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.
Fox News host Martha MacCallum and guest Dr. Manny Alvarez misrepresented the science behind Plan B and ignored the legal reasons behind the pending over-the-counter availability of this emergency contraceptive.
Leading her segment by incorrectly describing the contraceptive as an abortifacient for use "after sex they think may have resulted in a pregnancy," MacCallum hosted Alvarez, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, to repeat his discredited claims about Plan B's alleged dangers. Specifically, Alvarez claims that "from a scientific point of view," Plan B is only "safe for women." Both MacCallum and Alvarez professed ignorance as to the real reasons the one-pill form will soon be available without a prescription. From the June 11 edition of America's Newsroom:
ALVAREZ: From a scientific point of view I know, yes, Plan B is safe for women. But since when is a 10-year-old a woman? All the advocates that say oh this is a great success for women's health rights and all of that, I get the whole thing if you want to say women, fine, but a 10-year-old, an 11-year-old, a 12-year-old - those are kids. They're not even teenagers.
MACCALLUM: I sent my daughter to buy, you know, the d-level of allergy medicine the other day at CVS and they wouldn't sell it to her without an ID that showed she was 18. You can't buy cold medicine, you can't get your appendix taken out without your parents standing right by your side at the hospital. But you can do this with no problem. Explain what kind of world we live in when that is the situation.
ALVAREZ: The rationale is really something that I can't put my head around it.
Right-wing media have seized on a study of Medicaid recipients to attack the program by focusing on certain parts of the findings while health care experts point out that the program successfully expanded access to care and eased health-related financial problems, the primary focus of Medicaid.
In 2008, the state of Oregon held a lottery to expand Medicaid coverage to 10,000 people. Because the selection was random, researchers began a controlled study on how the coverage affected the participants. After the results were posted in The New England Journal of Medicine, right-wing media seized on the findings to attack both Medicaid and health care reform. On May 2, Fox Nation posted a Washington Examiner article on the study under the headline "Landmark Study Shatters Liberal Health Care Claims." In the article, Examiner senior editorial writer Philip Klein noted that the study's authors found that enrollment in Medicaid led to "lower rates of depression," but Klein wrote that "the study suggests that expanding Medicaid ... does not improve" the health of recipients. On Your World, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, used the findings to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA):
On May 3, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy called the Medicaid study "[b]ad news for Democrats who support Obamacare." On-screen text during the segment stated that the study found that Medicaid is "ineffective":
But while Fox used the study as an opportunity to attack various aspects of health care reform, experts have pointed out that the study's findings, while not entirely positive, show that the program aided the new enrollees in several ways. In a Health Affairs blog post, Dr. John Lumpkin, who served for 12 years as the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, wrote that the study showed that "coverage alone will not necessarily lead to good health," but also pointed to the "big impact on family finances" and the fact that "expanding Medicaid was shown to substantially reduce depression." Dr. Lumpkin concluded:
So far, the Oregon Health Insurance Study shows us that people who obtained Medicaid coverage received more health care services in the first two years--especially needed preventive care--and had less depression and financial worries. Their health outcomes weren't significantly better, but at least they are now participating in the health care system and getting the care they need, without plunging their families deeper into poverty. From this vantage point, the glass seems more than half full.
Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are teaming up to demonize the Food and Drug Administration's decision to lower the age requirement for access to over-the-counter emergency contraception, ignoring both the science behind the drug and the FDA's assessment that younger women can handle the responsibility of taking the medication.
On America's Newsroom, Fox's senior managing editor for health news, Dr. Manny Alvarez, attacked the FDA's decision to allow 15-year-olds to purchase the medication. He claimed emergency contraception decisions should be left up to the parents because, "Since when is a 15-year-old child a woman? Now give me a break."
Alvarez went on to claim that a 15-year-old is unable to understand the possible side effects of Plan B. Host Martha MacCallum stated, "Look at the list of warnings on this thing," prompting Alvarez to argue:
It reads like the Constitution. There's so many, you know, possibilities, probabilities, percentages. You're going to tell me a 15-year-old girl -- and who could even buy it and give it to a 14-year-old or 13-year-old -- is going to understand all the potential side effects? And what they should do after if they have any of the symptoms?
Later, MacCallum fearmongered over whether Plan B could result in long-term fertility problems, wondering, "Who knows what the long-lasting implications of using it in that way are? When this girl decides she wants to have a baby a few years down the road?" Alvarez did not take the bait, telling MacCallum: "I'm not arguing that this has some mild to moderate side effects -- not terrible side effects."
Aside from the fact that the "children" seeking emergency contraception are of reproductive age, Alvarez's allegations have been explicitly discredited by FDA research. The agency conclusively determined that a 15-year-old is able to understand the side effects and consequences of Plan B after conducting research on this question when determining whether to make the drug available to this age group without a prescription. FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD explained (emphasis added):
The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) completed its review of the Plan B One-Step application and laid out its scientific determination. CDER carefully considered whether younger females were able to understand how to use Plan B One-Step. Based on the information submitted to the agency, CDER determined that the product was safe and effective in adolescent females, that adolescent females understood the product was not for routine use, and that the product would not protect them against sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, the data supported a finding that adolescent females could use Plan B One-Step properly without the intervention of a healthcare provider.
From the November 23 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
Loading the player reg...
From the November 14 edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
Loading the player reg...
