An O'Reilly Factor hat trick: Rove, Morris, and Schoen repeat falsehoods on the eve of health care summit

On the night before the bipartisan health care summit, Bill O'Reilly hosted Fox News contributors Karl Rove, Dick Morris, and Doug Schoen, all of whom repeated various falsehoods about health care reform.

Rove distorts CBO report to claim “everybody's health care premiums are going to be higher than they would be otherwise”

From the February 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

ROVE: There is a trillion dollars worth of additional money being spent over the next 10 years. It's got to come from somebody, and it's not just tanning salons. Remember, it's going to come from everybody who has an insurance policy because the Congressional Budget Office says everybody's health care premiums are going to be higher than they would be otherwise.

Premiums impact largely limited to nongroup market -- about 17 percent of the market in 2016. In a November 30, 2009, analysis of the Senate health bill, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that for premiums, the “largest effects would be seen in the nongroup market, which would grow in size under the proposal but would still account for only 17 percent of the overall insurance market in 2016. The effects on premiums would be much smaller in the small group and large group markets, which would make up 13 percent and 70 percent of the total insurance market, respectively.”

Federal subsidies will actually lower premiums from current projected costs for about 57 percent of the individual market. The CBO estimated that while the average premium per person in the nongroup market would be about 10 to 13 percent higher in 2016, “those figures indicate what enrollees would pay, on average, not accounting for the new federal subsidies. The majority of nongroup enrollees (about 57 percent) would receive subsidies via the new insurance exchanges, and those subsidies, on average, would cover nearly two-thirds of the total premium, CBO and JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] estimate. Thus, the amount that subsidized enrollees would pay for nongroup coverage would be roughly 56 percent to 59 percent lower, on average, than the nongroup premiums charged under current law.”

Premiums would remain unchanged and could decrease for large and small group insurance markets. The CBO also estimated that for the large-group market, which it said would make up 70 percent of the total insurance market in 2016, “the legislation would yield an average premium per person that is zero to 3 percent lower in 2016 (relative to current law).” Further, in “the small group market, which consists of employers with 50 or fewer workers, CBO and JCT estimate that the change in the average premium per person resulting from the legislation could range from an increase of 1 percent to a reduction of 2 percent in 2016 (relative to current law).”

Rove falsely claims excise tax “is paid by people who are not in unions” and union members “don't have to pay”

From the February 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

ROVE: It is a terrible bill made even worse by this president during these negotiations. I mean, you know -- did you see the comment by the White House in which they said, yes, the deal for unions is in there? That is to say, the Cadillac -- the tax on Cadillac plans is paid by people who are not in unions and don't work for state and local government. But if you work for a union or a state or local government, you don't have to pay. I mean, how fundamentally unfair is that? Buy off your political supporters, and make your political opponents and everybody else pay a higher price.

Obama health care plan delays, applies excise tax for all high-cost plans, not just union plans. According to the White House summary, Obama's health care plan delays the excise tax for all high-cost plans, “to provide additional transition time for high-cost plans to become more efficient.” From the White House's summary of Obama's health care proposal:

The President's Proposal changes the effective date of the Senate policy from 2013 to 2018 to provide additional transition time for high-cost plans to become more efficient. It also raises the amount of premiums that are exempt from the assessment from $8,500 for singles to $10,200 and from $23,000 for families to $27,500 and indexes these amounts for subsequent years at general inflation plus 1 percent. To the degree that health costs rise unexpectedly quickly between now and 2018, the initial threshold would be adjusted upwards automatically. To ensure that the tax affects firms equitably, the President's Proposal reforms it by including an adjustment for firms whose health costs are higher due to the age or gender of their workers, and by no longer counting dental and vision benefits as potentially taxable benefits.

A proposed compromise between the House and Senate bills would have exempted high-cost union health care plans from the excise tax until 2018, reportedly to give union members more time to renegotiate their contracts, while nonunion high-cost health care plans would have been subject to the excise tax starting in 2013.

O'Reilly and Schoen falsely suggest that GOP ideas like interstate competition “aren't in the bill”

From the February 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: He may just try to show the country that the Democrats -- that the Republicans are intractable because we do expect Republicans to go up there and say, look, unless you put in tort reform, unless you put in interstate competition of insurance companies -- two stalwarts. And I -- maybe -- you're a Democrat, maybe you could explain to me why those things aren't in the bill, Mr. Schoen, because they seem to be common sense to me. They're not in the bill. The Republicans have been hammering that for the last eight months, and the president basically just says, I'm not going to do it.

SCHOEN: Bill, I've been writing that the Democrats should include tort reform -- malpractice reform -- and interstate purchase of insurance, so I'm one Democrat --

O'REILLY: But why don't they do it, then? If you're a Democrat, I'm an independent, and all the Republicans want it, OK, why doesn't President Obama say, “OK, I'll give you both of those things”? Why not?

