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 October 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the October 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the October 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the October 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox's Bill O'Reilly and John Stossel forwarded the notion that government assistance does not lift Americans out of poverty, a claim directly contradicted by evidence.
On the September 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host O'Reilly and Fox Business' Stossel discussed persistent and rising income inequality in the U.S. During the segment, Stossel and O'Reilly railed against government anti-poverty measures, with Stossel claiming that government makes "poverty worse with these programs" and that "we should get rid of most of government and allow poor people to become rich."
Stossel's claim about government programs not lifting Americans out of poverty is directly contradicted by evidence released hours before he made the claim.
On September 17, the Census Bureau released its annual report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2012. While the report showed the poverty rate remained unchanged from 2011, it also highlighted the effectiveness of government anti-poverty programs.
According to the report, if government noncash payments -- such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits -- were taken into account when calculating the poverty rate, millions of Americans would be lifted above the official poverty threshold. From the report:
- If unemployment insurance benefits were excluded from money income, 1.7 million more people would be counted as in poverty in 2012.
- If SNAP benefits were counted as income, 4 million fewer people would be categorized as in poverty in 2012.
- Taking account of the value of the federal earned income tax credit would reduce the number of children classified as in poverty in 2011 by 3.1 million.
Furthermore, as Sharon Parrott, vice president for budget policy and economic opportunity at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, notes, those who weren't lifted out of poverty by SNAP benefits -- also known as food stamps -- were made significantly less poor. The data from the latest Census report reaffirms SNAP as one of the most effective anti-poverty programs.
Fox's misleading campaign against anti-poverty programs -- particularly SNAP -- comes at a critical time. House Republicans plan to decrease funding for the program by nearly $40 billion over ten years, resulting in at least 3.8 million adults and children losing food assistance. The network has even inserted itself into the legislative push against SNAP, distributing its wildly inaccurate documentary on the program to Republican members of congress.
A predictable mix of falsehoods and sexist stereotypes resulted when two male Fox figures attempted to debunk "gender myths" like the gender pay gap, female versus male drivers, and the need for Title IX to support women's athletics.
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy welcomed Fox Business' John Stossel on August 8 to ostensibly debunk common gender myths. Doocy opened the segment by asking if the differences between boys and girls are so clear, "why are the feminists still pushing gender equality?"
Doocy and Stossel first attempted to tackle the gender pay gap. While admitting that it is true women are paid 77 cents for each dollar men make, Stossel claimed the discrepancy is because, "we don't work the same jobs." The reason, according to him, is that "women have their priorities in order. They often choose jobs that are less time-consuming, not so far away, and not as dangerous." He concluded that if a true pay gap existed, the market would have sorted it out.
The pair ignored the central fact that the gender pay gap measures discrepancies in pay for an equal amount of work. As of 2011, "women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 77 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 23 percent," a report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found. And as the Institute for Women's Policy Research explained, "Women's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women."
When it came to driving records, Doocy and Stossel did acknowledge that on average, men behind the wheel are more likely to run stop signs, speed, and kill other people. But these statistics did not stop the two from laughing that women are "clearly" worse drivers than men, in part because "they can't maneuver as well."
Back in May, Fox & Friends dedicated more than 13 minutes and multiple segments to questioning whether women can drive or park well.
Last, the men discussed "the myth that Title IX allowed women to play sports in college." Stossel took the stance that without Title IX, which prohibits colleges and universities from discriminating based on gender, this "would have happened anyway. Because at the time, when they passed this, women couldn't get credit cards without a man's signature. Women weren't going to bars alone, or allowed to smoke socially. Life would have changed." Stossel concluded that the law pretends just as many women want to play sports as men do, but "they don't. More men do."
In reality, when Congress passed Title IX in 1972, roughly one in 27 girls, or four percent, participated in sports, according to The New York Times. Just six years later, that number had exploded to 25 percent. Today, roughly one in three girls plays a sport. This increased participation rate is "proof," according to the National Women's Law Center, "that interest often reflects opportunity."
