New Fox Poll Reflects Its Misleading Coverage Of ACA Exemption Issue

Fox News hyped a poll asking viewers whether members of Congress should be exempt from the Affordable Care Act, even though they are actually not exempt -- a poll finding that reflected Fox's misleading coverage of the issue.

On the October 31 edition of Happening Now, correspondent Mike Emanuel claimed that senators are “trying to interpret the law more broadly” to exempt their staff from enrolling in Obamacare. Emanuel promoted a new Fox poll claiming that the vast majority of people surveyed want “members of Congress & their staff ” to live under Obamacare.

Fox has repeatedly misinformed viewers by claiming Congress has received a special exemption from the ACA, even though the law does not exempt members of Congress or their staff.

As The Washington Post pointed out, Fox is wrong about its claim that on August 7, the Office of Personnel Management mandated lawmakers and staffers to “get off of their cushy Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plans and venture out into Obamacare's exchanges.” explained that not only are members of Congress not exempt from the law,"[t]he bill passed by the Senate actually requires members of Congress and their staffs to get coverage through the exchanges." Center on Budget and Policy Priorities President Robert Greenstein explained that assertions that Congress is exempt from Obamacare is “a part of the ongoing assault on the health care law”:

In reality, it's the critics -- as part of their ongoing assault on the health care law -- who are seeking special treatment for Congress, by proposing to make members and their staffs the only workers in the United States whose employer is barred by law from helping to cover their premiums. There's no reason to discriminate against members and their staffs in this way, especially when doing so would make it more difficult to recruit and retain high-caliber congressional staff.

Here's the issue: Under a provision authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and added to the legislation during the Senate Finance Committee's health care deliberations in 2009, members of Congress and their staffs won't be allowed to continue buying coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which offers a variety of health insurance plans to federal employees. Instead, congressional staffers and members will only be able to enroll in plans offered in the ACA's new exchanges, with the government continuing to make an employer contribution. (Grassley himself has confirmed that he intended for the federal government to continue making employer contributions under the provision.)

Fox News' reporting on this issue has even been criticized by Republicans. Appearing on the October 23 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) took issue with Fox's reporting on a prior segment discussing this “congressional exemption.” Corker explained: “I think there's been a lot of misreporting and sort of a myth around what's happening with Obamacare.”