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":
The Washington Post's Fact Checker debunked the claim that net neutrality protections could cost American consumers $15 billion in additional taxes and fees -- a favorite conservative argument against net neutrality and one parroted by multiple media outlets -- concluding the estimate contains "significant factual error[s] and/or obvious contradictions."
Fox News promoted debunked claims about President Obama's proposed net neutrality regulations, falsely asserting that the regulations are unpopular, would stifle innovation, and raise costs for consumers.
On Wednesday The New York Times reported that President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to "pre-empt state laws that restrict communities' ability to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas." This initiative is part of the President's plan to implement net neutrality regulations and "keep the United States competitive with other nations that have faster and more widespread Internet connections."
In response to Obama's announcement, Fox News' Special Report recycled debunked conservative claims about net neutrality during the January 13 edition of the show. Host Bret Baier described net neutrality as "a slew of unnecessary regulations that hurt competition and ultimately consumers." Fox correspondent Doug McKelway claimed the new net neutrality regulations will raise costs, citing an "estimate of15 billion dollars in new state and federal taxes a year," and suggested that most Americans do not support the proposed regulations.
Fox News reported on Pope Francis' upcoming action on climate change by promoting climate change denial and suggesting that the pope is aligning with "extremists who favor widespread population control and wealth redistribution."
While many Catholics praised Pope Francis' recent announcement that he will publish an encyclical -- a papal letter sent to all the bishops in the Catholic Church -- on climate change, Fox News responded by stoking fears and promoting climate change denial. Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway reported on the December 30 edition of Special Report that the move will be "aligning [Pope Francis] with some church enemies," including "a few environmental extremists who favor widespread population control and wealth redistribution." The segment also featured climate "skeptic" Marc Morano -- who is paid by an industry-funded group to run the climate change-denying website ClimateDepot.com -- to falsely claim that there has been "no global warming" for "almost two decades":
But acting on climate change already has widespread support among Catholics. The pope's move comes after senior bishops from around the globe called on the world's governments to phase out fossil fuels completely in order to "protect frontline communities suffering from the impacts of climate change." Christian leaders have been promoting climate action for many years, citing its disproportionate impacts on the poor as a main concern. In 2006, the Evangelical Climate Initiative urged members of the church to act on climate change because it "hit[s] the poor the hardest":
Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.
Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46).
Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26-28).
Fox News' coverage of an evidence-free "bombshell" from Benghazi hoaxster Sharyl Attkisson took just hours to morph from a reiteration of her claim that a disgruntled former State Department employee "couldn't help but wonder" if Hillary Clinton's staff had turned over "scrubbed" Benghazi documents to investigators into full-blown allegations that documents had been "destroyed" -- allegations that remain baseless.
Charles and David Koch, brothers and the oil barons who are already shaping the 2014 midterm elections according to recently leaked audio recordings, are often portrayed as environmentally responsible advocates of the free-market that are unfairly targeted by Democrats. However, their political influence, which benefits the fossil fuel industry and their own bottom line, is unparalleled.
Fox News' Special Report highlighted conservative calls for President Obama's impeachment, but hid that the calls they cite as coming from "some prominent outside conservative voices" actually originated with Fox's own contributors.
On the July 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox correspondent Mike Emanuel reported that "some prominent outside conservative voices have called for President Obama to be impeached":
A Media Matters analysis of Fox News coverage of the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed carbon pollution standards finds that long after a report from the Chamber of Commerce was discredited, Fox News continued to cite it. In addition, Fox News only hosted politicians who opposed EPA standards and who have altogether received over $1.6 million in contributions from fossil fuel industries in 2014.
Conservative media outlets jumped at the chance to revive the long-debunked myth of a "death panel" provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by exploiting the serious investigation into problems within the Veterans Affairs (VA) administration.
From the May 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox News minimized the influence of political spending by the Koch brothers in order to paint Democrats as hypocrites on the issue of campaign finance.
After championing the impact Koch ad money has had on shaping public opinion on Obamacare during the April 10 edition of Fox News' Special Report, correspondent Doug McKelway hid the influence Koch Industries' funding actually has on elections. McKelway cited an OpenSecrets.org list of the "top all-time donors," emphasizing that despite the $30 million spent on advertisements, the list ranks Koch Industries as only 59th out of 156 donors. In an attempt to attack Democrats as hypocrites for their criticisms of the Koch brothers' political spending, McKelway highlighted the fact that the top donor on Open Secret's list was ActBlue, a Democratic PAC:
In response to Media Matters' documentation that a group pushing climate change denial has also rejected the known health impacts of tobacco and secondhand smoke, Fox News is suggesting that secondhand smoke is not dangerous.
