Fox News is preemptively deflecting blame from Republicans for their refusal to set up state-based health insurance exchanges, which media reports say contributed to problems with the federal health insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov.
Media have examined the design problems plaguing HealthCare.gov since its launch on October 1 that are causing delays for millions of Americans who have tried accessing the website, problems that the Obama administration has acknowledged and is working to fix. Reports show that the problems started years ago.
States had to notify the federal government by mid-February if they intended to create their own exchanges. A February 18 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog explained that nearly all of the states that failed to set up their own exchanges were Republican-led, as demonstrated by the following graph:
Media reports show that this partisan decision by Republican governors has contributed to the federal government's problems launching HealthCare.gov, but Fox has already worked to prevent Republicans from shouldering any of the blame for those issues. Discussing a speech that President Obama was scheduled to give later that day, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade said on October 21:
KILMEADE: I just have a hunch that there will be some element of this whether he'll say, "If it wasn't for Republicans fighting it the whole time, if it wasn't for people pushing back on it, it would have been a lot easier." I think somehow that's going to be twisted in there.
On October 18, Fox's digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt said, after predicting that the White House will react to the problems by pointing to Republican opposition, that "it doesn't matter what the Republicans do":
STIREWALT: They'd say it is the Republicans' fault. They'd say that if Republicans were not harassing and attacking the law, if everybody just could get behind it and say that it was going to be great, that it would be better and all of that stuff. It doesn't really wash. Once the president embraced the title Obamacare, that had been -- Democrats had previously said was pejorative -- once he said, yeah, it is Obamacare, Obama cares, he said, when he was run for reelection, it doesn't matter what the Republicans do, this is his baby.
Media reports on HealthCare.gov's problems have explained that the decision by Republican governors to saddle the federal government with the responsibility of running exchanges in their states created a much bigger burden for the federal government. A New York Times report noted that "[m]ore than 30 states refused to set up their own exchanges, requiring the federal government to vastly expand its project in unexpected ways." An executive with Connecticut's health insurance exchange told Bloomberg that the federal government only anticipated handling exchanges for about a half-dozen states, not a majority of them -- and the report cited political opposition as the reason Republican-led states refused to implement their own exchanges. The Kansas Insurance Commissioner explained that the online marketplaces were "intended to be state-based. Insurance commissioners advocated for that." Health policy expert Timothy Jost also credited Republican opposition for part of the reason why HealthCare.gov didn't have a smooth launch, and Al Jazeera America reported:
The federal government initially expected states to take the lead in setting up their own exchanges. In the end, 34 states -- many with GOP governors -- refused to do so, leaving the job to the Department of Health and Human Services, with no additional funds appropriated for the massive undertaking.
Former director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Donald Berwick explained that the early period of implementation of the law was hampered by a shortage of funds. Bloomberg and the Times reported that Republicans in Congress blocked additional funds to assist in the implementation of the law.