would Franklin Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy ever have affected whatever their generational equivalent was of "Where's the fancy buttons and stuff?"
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger suggests that voters are deeply upset by public spending.
This volcano of public spending and its smothering ash, by governments at every level, is what has upset people living in America's towns and villages. It's too much. It has depressed people.
As blogger Ben Somberg has documented, while there is evidence from polling data that spending is of some concern to voters, other issues, such as the general state of the economy and job growth, are of higher priority and there is no evidence that the issue evokes the intense widespread feelings that Henninger claims.
Henninger also misleads about the quantity of additional federal spending which has happened during the Obama administration, suggesting that the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has already resulted in $1 trillion in expenditures.
The February 2009 eruption of Mount Obama, called "The Stimulus" by the Keynesian volcanists, sent some $862 billion cascading across the American landmass. Then came a $1 trillion eruption, which an ecstatic Democratic tribe chanted would provide "health care for all." The volcano's eruptions spread far and eventually covered the fertile fields of the entire nation.
In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (.pdf) projects that significant federal expenditure increases due to the law, though less than the $1 trillion claimed by Henninger, do not begin until 2014, when the major insurance coverage and subsidy provisions begin. The vast majority of additional spending is not projected to happen until the latter half of the decade. In addition, while the law does lead to projected increases in federal spending, the CBO also projects that overall the law will lead to a reduction in the federal deficit.
From the May 29 edition of Fox News' Journal Editorial Report:
Loading the player reg...
Many media figures have dubbed President Obama's health care reform proposal "ObamaCare," reinventing the terms "HillaryCare" and "ClintonCare" that were used by opponents of the Clintons' reform proposal. In doing so, these media are often seeking to frame the debate in negative terms.
On Lou Dobbs Tonight, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Dan Henninger said of Cindy McCain's refusal to release her tax returns: "I think it's a fairly marginal issue." But in a July 2004 editorial, the Journal asserted that it was "past time" for Sen. John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, to release her tax returns, stating, "Their assets should be disclosed to the voters so that they can assess whether there are any potential conflicts of interest."
On Fox News' The Journal Editorial Report, Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger discussed the announcement that American and Japanese research teams discovered, in the words of the senior American scientist, a "new way to trick skin cells into acting like embryos" by "reprogram[ming] skin cells into multipurpose stem cells without harming embryos." Henninger said: "Basically, the controversy is over. And I think, in retrospect, we should say something on behalf of, say, [President] George Bush, who vetoed that stem-cell bill." However, the senior American scientist wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that the new developments "[f]ar from vindicat[e]" the Bush administration's policy "of withholding federal funds from many of those working to develop potentially lifesaving embryonic stem cells."
James Dobson and Daniel Henninger both echoed a claim previously made by Matt Drudge and Michael Savage that the sexually explicit communications that Rep. Mark Foley allegedly engaged in with former congressional pages were "sort of a joke" or a "prank" on the part of the former pages.
Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger suggested that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's assertion that "secret prisons in Eastern Europe" do not comport with laws, religious values, or human rights "correlate[s] with the views of whoever in the CIA leaked the prisons' existence" to The Washington Post.