Fox has already sparked outrage this summer with its gender comparisons: In May, host Lou Dobbs called a rise in families with female breadwinners a sign of society's downfall, and paid contributor Erick Erickson added that "biology" and "the natural world" evidenced that men, not women, should hold that "dominant role."
Click below for Stossel and Doocy's full "debunking" attempt.
Fox Business' John Stossel attempted to revive the myth that the gender pay gap is a result of personal choice.
During an August 6 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Stossel responded to a statement by co-host Laura Ingraham about liberal criticism of the gender pay gap. Stossel said:
You normal women make different choices, and that's why women are paid less. When it's the same job, they're paid about the same.
Meanwhile, Laura Ingraham dismissed those concerned with equal pay as "feminists and all the Lilly Ledbetter supporters."
In reality, personal choice is not responsible for the gender wage gap.
In its 2013 Gender Pay Gap Report, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that women were paid 82 percent of what men were paid just one year out of college, and that lifetime gender wage disparities cannot be explained by personal choice.
Moreover, according to an April 2012 fact sheet from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, "Women's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women."
House Republicans reportedly plan to remove food stamp funding from the federal farm bill, a move that stands to further jeopardize the survival of the critical anti-poverty program. This move comes after years of right-wing media figures demonizing food stamp recipients as lazy or dependent, with Rush Limbaugh going so far as to propose dumpster diving as an alternative.
Here's a look back at some of the most egregious right-wing attacks on food stamps:
From the June 27 edition of Fox Business' Stossel:
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From the May 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Bill O'Reilly labeled electric carmaker Tesla Motors a failure, claiming it had net losses. But Tesla has actually turned a profit, leading Fox News to label it a "success story" just last week.
O'Reilly stated that Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan guarantee, had "$523 million in losses." But Tesla actually made a profit in the first quarter of 2013, and has arranged to repay its loan five years early. O'Reilly's figure is from a 2011 Investor's Business Daily editorial, as Raw Story first noted. In 2011, Tesla had annual net losses of $254 million, adding to previous losses, but CEO Elon Musk always saw Tesla turning a profit in 2013 once its car production ramped up.
In fact, Fox News itself labeled Tesla a "success story," and Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs reluctantly acknowledged that it was one of the "winners" of the Obama administration's clean energy programs.
Fox Business host John Stossel contradicted himself within just a few paragraphs over whether the "free market" can remedy pollution.
In a FoxNews.com column, Stossel acknowledged that the "free market ... doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution," but went on tout "capitalism" as the answer to pollution just a few paragraphs later:
Originally, environmental rules were a good thing. I love the free market, but it doesn't offer a practical remedy to pollution. I could sue polluters for violating my property rights, but under our legal system, that's not even close to practical.
So in the '70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks. Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.
Throughout the world, most reductions in pollution have been achieved because of capitalism, not government control.
Fracking for natural gas reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Even much-hated coal and oil provide benefits. [emphasis added]
Stossel was right the first time. Experts from across the political spectrum say that when the "free market" does not account for the external costs that fossil fuel production imposes on society, the government must step in to put a price on pollution. As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman put it:
Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right. [...] So if you really believed in the logic of free markets, you'd be all in favor of pollution taxes, right?
Krugman highlighted a 2011 study by centrist economists which found that coal imposes more costs on society than any other industry and may be "underregulated" as its price does not account for these damages.
Fox Business host John Stossel is dismissing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on plastic foam containers by claiming the containers are "not so bad" for the environment. But the non-recyclable containers pose health and environmental risks and impose significant costs on the city.
On Thursday's edition of Fox and Friends, Stossel said that we need not worry about waste from the plastic foam containers colloquially called "Styrofoam" because "we're not running out of landfills":
But shifting from products that end up in landfills to products that can be recycled can save the city money, and the health and environmental risks of Styrofoam are indeed "bad."
