Elisabeth Hasselbeck's First Week On Fox News Features Misleading Attacks On Health Care Law
Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT
During her first week as a Fox News host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck ran daily "Eyes On Obamacare" segments that pushed falsehoods and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
On September 16, Hasselbeck hosted FoxBusiness.com reporter Kate Rogers to spread fear about some insurers dropping out of some states' individual health care markets, alleging that the law would increase the cost of health insurance.
But a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation early in September found that the cost of obtaining health insurance will be lower than expected:
This report -based on 17 states and the District of Columbia that have made data publicly available -provides a preview of how premiums will vary across the country, and how much consumers in different circumstances will actually pay after taking into account the tax credits available under the ACA.
While premiums will vary significantly across the country, they are generally lower than expected. For example, we estimate that the latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office imply that the premium for a 40-year-old in the second lowest cost silver plan would average $320 per month nationally. Fifteen of the eighteen rating areas we examined have premiums below this level, suggesting that the cost of coverage for consumers and the federal budgetary cost for tax credits will be lower than anticipated.
The Department of Health and Human Services also released a report on September 16 that shows 56 percent of uninsured Americans could obtain health insurance for less than $100 per month. From the report's press release:
A new report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that 56 percent, or nearly six in ten of the people who don't have health insurance today may be able to get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace for less than $100 per month.
Of the 41.3 million individuals who are uninsured and eligible for coverage, 23.2 million (56 percent) may qualify for Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, or tax credits to purchase coverage for $100 or less per month. The amount an individual will save on premiums depends on their family income and size. Today's report uses data about family income and size from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to estimate the number of uninsured individuals who will qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums.
Today's report also shows that if all 50 states took advantage of new options to expand Medicaid coverage, nearly 8 out of every 10 people (78 percent) who currently do not have insurance could be paying less than $100 a month for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. While some states are expanding their Medicaid programs in 2014, other states are not doing so.
Hasselbeck began her September 17 attack on the health care law by referring to the law as "Obamascare." She hosted James Freeman of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, who baselessly asserted that many doctors plan to leave their medical practices due to the ACA. Freeman then said it was difficult for Medicaid patients to find a doctor because the doctors are "being squeezed" by high debts, and later saying that the White House's strategy in budget fights is to "squeeze the providers, less payments to doctors."
But the ACA actually increases Medicaid reimbursements to doctors. A February 8 post to The Washington Post's Wonkblog noted:
The health-care law's big attempt at increasing Medicaid access takes on the exact same factor that we think inhibits access: Low reimbursement rates. The Affordable Care Act boosts Medicaid primary care reimbursement rates to match those paid by the Medicare program. Given that Medicaid rates tend to be really low, this works out to an average raise of 73 percent.
In the states that have been paying the lowest rates, the increase is even bigger.
Does that matter on the ground, to providers? It's hard to know from most of the Medicaid research, which was conducted before the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid. We do have one study though, from Michigan, which suggests that most doctors do feel like they can take on more Medicaid patients than they currently see.
Hasselbeck's September 18 segment featured dishonest attacks on the Medicaid expansion in the ACA. Guest Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute claimed that "people do worse on Medicaid than they do being uninsured."
But Medicaid covers many health services, giving Americans access to these services to improve their health. A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities policy brief on Medicaid states:
Medicaid coverage provides low-income Americans with access to needed preventive services and medical care. For example, studies have shown that Medicaid helps patients with chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma receive medical care that can prevent their conditions from worsening. People who have lost Medicaid coverage are two to three times more likely than Medicaid beneficiaries to report going without medical care because they cannot afford it.
Numerous studies show that Medicaid has helped make millions of Americans healthier by improving access to preventive and primary care and by protecting against (and providing care for) serious diseases (see chart). For example, expansions of Medicaid eligibility for low-income children in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to a 5.1 percent reduction in childhood deaths. Also, expansions of Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant women led to an 8.5 percent reduction in infant mortality and a 7.8 percent reduction in the incidence of low birth weight.