On the April 9 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Doug McKelway pointed to a report by the "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change" (NIPCC), which was written in an attempt to debunk the United Nations' recent consensus report, to claim that "a torrent of new data is poking very large holes" in climate science. In an accompanying article at FoxNews.com, McKelway responded to a Media Matters blog post documenting that the group behind the report, the Heartland Institute, has previously denied the health impacts of tobacco, by claiming that the "Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study":
The NIPCC ["Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change"] report was immediately assailed by administration supporters. The website Media Matters reported that the NIPCC study was published by the conservative Heartland Institute, which previously denied the science demonstrating the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke. (In fact, Heartland's denial of the dangers of second hand smoke was re-affirmed by a large scale 2013 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute which found "no statistically significant relationship between lung cancer and exposure to passive smoke.")
Media Matters had actually pointed out that the Heartland Institute once claimed that smoking "fewer than seven cigarettes a day" -- not just secondhand smoke -- was not bad for you, while simultaneously being funded by the tobacco giant Philip Morris. Regardless, secondhand smoke is unequivocally dangerous and causally linked to cancers including lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, the American Lung Association, and the Centers for Disease Control. McKelway cherry-picked one study that found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and cancer but did find a trend of "borderline statistical significance" among women who had lived with a smoker for 30 years or more. Meta-analyses have previously found that the "abundance of evidence ... overwhelmingly support the existence of a causal relationship between passive smoking and lung cancer." The Environmental Protection Agency states that it does not claim that "minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk," but that nonetheless secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in U.S. nonsmokers:
The evidence is clear and consistent: secondhand smoke is a cause of lung cancer in adults who don't smoke. EPA has never claimed that minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk. Even though the lung cancer risk from secondhand smoke is relatively small compared to the risk from direct smoking, unlike a smoker who chooses to smoke, the nonsmoker's risk is often involuntary. In addition, exposure to secondhand smoke varies tremendously among exposed individuals. For those who must live or work in close proximity to one or more smokers, the risk would certainly be greater than for those less exposed.
EPA estimates that secondhand smoke is responsible for about 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year among nonsmokers in the U.S.; of these, the estimate is 800 from exposure to secondhand smoke at home and 2,200 from exposure in work or social situations.
From the April 9 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
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Fox attempted to revive the lie that the Affordable Care Act contains health care rationing in the form of "death panels" by pushing misleading claims about the law's prescription drug coverage.
On Fox's Special Report, guest host Doug McKelway asked the show's panel about a provision in the ACA that he claimed "is drastically limiting the availability of some drugs." Fox contributor Stephen Hayes claimed "patients with diseases and conditions that require medication not approved by Washington bureaucrats" may "have to go without it with potentially very serious implications." McKelway asked if the prescription drug provisions were "rationing or, as some people have said, the so-called death panels." Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer concluded: "We're learning how much rationing is the essence of Obamacare -- the rationing of doctors, the rationing of hospitals. Here we begin to understand the rationing of drugs. Next, and in the end, will be rationing of care."
Fox's description of the ACA's prescription drug coverage is misleading, and McKelway's "death panel" reference is outright irresponsible. The reality is that the way the ACA treats prescription drug coverage is in line with how private insurance companies have handled coverage for years.
Although Fox omitted it from its coverage, the ACA actually expands prescription drug coverage, including it as one of the 10 essential health benefits that all plans must provide. But just like the vast majority of currently offered health plans, plans offered under the ACA's health care exchanges will not provide full coverage to every prescription drug. These plans will be offered along with what's known as a drug formulary, a guide to what drugs the plan covers and how they cover it. As Think Progress' Igor Volsky pointed out, the use of a drug formulary is standard practice among health care plans:
Under the law, insurers must offer drug benefits as part of 10 essential health care benefits, meaning that millions of uninsured Americans will now have drug coverage for the very first time. But the coverage won't be limitless. Insurers will continue to rely on drug formularies -- as they currently do in the private market and Medicare Part D -- to decide which prescriptions are covered and which are not.
The ACA requires that issuers provide the greater of one drug from each category or class, or offer as many drugs in each category as are covered by a benchmark plan. The law allows states the choice of four different benchmarks, which Gottlieb helpfully lists in his article: 1) One of the three largest small group plans in the state by enrollment; 2) one of the three largest state employee health plans by enrollment; 3) one of the three largest federal employee health plan options by enrollment; or 4) the largest HMO plan offered in the state's commercial market by enrollment.
States -- not the federal government -- select the benchmark and insurers then offer coverage for the drugs listed in those formularies. "What the vast majority of states have chosen is a common small business plan, so you know it's saying what will be available in the exchanges and in the individual market generally is what's popular among small businesses now and that seems like a reasonable place to start," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt explained.
The law also has provisions for people who rely on a drug that isn't covered by their plan's formulary. Patients can apply for exceptions in the case of medical need:
What if a drug I take is not on the list?
Your doctor can ask for an exception for medical need so that the insurer will cover it. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is encouraging insurers to respond to such requests within three days. If your request is denied, you can go through your state's appeals process, which usually is handled by insurance regulators. If you still can't get coverage and need to take the drug, you'll have to bear the full cost out of pocket, as it won't count toward your deductible or your co-insurance maximum.
From the February 14 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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