Fox Dishonestly Cherry-Picks From Positive ACA Report To Paint Law As A Failure


Fox selectively highlighted an incomplete data point in a positive new study on the Affordable Care Act's effect on the uninsured as proof that the law is a failure.

On April 8, the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research institution, released a study on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has affected the number of Americans with health insurance. The study found a net gain of 9.3 million Americans with health insurance from September 2013 to March 2014 and that the share of uninsured Americans has dropped from 20.5 percent to 15.8 percent. The report estimated a lower enrollment number than the White House's 7.1 million, but added an important caveat:

Although a total of 3.9 million people enrolled in marketplace plans, only 1.4 million of these individuals were previously uninsured. Our marketplace enrollment numbers are lower than those reported by the federal government at least in part because our data do not fully capture the surge in enrollment that occurred in late March 2014.

On the April 9 edition of Fox & Friends, hosts Brian Kilmeade, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, and Steve Doocy seized on the 3.9 million figure from the RAND report to claim that the Obama administration's estimate of 7.1 million people enrolled in the marketplace is incorrect. Co-host Steve Doocy cited RAND's finding that 1.4 million people who enrolled were previously uninsured to claim “we blew up everything for one percent” of the previously uninsured:

DOOCY: [Hasselbeck] just said that only 1.4 million Americans got their insurance through the exchanges. We blew up everything for one percent? Think about back to the last election where the Democrats made a big thing about the one percent, and the Republicans and the one percent. Well, everybody should make a big deal about how we blew up the entire healthcare system for one percent.

Fox failed to mention the report's note that their conclusions didn't include the enrollment surge in late March. And contrary to Fox's depiction, RAND concluded that the ACA is working as designed in insuring more people:

[E]arly evidence from our survey indicates that the ACA has already led to a substantial increase in insurance coverage. Consistent with the design of the ACA, this gain in insurance has come not only from new enrollment in the marketplaces, but also from new enrollment in employer coverage and Medicaid.

Rand also found that less than one percent of people between the ages of 18 and 64 previously had individual market insurance and transitioned to being uninsured. More than 100 million previously had employer-sponsored insurance, and that number hasn't changed. So while Fox news clings to the often-erroneous "horror stories" from individuals who claim they've lost health care coverage because of the ACA, the bigger picture tells a much different story about the number of people the law has benefited. 

This is just one more example of Fox spinning positive news about the ACA enrollment numbers into evidence of the law's failure in its continuing campaign against the law.