The Columbus Dispatch borrowed from a Wall Street Journal editorial to forward the unproven assumption that the Obama administration delayed the employer mandate in an effort to prop up the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) individual market. But evidence shows the market was considered stable prior to this delay.
In a February 21 editorial, the Dispatch, which is no fan of the ACA, cast the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate -- which, when enacted, will force companies with more than 50 full-time employees to provide subsidized health insurance -- until 2016 as a bid to save the law from failing and "to shore up the fiscal underpinnings of the health-care exchanges," a theory it pulled from a Wall Street Journal editorial that advocated for the repeal of the health care law:
And what's behind this latest change? Many immediately saw it as another move to protect Democratic lawmakers who are up for re-election in November from the fallout of the health-care mess.
The Wall Street Journal last week offered another reason for the delay: to shore up the fiscal underpinnings of the health-care exchanges. The Journal points out that "people are supposed to be eligible for subsidies (to buy insurance on the exchanges) only if their employers don't offer insurance. Since the White House is releasing many more businesses from the mandate's obligations, many more people will suddenly qualify to join the exchanges."
This would improve the demographic balance needed to ensure that the health-care law is fiscally sound, because the law relies on charging healthy people more for health insurance in order to subsidize the costs of those who are sicker.
However, experts considered the insurance market stable at least a month before the Obama administration issued the delay. As The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted on January 14, the risk of a "death spiral" was over:
The risk of a "death spiral" is over. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if the market's age distribution freezes at its current level -- an extremely unlikely scenario -- "overall costs in individual market plans would be about 2.4% higher than premium revenues." So, in theory, premiums costs might rise by a few percentage points. That's a problem, but it's nothing even in the neighborhood of a death spiral.
A Media Matters analysis found that Florida newspapers including, The Orlando Sentinel, The Sun-Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times, and The Tampa Tribune, largely failed to cover the key details of Medicaid expansion in the lead up to the state's legislative session, including the specific benefits of expansion and the negative impact the failure to expand would have on the state and Floridians.
A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial attacked the gender pay gap as "complete hooey," ignoring several studies that show a clear discrepancy in wages between men and women while dismissing the benefits of equal pay.
The February 9 editorial criticized New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan's decision to back an equal pay bill being considered by the state legislature, saying the gender wage gap is "complete hooey" and that "no serious scholar believes it." The editorial instead claimed women's' life choices were the biggest reason for the gap:
A 2009 Labor Department study of the issue reached "the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action."
That "multitude of factors" consists largely of life choices -- work hours, number of children, etc. For instance, Bureau of Labor Statistics data on full-time employees show that never-married women earn 95.8 percent of what men earn, but married women with children under 18 earn 76.3 percent.
The legislation would disallow pay secrecy policies that keep employees from discussing their pay with co-workers, making it easier for women to ensure they are being paid equally. Currently, employers are required to pay equal wages to men and women but can prevent employee discussion of compensation. As the National Women's Law Center explained last month, pay secrecy policies "can keep women in the dark about their pay, making pay discrimination nearly impossible to detect." States like Vermont, New Jersey, and New Mexico have recently enacted this type of legislation, strengthening women's and workers' rights in their states.
More than six months after two Colorado state senators were recalled over their support for stronger gun safety legislation, Colorado newspaper The Pueblo Chieftain continues to push false information to defend supporters of the recall.
Controversy in Colorado has erupted over the February 3 testimony of primary recall organizer Victor Head before the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. In calling for the repeal of a 2013 law that created a requirement for background checks on most gun sales, Head testified that he gathered recall petition signatures by telling people that the background check law would prohibit firearms loans between immediate family members for longer than 72 hours without a background check.
In fact, Colorado's background check law allows "a bona fide gift or loan" without a background check "between immediate family members, which are limited to spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, first cousins, aunts, and uncles" with no time limit. State Democratic Sen. Angela Giron -- one of the two senators targeted by Head for recall -- was responsible for authoring this family exemption.
In a February 7 article (subscription required), the Chieftain attested to the accuracy of Head's testimony in an article that stated, "But Head, a Republican who is running for Pueblo County clerk, was right when he told petition signers the new gun law blocked family members from loaning guns to each other indefinitely without a background check."
Again positing that Head was "right," the Chieftain article went on to inaccurately state: "It may seem like a technicality, but indefinite loans without a check -- like a brother to a brother -- are not allowed."
The Las Vegas Review-Journal published a misleading editorial on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including tired falsehoods about enrollment numbers and new misinformation that negatively framed Congressional Budget Office (CBO) numbers that actually show Americans will have more job choice thanks to the ACA.