An August 2 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Medicaid's impact on health incomes found that, contrary to Turner's claim, "having Medicaid is much better than being uninsured":
Consistently, research indicates that people with Medicaid coverage fare much better than their uninsured counterparts on diverse measures of access to care, utilization, and unmet need. A large body of evidence shows that, compared to low-income uninsured children, children enrolled in Medicaid are significantly more likely to have a usual source of care (USOC) and to receive well-child care, and significantly less likely to have unmet or delayed needs for medical care, dental care, and prescription drugs due to costs.
The research findings on adults generally mirror the patterns for children. A synthesis of the literature on the impact of Medicaid expansions for pregnant women concluded, "...the weight of evidence is that expansions led to modest improvements in prenatal care use, in terms of either earlier prenatal care or more adequate prenatal care, at least in some states and for some groups affected by the expansions." Mothers covered by Medicaid are much more likely than low-income uninsured mothers to have a USOC, a doctor visit, and a dental visit, and to receive cancer screening services. Nonelderly adults covered by Medicaid are more likely than uninsured adults to report health care visits overall and visits for specific types of services; they are also more likely to report timely care and less likely to delay or go without needed medical care because of costs. Projections from a recent analysis show that, if Medicaid beneficiaries were instead uninsured, they would be significantly less likely to have a USOC and much more likely to have unmet health care needs; except for emergency department care, their use of key types of services would also drop significantly.
Hasselbeck also criticized the gap in Medicaid coverage that resulted from the Supreme Court ruling that determined states could choose to opt out of the Medicaid expansion under the law, saying that those who will not be covered "are not going to be doing well under this." Hasselbeck's criticism rings hollow given that Fox News personalities such as Brian Kilmeade and Sarah Palin supported and advocated for Republican governors opting out of the Medicaid expansion.
Hasselbeck's September 19 segment pushed the falsehood that congressional members and staff got an "exemption" from the ACA. She said:
HASSELBECK: The president's health care law [is] supposed to apply to everybody, but now President Obama's Office of Personnel Management has decided that Congress and their staff will receive extra benefits that no other American gets. How fair is that?
But Congressional members and staff are not receiving "extra benefits." They're simply getting the same employer insurance premium contribution they got before, while obtaining their health insurance from the exchanges set up under the law. FactCheck.org explained on August 30:
Congress isn't "exempt" from the law. It wasn't exempt back in 2010, when we first debunked such a claim; nor were lawmakers exempt in May when the bogus bit surfaced again. Three months later, they're still not exempt. In fact, as we've said before, lawmakers and their staffs face additional requirements that other Americans don't. And the "special subsidy" to which Pittenger refers is simply a premium contribution that his employer, the federal government, has long made to the health insurance policies of its workers.
Our readers may recall that before this provision was created, there were claims circulating that Congress was "exempt" from the law. This twisted reading of the legislation was based on the fact that originally Congress, like other Americans with work-based insurance or Americans on Medicare and Medicaid, wouldn't be eligible for the exchanges. In other words, Congress was supposedly "exempt" when members couldn't participate in the exchanges, and now that they are required to do so, they're still somehow "exempt" from the law. Neither of these convoluted claims is true.
Hasselbeck capped off her week-long series of attacks against the ACA by hosting serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey, introducing her as "a woman who read the law front to back," and saying it was "a blessing" to have her on the show.
McCaughey has worked to spread lies about the ACA since debate about the law began in 2009. Her misinformation has been so poisonous to the public debate over health care reform that she was named Media Matters' Health Care Misinformer of the Year in 2009. She was a driving force of the "death panels" lie and has relentlessly pushed falsehood after falsehood after falsehood about the law on Fox News. Her most recent debunked and ridiculed lie, which was parroted by Fox on September 17, was that the ACA would force doctors to ask patients about their sexual activities. On September 19, PolitiFact gave this claim a "Pants on Fire" rating.
Hosting McCaughey to talk about the ACA, in addition to Hasselbeck and her other guests' misleading and false claims about the law, demonstrate that the purpose of her daily "Eyes On Obamacare" segment is to misinform Fox News viewers about the law as enrollment is set to begin on October 1.