From Dr. Keith Ablow's unscientific attacks on Chaz Bono to Dr. Manny Alvarez's baseless suggestion that Tylenol will soon be moved behind the counter because of the Affordable Care Act, Fox News' "Medical A-Team" experts routinely advance misinformation, sometimes using their medical credentials to give credence to their arguments.
A segment on the September 16 edition of Fox News' America Live regarding presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's story about a woman who claimed that her daughter became mentally retarded due to the human papillomavirus vaccine started off well. Fox "Medical A-Team" member Dr. Manny Alvarez pointed out that, contrary to Bachmann's anecdotal claim, the HPV vaccination does not cause mental retardation, and that it's "irresponsible" for her to suggest otherwise. Fellow "Medical A-Team" member Dr. Cynara Coomer agreed, pointing out that complications from the HPV vaccine are extremely rare.
So far, so good -- all medically sound and factually based arguments. But then, Alvarez and Coomer drifted away from that.
Host Megyn Kelly then asked Alvarez, "Dr. Manny, you're not a huge fan of vaccines, right?" He responded, "I'm not." He then said in response to a follow-up question from Kelly: "Would I give it to my daughter? The answer is no."
Huh? After arguing in favor of the efficacy of the HPV vaccine, he agrees with the statement that he's "not a huge fan of vaccines" and that he wouldn't give the HPV vaccine to his daughter?
To be fair, Alvarez may have been referring to his opposition to mandated vaccinations, which he discussed in a newly published column on FoxNews.com. Alvarez has also previously pushed back against the idea that vaccines cause autism, claiming that "I have always been very bullish in impressing upon new parents that vaccinations are vital in preventing deadly diseases in our children, and keeping those that have been eradicated in this country from coming back." Still, for Alvarez to suggest on national TV that he's anti-vaccine is questionable and even dangerous.
But that's not all. Both Alvarez and Coomer went on to suggest that giving a girl the HPV vaccine was akin to giving her a license to have promiscuous sex.
Fox News' Bill Hemmer and Dr. Manny Alvarez suggested that the health care reform law will lead to people "need[ing] a prescription for everyday items like aspirin." They based this claim on a provision in the law that merely requires people who buy medications using money from tax-free medical spending accounts to have prescriptions for those purchases.
Fox News has repeatedly attempted to discredit an HHS study estimating how many people have pre-existing conditions. In doing so, Fox falsely claimed the study said 129 million people would "lose their coverage" if Republicans repealed the health care reform law, when in fact, HHS said this number represents those who, in the absense of health care reform, would face higher premiums or benefit cuts in the individual insurance market.
Dr. Manny Alvarez is Fox News' senior medical contributor. He comes on TV to talk about the latest health scare or the new fad diet or whatever overhyped medical story is helping to fill the 24-hour cable news maw. But Dr. Alvarez apparently wants to expand his bailiwick beyond matters of medical science and try his hand at political punditry. And, given that he works at Fox News, you can already guess where this is going.
In a December 7 column for Fox News Latino, Alvarez channels Glenn Beck in accusing Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) of mimicking "leftist dictators in Latin America," and calling him one of the "so-called progressive politicians here in America [who] do not represent the Constitution." What was Gutierrez's crime? In Alvarez's words: "Encouraging Latinos to participate in protests, marches and sit-ins, reminiscent of the civil-rights movement by African-Americans in the 1960s."
Alvarez was referring to a December 1 Daily Beast article that reported on Gutierrez's frustrations with Obama's slow movement on immigration legislation:
The DREAM Act, Gutiérrez says, is for now his final legislative maneuver. He's finished waiting for the mythical 60th vote to materialize in the Senate. No, when the lame duck ends, Gutiérrez and his movement allies will ask for a divorce -- from the Democratic Party, from the entire lawmaking process. To hear Gutiérrez tell it, Hispanic leaders are about to stage a full-tilt campaign of direct action, like the African-American civil-rights movement of the 1960s. There will be protests, marches, sit-ins -- what César Chávez might have called going rogue. The movement will operate autonomously, no longer beholden to wavering Democrats, filibustering Republicans, and -- perhaps most tantalizingly -- no longer beholden to Barack Obama.
According to Alvarez, calling for Latinos to peacefully protest in the vein of the '60s civil rights movement means Gutierrez is no different from Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez:
In the 1960s, Fidel Castro took that playbook to the streets of Havana, convincing people that they should rally in order to bring effective change. By employing a strategy of empty promises and radical ideals, Castro used the Cuban people to create an isolated, socialized, communist land where millions of people have been imprisoned -- many executed - and massive exodus of Cubans to foreign lands remains a theme in this country that hasn't done anything for its peoples' growth and prosperity in over 50 years.
Now, I know many of you are thinking that I'm always referring back to the Cuban Revolution, but history speaks for itself when you look at other Latin American countries that have used the same tactics to move toward socialism. Just ask any Venezuelan who has left their country in the last year.
Venezuela once was a stable democracy with great resources. Yes, it had problems -- what country doesn't? But there was a basic, underlying democratic process running the country.
Now, with President Hugo Chávez and his socialistic agenda becoming progressively more radical during his 11 years in power, the people of Venezuela don't have legitimate forums for democratic dialogue and the system to institute much-needed change.
Last week I wrote about how Fox News Latino doesn't quite mesh with the network's broader stance toward Latinos, which is rooted in demonizing undocumented immigrants. Alvarez's op-ed, though, reminds us that Fox News Latino is, in the end, still Fox News.