Obama: "[W]hen you say I ought to be willing to accept Republican ideas on health care, let's be clear: I have." During Obama's question-and-answer period of his House GOP retreat visit on January 29, Obama stated some of the GOP ideas on health care reform that are included in the current Senate bill, such as “Allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines”:

This is a big problem, and all of us are called on to solve it. And that's why, from the start, I sought out and supported ideas from Republicans. I even talked about an issue that has been a holy grail for a lot of you, which was tort reform, and said that I'd be willing to work together as part of a comprehensive package to deal with it. I just didn't get a lot of nibbles.

Creating a high-risk pool for uninsured folks with preexisting conditions, that wasn't my idea, it was Senator McCain's. And I supported it, and it got incorporated into our approach. Allowing insurance companies to sell coverage across state lines to add choice and competition and bring down costs for businesses and consumers -- that's an idea that some of you I suspect included in this better solutions; that's an idea that was incorporated into our package. And I support it, provided that we do it hand in hand with broader reforms that protect benefits and protect patients and protect the American people.

Klein: “I don't think it's well understood how many of the GOP's central health-care policy ideas” are in Senate bill. In a February 8 blog post, Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein wrote that the “four planks” on health care laid out on the House Republican Conference's website are all included in the Senate bill, such as the website's call to “Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.” Klein wrote that Section 1333 of the Senate bill “allows the formation of interstate compacts.”

Echoing his previous falsehood about Medicare Advisory Board, Morris claims: “This bill is euthanasia”

From the February 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

MORRIS: What is major about this bill is that it gives the federal government the power to tell people, no, you can't have this bypass surgery. You have to die.


MORRIS: But money is money. Life is life. This bill is euthanasia.

O'REILLY: All right, I got -- but we don't know -- it's not fair. And see, you're doing the same thing I said in the “Talking Points Memo” that Bernie Sanders is doing about global warming. You're trying to scare people, that if they get a heart attack then the government's going to let them die. That's what you're trying to do.


O'REILLY: You may be right.

MORRIS: And it's right.

O'REILLY: Well, you say it's right, but they say it's wrong. They say no, you say yes.

MORRIS: Bill, if you look at it -- Bill, if you come to the doctor and you say, “I want bypass surgery,” or he says you need bypass surgery, or you need a heart transplant, they have to assess whether to give you the care according to --

O'REILLY: How old you are -- right.

MORRIS: -- this bill based on qualities -- Q, quality adjusted life years. Ninety, 80 years old, diabetic, high blood pressure, you're overweight, no. And I'm sorry, that does mean you're going to die.

Dick Morris echoed comments he previously made about a Medicare Advisory Board in the Senate bill, which he referred to as a “death panel.”

No iteration of Democratic health care reform proposals make reference to “quality-adjusted life years.” Media Matters reviewed the House bill, the Senate bill, and the White House proposal and found no reference to “quality-adjusted life years,” which Morris claimed the government would use “according to this bill” “to assess whether to give you” health care treatments. The term is used by the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and is a measure used to “focus on treatments that improve the quality and/or length of someone's life and, at the same time, are an effective use of NHS resources.”

Senate bill: Advisory Board proposals “shall not include any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits.” From Section 3403 of the Senate health care bill, “Independent Medicare Advisory Board”:

(ii) The proposal shall not include any recommendation to ration health care, raise revenues or Medicare beneficiary premiums under section 1818, 1818A, or 1839, increase Medicare beneficiary cost sharing (including deductibles, coinsurance, and copayments), or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria.

CBO: Advisory Board provision “would place a number of limitations on the actions available to the board, including a prohibition against modifying eligibility or benefits.” In its December 19, 2009, analysis of the Senate bill incorporating the manager's amendment, CBO stated that Congress could block the Advisory Board's recommendations and that the provision establishing the board “would place a number of limitations on the actions available to the board, including a prohibition against modifying eligibility or benefits”:

The legislation also would establish an Independent Payment Advisory Board, which would be required, under certain circumstances, to recommend changes to the Medicare program to limit the rate of growth in that program's spending. Those recommendations would go into effect automatically unless blocked by subsequent legislative action. Such recommendations would be required if the Chief Actuary for the Medicare program projected that the program's spending per beneficiary [in fiscal years 2015-2019] would grow more rapidly than a measure of inflation (the average of the growth rates of the consumer price index for medical services and the overall index for all urban consumers). The provision would place a number of limitations on the actions available to the board, including a prohibition against modifying eligibility or benefits, so its recommendations probably would focus on:

  • Reductions in subsidies for non-Medicare benefits offered by MedicareAdvantage plans; and
  • Changes to payment rates or methodologies for services furnished in the fee-for-servicesector by providers other than hospitals, physicians, hospices, andsuppliers of durable medical equipment that is offered through competitivebidding.

On December 20, 2009, CBO noted that "[a]fter 2019, however, the threshold for Medicare spending growth that would trigger recommendations for spending reductions would be higher -- specifically, the rate of increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita plus 1 percentage point."