In a February 5 editorial the Review-Journal revived the claim that the ACA will not meet enrollment goals and offered a CBO report showing Americans will work less as they rely less on their jobs for insurance as proof the ACA is failing:
If the governor is legitimately shocked at this development, he shouldn't be. Healthcare.gov, the national exchange, has been a disaster since its Oct. 1 launch, and it is well off the enrollment pace required to sign up 7 million Americans by April 1. Even if the national exchange reached its goal, Obamacare won't be viable because younger, healthier people aren't signing up in sufficient numbers to subsidize the costs of older, sicker enrollees. At least 40 percent of enrollees must be younger and healthier for the law to pencil out.
The House is still trying to roll back this nightmare, proposing bills that address the law's most significant flaws, such as its various incentives for part-time work. On Tuesday, a Congressional Budget Office report projected the ACA would reduce the number of full-time workers in the United States by 2 million people by 2017 and 2.3 million by 2021 -- nearly three times the CBO's previous projected labor force impact of 800,000. Obamacare subsidies are partly to blame, the CBO reported, because they are "encouraging part-year workers to delay returning to work in order to retain their insurance subsidies." That's another way of saying Americans can't afford mandate-heavy, ACA-compliant policies that President Barack Obama promised would be cheaper.
The Review-Journal's assertion that ACA's success rests on enrolling 7 million by April 1 misrepresents what that number actually means. The CBO estimated 7 million people could sign up through the 2014 enrollment period, but that number is not critical to success of the law. The ACA has seen success in increasing sign-up rates as fixes to the system progress and enrollment deadlines draw closer. Furthermore, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, young enrollees are participating enough to support the law. Even in Kaiser's worst-case scenario -- young enrollment freezing at the already-surpassed 25% of enrollees -- the ACA would be stable and provide a profit to insurers.
The Baltimore Sun's conservative blog Red Maryland published a misguided defense of Texas' draconian anti-choice legislation, attacking Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis in the process.
The January 30 op-ed authored by Red Maryland's Brian Griffiths used recent comments from Maryland Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley about protecting of "the dignity of every Marylander" to not only defend harmful anti-choice laws passed in Texas earlier this year, but to also attack Davis' filibuster of the legislation last June:
In Texas, State Sen. Wendy Davis was made a national hero for unsuccessfully filibustering against greater regulations on abortions. While such standards don't meet the goal of eliminating abortions, these amendments to Texas law protected the rights of the unborn and ensured that women were not subject to unsanitary and unsafe medical conditions. Far from being extreme, the changes included prohibiting the killing an unborn child after 20 weeks, recognizing the concept of fetal pain, requiring abortion clinics to meet minimum surgical medical standards and requiring medical oversight for the use of abortion-causing drugs.
Ms. Davis' filibuster and vehement opposition, while completely unpopular in her home state, made her such a national hero that facts about her political resume were conveniently discarded. But what about Wendy Davis' opposition to this bill was heroic?
But the legislation in Texas doesn't protect women from "unsanitary and unsafe medical conditions." Rather, it seeks to accomplish what Griffiths calls the "goal of eliminating abortions." Texas' laws have made it increasingly more difficult for pregnant women to seek reproductive services with doctors at 34 of the state's women's health clinics failing to win admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles (as mandated by the law), forcing "at least 12 abortion clinics to stop providing abortions and other clinics to scale back their services," though three have since reopened. However, as the Dallas News explained, in 2011, not a single woman died of abortion-related causes in the state, but 116 died of pregnancy-related complications.
The New Hampshire Union Leader relied on anecdotal evidence from past elections to revive the misleading threat of voter fraud to endorse voter ID laws that restrict the right to vote.
In a January 27 editorial, the Union Leader cited two cases of potential fraud that it claims justifies the paper's support for strict photo ID laws:
Adam Kumpu of Milford was fined $1,000 and his mother, Janine Kumpu of Milford, was fined $250 for the fraud. Janine Kumpu obtained an absentee ballot in her son's name, and he used it to vote in Milford last November. He also voted in person in Keene.
That was proven fraud. Then there is the mystery of a vote recorded in Caitlin Legacki's name in the 2012 general election. The bloggers at Granite Grok reported last week that someone voted in Manchester in 2012 under the name of former Jeanne Shaheen spokesperson Caitlin Legacki.
We confirmed with the city clerk's office that a vote under Legacki's name and address was recorded. But Legacki moved out of New Hampshire shortly after the 2008 election (in which she voted) and was in St. Louis on Election Day 2012, working for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. "It certainly was news to me" that she was checked as having voted in Manchester in 2012, she told us last week.
The Union Leader's anecdotal evidence is futile since neither case was prevented by the voter ID law in place in New Hampshire prior to the 2012 election, nor do the examples prove the law's effectiveness in deterring the minuscule amount of fraud that occurs in elections. New Hampshire's voter ID law requires an eligible photo ID, or voters must sign an affidavit confirming their identity and intention to vote. The Kumpu family example would not be stopped by stricter ID laws as absentee ballots are counted after the polls close in New Hampshire, thus making the redundant vote unpreventable solely with voter ID legislation. The second case, as the editorial noted, could have been a simple mistake, and was not prevented by the ID law. In addition, it does not show any proof that anyone engaged in fraud.
In the wake of the January 25 shooting at the Columbia Mall in Columbia, Maryland, that claimed the lives of two victims, the Baltimore Sun's recently acquired conservative political blog made a series of inaccurate statements on firearms and firearms laws to attack supporters of stronger gun laws, including recently enacted measures strengthening firearms laws in Maryland.
In a blog post on the Baltimore Sun's Red Maryland blog, Mark Newgent criticized a statement by Vinny DeMarco, the president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence and a supporter of a measure strengthening firearms laws in Maryland, who explained that without Maryland's new firearms law -- which banned assault weapons and limited the purchase of high-capacity ammunition magazines -- the shooting could have been worse. However, in his criticism of the release, Newgent got several points wrong:
A right-wing group dedicated to deterring young Americans from signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) placed an op-ed in several local papers praising false reports of low sign-up rates for millennials. However, recent enrollment data show strong support for the ACA among young people.
A recent piece in the The Tampa Tribune by the president of Generation Opportunity -- a Koch-backed anti-Affordable Care Act group -- Evan Feinberg, called the ACA a "total rip-off" and an attack on "our wallets" while wrongly suggesting the ACA will collapse by failing to win over millennials. Feinberg wrote, "the unspoken truth is the exchanges won't be able to make ends meet without our money." This exact piece appeared in several local outlets in mid-December and at the time criticized the initial enrollment numbers.
While Feinberg's piece might have had more merit in December -- when the available data showed slow enrollment, his latest applause for millennials' supposed failure to sign up for the ACA seems off the mark. According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services, youth enrollment increase eight-fold in the month of December. In fact, as many proponents of the law predicted, youth enrollment has mimicked the general enrollment patterns, with an initially slow enrollment in October and November followed by rapid acceleration over the month of December as deadlines for enrollment approached:
The Baltimore Sun recently signed a deal with Maryland conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for its website. But one of the site's editors, Mark Newgent, has worked for organizations that receive funding from fossil fuel companies to attack climate science.
The New Hampshire Union Leader attacked a push to expand Medicaid to the state's low-income residents, claiming that legislators should focus on job growth instead. However, studies show that expanding Medicaid will create jobs, spur economic growth, and cut health care costs for New Hampshire residents.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal misleadingly attacked a proposal to increase the minimum wage by incorrectly claiming that doing so would hurt job growth and do little to reduce poverty.
In a January 12 editorial, the paper attacked a recent push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10, arguing that Democratic proposals were little more than distractions "from the party's Obamacare debacle." The paper misleadingly claimed that raising the minimum wage would increase unemployment, especially for workers under the age of 25, before concluding that, given other so-called "broken promises" from President Obama, the public should be skeptical of claims that higher wages would reduce poverty.
But comprehensive studies of the employment effects of the minimum wage don't back up the assertions laid out by the Review-Journal, which has used this tired line of attack -- or allowed anti-minimum wage increase lobbyists to do so -- in its opinion pages before. One analysis by economists Paul Wolfson of Dartmouth and Dale Belman of Michigan State looked at several studies published on the effects of the minimum wage since 2000. Wolfson and Belman found that, while some studies showed slightly positive employment effects and others slightly negative employment effects, across all studies there was no statistically significant negative impact on employment. A similar report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research on the employment effect of the minimum wage also concluded that, "employment responses generally cluster near zero, and are more likely to be positive than negative."
It's no secret income inequality is on the rise nationwide. Research from economist Emmanueal Saez of the University of California, Berkeley shows inequality at its highest level since 1928. In Nevada, according to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities release, income for the poorest 20 percent of residents remained stagnant from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. That stagnation led to the richest 5 percent of households having average incomes 13.0 times larger than the bottom 20 percent of households. A report by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Democratic Culture found that 16.8 percent of Nevada's population lives in "poverty areas," with African-American, American Indians, and Latino populations all having more than 20 percent of their populations living in poverty.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal penned an editorial asserting that Walmart offers its employees better, more affordable insurance options than those available on the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, the ACA was never intended to compete with employee based insurance, but rather is aimed at covering the millions of uninsured Americans who could not access coverage through an employer.
The January 9 editorial joined a chorus of conservative voices promoting a report published in the Washington Examiner which claimed that Walmart's employer based insurance offers better coverage than what is available on the ACA-established health care exchanges:
In tracking the train wreck of Obamacare, some anecdotes sound too far-fetched to be true. Take Richard Pollock's eye-opening article for the Washington Examiner on Tuesday. Mr. Pollock got health policy experts and independent insurance agents affiliated with the National Association of Health Underwriters to compare Wal-Mart's health insurance plans with those offered via Obamacare exchanges.
Wal-Mart, the retail titan constantly derided by unions and liberal activists as a bad corporate citizen that sends low-wage employees onto welfare rolls, won out by a mile. The company's benefits are far more comprehensive and far less expensive than Obamacare plans.
But the ACA was never meant to compete with affordable employee-based coverage, and it is difficult to compare one company's health care plan to the hundreds of options available to different consumers depending on their state, income level, and type of insurance they want.
According to an article in Public Health Reports, the ACA's main goal is to create universal coverage thereby allowing the approximately 42 million Americans without insurance to have some baseline insurance. The article explains (emphasis added):
Consisting of 10 separate legislative Titles, the Act has several major aims. The first--and central--aim is to achieve near-universal coverage and to do so through shared responsibility among government, individuals, and employers. A second aim is to improve the fairness, quality, and affordability of health insurance coverage. A third aim is to improve health-care value, quality, and efficiency while reducing wasteful spending and making the health-care system more accountable to a diverse patient population. A fourth aim is to strengthen primary health-care access while bringing about longer-term changes in the availability of primary and preventive health care. A fifth and final aim is to make strategic investments in the public's health, through both an expansion of clinical preventive care and community investments.
Beyond the central goal of extending coverage to the uninsured, the ACA also established a set of essential benefits that all insurance plans, even Walmart's, need to have in order to improve coverage for all patients. Many of those previously uninsured before the ACA's passage were unable to find insurance due to pre-existing conditions that made them risky to cover. Thanks to the ACA, those people living with chronic conditions cannot be denied affordable insurance coverage.
For example, the Associated Press reported that a Michigan woman hasn't been able to find affordable insurance since 2007 because of a pre-existing condition but with the ACA "will now pay about $175 a month." In addition, the law also ensures that men and women are treated equally in the insurance market by banning higher premiums on women solely because of their gender.
Late last year, The Baltimore Sun inked a deal with conservative blog Red Maryland to provide content for a new blog and weekly column. But save one piece from Red Maryland's Mark Newgent, the paper has yet to explain this decision or how it plans to deal with potential issues with writers' conduct and conflicts of interest.
On November 19, Red Maryland's Mark Newgent published a piece in the Sun announcing that the paper "approached [Red Maryland] about providing quality conservative content for baltimoresun.com and The Sun's op-ed page in print," ending his post with "welcome to the resistance!" On their radio show, Red Maryland editors Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline further explained how the paper noticed conservatives in its comment section rebutting the opinion page and decided to approach Red Maryland with a partnership. Talks began in the summer of 2013, and the two reached an agreement in mid-November to begin publishing content on both a dedicated Red Maryland blog as well as a weekly column in the Friday edition of the Sun.
Red Maryland began as a political blog almost six years ago and boasts that it was named "one of Maryland's best political blogs by The Washington Post." Its staff also contributes to other conservative blogs such as Red State and WatchdogWire.com, the latter of which is run by the Franklin Center, a group known for its shadowy right-wing mega donor funding sources.
The New Hampshire Union Leader misleadingly used the findings of a study on Oregon's Medicaid expansion to attack the program, claiming it did not improve the health of patients and led to increased emergency room visits, and warning that New Hampshire "must not fall into that trap." However, contrary to the Union Leader's assertion, studies of Oregon's expansion show improvements in preventable diseases and mental health, and while ER visits were shown to rise initially, the number of people using the ER has dropped as people become more educated about their insurance coverage.
In a January 7 editorial, the Union Leader, which has a history of misinforming the public on Medicaid expansion, said Medicaid expansion is an effort to "move working-class and eventually middle-class Americans into government dependency." The paper claimed this would have a devastating effect on New Hampshire because the program is "poorly designed" and "does not even achieve its stated goals," using a recently released Harvard study of Oregon's 2008 Medicaid expansion experiment to show how the program "did not improve health outcomes or reduce health care costs" and "even increased visits to hospital emergency rooms."
But the Union Leader's claim that Medicaid did not improve health outcomes is inaccurate and fails to tell the whole story. A digest of the study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research contests the Union Leader's claims, saying the report found "higher healthcare utilization, lower out-of-pocket medical expenditures and medical debt, and better self-reported health." Past reports on Oregon's Medicaid experiment have also shown improvements in mental health and chronic disease detection among those covered by the expansion.