Using recyclable products rather than Styrofoam saves the city money. Even if there is room for more landfills, as Stossel claims, it will be cheaper for the city if recyclable products replace Styrofoam containers. The Associated Press reported:
It costs the city an average of $86 per ton to landfill some 2 million tons of garbage a year; by contrast, the city nets a payment of at least $10 a ton for recycling paper and about $14 a ton for recycling glass and plastic, [New York City's head of recycling, Ron] Gonen said.
Reuters added that Styrofoam imposes costs on the city's recycling program:
An estimated 20,000 tons of Styrofoam enter the city's waste stream each year, and it can add an estimated $20 per ton to the cost of recycling because it needs to be removed from the recycling stream, the city said.
The largest single source of trash, or municipal solid waste (MSW), is containers and packaging, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
As around 70 percent of paper and steel containers, and over a third of aluminum and glass containers are recycled, replacing Styrofoam containers with these alternatives could save the city significant amounts of money.
Styrofoam can leach chemicals that are likely cancerous. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has listed styrene as a likely human carcinogen. Polystyrene, the technical name of Styrofoam, can leach this chemical into foods, according to the NIH:
As Fox Business host John Stossel declared America's water pollution problem over, a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report found that more than half of America's rivers and streams are in poor condition because of pollution.
Stossel appeared on Tuesday's edition of The O'Reilly Factor to preview an anti-environmental episode called "Green Tyranny," and claimed that the problem of pollution in the U.S. was "largely solved" and no longer worth the use of government funding.
BILL O'REILLY (host): All right. So, that's Stossel jumping in the Hudson River, showing off and all of that. And your point to jump in the Hudson River was?
STOSSEL: That we need some environmental rules. Thank goodness, we've had some when I was a kid. You couldn't open a window in the city because soot would come in.
But they've cleaned up the water. So, it used to go -- 8 million people flushing, used to go straight in the Hudson River.
O'REILLY: All right. It doesn't do that anymore. It's treated and all of that. So, the Hudson -- I mean, I wouldn't be swimming there on a regular basis, Stossel. Your mustache is gonna falll off, all right?
Yeah, you can show up and jump in there for 10 seconds but, come on.
STOSSEL: It's pretty good. My point is that they spent several hundred million dollars.
O'REILLY: Cleaning up the river.
STOSSEL: Cleaning up the river and the air.
O'REILLY: Which was worth it though.
STOSSEL: Which was worth it.
STOSSEL: But stick a fork in it. It's done. They did a great job. The air -- every time somebody buys a new car, the air gets cleaner because the old cars pollute more. But government only grows. So, now, they're spending billions of dollars on --
O'REILLY: Are you saying that the pollution problem in this country is not worth the money they're spending on?
STOSSEL: Yes. I'm saying it's largely solved. And, now, we're giving money to rich movie actors, subsidies to buy $100,000 electric cars.
Despite Stossel's claims, an EPA report released on Tuesday found 55 percent of U.S. rivers and streams to be in "poor biological condition," based on an index that measures various aquatic creatures. The report also found that 23 percent of rivers and streams were in fair condition, and just under 21 percent were in good condition. The assessment was based on "the results of an unprecedented sampling effort undertaken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its state and tribal partners" collected in 2008 and 2009 at 1,924 sites across the country. From the EPA's report:
The EPA's "National Rivers and Streams Assessment" also determined that 9 percent of waterways studied posed a danger to human health. The Associated Press reported:
In 9 percent of rivers and streams, bacteria exceeded thresholds protective of human health. And mercury, which is toxic, was found in fish tissue along 13,000 miles of streams at levels exceeding health-based standards. Mercury occurs naturally but also can enter the environment from coal-burning power plants and from burning hazardous wastes.
The assessment raised red flags particularly in urban areas. According to the EPA, 26.9 percent of the urban sites tested -- 2,970 miles of the 11,002 -- exceed the EPA quality standards for mercury (300 parts per billion in fish tissue), and 11.6% contained concerning levels of PFCs, artificial chemicals used to make used for decades to make products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. From the EPA assessment: