Right-Wing Media's Catastrophic ACA Predictions Still Haven't Materialized

Conservative media issued catastrophic predictions and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014, despite ample evidence that the health care law is working. Media Matters looks back at six claims about Obamacare that didn't pan out for the right-wing media this year.

MYTH: ACA Will Eliminate Millions Of Jobs

MYTH: Obamacare Won't Reduce Number Of Uninsured Americans

MYTH: The Affordable Care Act Is “Failing The Public”

MYTH: “Millions Will Lose Insurance” As Companies Drop Health Benefits

MYTH: The Affordable Care Act Creates “Death Panels” To Ration Care

MYTH: Health Care Premiums Will Rise Dramatically Thanks To Obamacare

MYTH: The ACA Will Eliminate Millions Of Jobs

Rush Limbaugh Spins CBO Report To Claim ACA Will Eliminate Millions Of Jobs. After the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their 10-year Budget and Economic Outlook report in February, conservative media attempted to spin their finding that the ACA would create more job opportunities by freeing Americans from job lock by claiming that it would actually eliminate positions. On the February 6 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show Limbaugh pointed to the report to proclaim that “2.5 million jobs, minimum” would be lost, calling it a “literal tragedy for the country.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show2/6/14]

WSJ: Health Reform A “Job Destroyer” That Reduces “Economic Mobility.” In a February 4 editorial, The Wall Street Journal highlighted the CBO report to claim that Obamacare is a “job destroyer” and an “in-kind bonus for unemployment.” The Journal concluded that the law is “removing rungs from the ladder of upward economic mobility.” [The Wall Street Journal2/4/14]

REALITY: The ACA Reduces Job Lock, Creates Jobs, Stimulates Economy

Economists Praise Health Care Law For Reducing Economic Insecurity. Following the release of the CBO's report, economists noted that what conservative media had hyped as a major flaw actually played a key role in reducing economic insecurity. Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute explained that the reduction of hours worked was based on “purely voluntary labor supply decisions, not people being laid off from jobs they'd rather keep, or people looking for work and being unable to find it,” calling the finding an “unambiguously good thing.” Economist Dean Baker also noted that the CBO's findings actually demonstrated that people who had previously been forced to work in order to receive health benefits now have economic security thanks to the health care law. [Economic Policy Institute, 2/4/14] [Los Angeles Times2/4/14]

CBO: ACA Will Create Jobs And Stimulate Economic Growth. The CBO report projected that the health care law would reduce job lock by allowing some workers to choose to work fewer hours because they will be able to maintain health insurance coverage outside of employment. The report explained that the projected changes in the labor supply due to the reduction of job lock would increase opportunity for the unemployed by voluntarily freeing up jobs. The report predicted that the health care law would also create jobs and would have a stimulative effect of “raising overall demand in the economy”:

If changes in incentives lead some workers to reduce the amount of hours they want to work or to leave the labor force altogether, many unemployed workers will be available to take those jobs--so the effect on overall employment of reductions in labor supply will be greatly dampened.


[T]he ACA's subsidies for health insurance will both stimulate demand for health care services and allow low-income households to redirect some of the funds that they would have spent on that care toward the purchase of other goods and services--thereby increasing overall demand. That increase in overall demand while the economy remains somewhat weak will induce some employers to hire more workers or to increase the hours of current employees during that period. [Congressional Budget Office, 2/4/14] [Media Matters2/5/14]

MYTH: Obamacare Won't Reduce Number Of Uninsured Americans

Fox's Krauthammer: ACA Won't Reduce Number Of Uninsured Americans. After the CBO released its 10-year Budget and Economic Outlook report in February, conservative media quickly moved to interpret its findings negatively. On the February 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer cited the report in order to falsely suggest that the health care law wouldn't significantly impact the number of uninsured Americans:

KRAUTHAMMER: [Y]ou get this crazy paradox where the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has projected that the number of uninsured Americans in 10 years will be 31 million. When Obama launched Obamacare in 2009, he explained the moral imperative was because there were 30 million uninsured Americans. So here we're going to go through a complete revolution of one-sixth of the U.S. economy, the dislocation of doctors, hospitals, patients, and plans everywhere, including insurers, in order to achieve a result in a decade where we have essentially the same number of uninsured. So what was this all about? [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier2/12/14]

Fox News Sunday: ACA Resulted In “Net Loss” Of Insured. As the March 31 deadline for open enrollment approached, Fox News Sunday guest and former Bush administration official Paul Wolfowitz speculated that Obamacare may actually increase the number of uninsured Americans due to canceled plans. [Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Sunday, 3/23/14]

Fox & Friends: The ACA's “Net Result Is Quite Negative.” On the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends co-hosts Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Steve Doocy asserted that the “net result” of the ACA “is quite negative” when you consider those who have had canceled plans. [Fox News, Fox & Friends3/31/14]

REALITY: Millions Have Received Coverage Through The Affordable Care Act

Wash. Post: Claims That ACA “Has Resulted In A 'Net Loss'” For Insured Fly “In The Face Of Facts.” In a March 17 fact-check analyzing claims that the ACA had resulted in a “net loss” in those with insurance, The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler wrote that the assertion “flies in the face of facts.” Giving the claim “four Pinocchios,” Kessler explained that most “whose old plans were canceled were automatically move to new plans”:

A large percentage of the people whose old plans were canceled were automatically moved to new plans offered by the same insurance companies. These people may not be happy with their new coverage -- and may have appeared in an ad sponsored by Americans for Prosperity -- but they got a plan without going through HealthCare.gov.


Precise figures are not available, as the insurance market is private and fragmented, but insurance company officials say a majority of people could move to new plans they were offered.


In other words, almost nobody in that pool of 6 million does not have insurance. If they didn't, they surely would be featured in an anti-Obamacare ad. But those ads feature people who don't like their new plans, rather than being left high and dry with no coverage. [The Washington Post3/17/14]

New York Times: “Number Of Americans Without Health Insurance Is Down By 25 Percent.” Despite claims to the contrary, millions of Americans have gained health coverage through the ACA. As The New York Times reported, “a series of private sector surveys and a government report” both found that “the number of Americans without health insurance has been reduced by about 25 percent this year -- or eight million to 11 million people.” The Times also noted that in addition to those insured through the exchanges, “three million to four million people, mostly young adults, became newly insured through provisions of the law that kicked in before this year.” [The New York Times10/27/14]

Urban Institute: Rate Of Uninsured Dropped By More Than 30%According to a study by the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center, the total uninsurance rate in the United States has dropped by 30.1 percent -- “from 17.7 percent to 12.4 percent”- between September 2013 and September 2014:

The uninsurance rate for nonelderly adults has fallen sharply since the first Marketplace open enrollment period began in October 2013, with larger gains in states that expanded Medicaid and among adults targeted by the Medicaid expansion and the new Marketplace subsidies. Our estimates show that approximately 10.6 million nonelderly adults (with a 95 percent confidence interval of 8.5 million to 12.6 million) gained coverage between September 2013 and September 2014: a 30.1 percent decrease in the national uninsurance rate for this population.  [Urban Institute, 12/3/14]

MYTH: The Affordable Care Act Is “Failing The Public”

Hasselbeck: Obamacare Is “Failing The Public.” On the November 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asserted that the healthcare law is “failing the public” and her colleague Steve Doocy added that the notion the law would help Americans is purely a “fabrication.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends11/14/14]

Fox Contributor Siegel: Obamacare Is “A Cancer On The Health Care System.” On the same edition of Fox & Friends, Dr. Marc Siegel argued that the ACA is “a cancer on the health care system because it's infiltrating normal, healthy health-care tissue.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends11/14/14]

REALITY: Those Enrolled Say The Health Care Law Is Working

Gallup: ACA Is Overwhelmingly Popular With Those Insured Through It. According to a November Gallup poll, 71% of those who have received health insurance through the ACA reported that their coverage was “good or excellent.” As Politico noted, those who had received insurance through the exchanges were also “more satisfied with the cost of health care” than those insured otherwise and the majority of those who had enrolled planned to keep their insurance the following year. [Politico11/14/14]

MYTH: “Millions Will Lose Insurance” As Companies Drop Health Benefits

Betsy McCaughey: ACA “Will Hurt Twice As Many People As It Helps.” In a January 14 New York Post op-ed, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey cited a flawed survey to falsely claim that 25 million Americans would lose their coverage because of the health care law, claiming it “will hurt twice as many people as it helps” by making “employer-provided policies illegal.” [New York Post1/14/14]

REALITY: Studies Show That Most Employers Are Not Dropping Health Benefits

Wash. Post: “Few Employers Dropping Health Benefits.” As The Washington Post reported on November 19, despite critics claims to the contrary “The Affordable Care Act has not prompted the nation's employers to drop health benefits for some or all of their workers.” Pointing to surveys from the Employee Benefit Research Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management, The Post noted that “just 1 percent of employers said they have decided to stop offering health coverage for 2015” and that the surveys “also found relatively little tendency for companies to narrow the groups offered coverage.” [The Washington Post11/19/14]

MYTH: The Affordable Care Act Creates “Death Panels” To Ration Care

Fox & Friends: ACA Creates Death Panels To Ration Health Care. On the September 26 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, network contributor Dr. Marc Siegel cited an article in The Atlantic detailing former White House health care adviser Ezekiel J. Emanuel's opinions on end of life healthcare to claim that Emanuel's suggestions meant that they should “write off” patients at a certain age, while co-host Steve Doocy suggested that “maybe you're talking about those death panels that have been rumored for so long.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends9/26/14]

National Review Online: ACA Death Panels Not “Far-Fetched.” National Review Online cited Emanuel's piece in The Atlantic as evidence of “a first step towards medical rationing,” and claimed “suddenly Sarah Palin's attack on Obamacare's ”death panels" don't seem so far-fetched." [National Review Online, 9/26/14]

Right-Wing Media Exploit VA Scandal To Claim ACA Created Death Panels. The conservative website Truth Revolt exploited allegations that up to 40 veterans died waiting for care from the Veteran's Affairs administration (VA), to claim that investigations into the department showed that death panels do exist. In a May 17 blog post, Truth Revolt claimed that “Sarah Palin was right” about death panels “inside Obamacare.” [TruthRevolt.org, 5/17/14]

Fox's Bolling: VA Problems Proving That Sarah Palin Was Right About Death Panels In ACA. On the May 19 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Eric Bolling claimed that former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was right when she said the ACA had death panels because of allegations of a waiting list for veterans receiving care from the VA: 

Whether you believe it or not, Sarah Palin and a couple other people on the right said there will be death panels. There will be people deciding who gets what treatment and when and that's just gonna put long waiting lines on certain types of treatment. Well, if the VA isn't proving that right now, nothing is. [Fox News, Fox & Friends5/19/14]

REALITY: Claims Of Death Panels Have Been Conclusively Debunked

Health Care Law Explicitly Prohibits “Any Recommendation To Ration Health Care.” The text of the ACA explicitly confirms that the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) cannot make “any recommendation to ration health care... or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria”:

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. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, accessed 8/13/13, OpenCongress.org]

Claims Of “Death Panels” Have Been Conclusively Discredited. In one of the dozens of media reports debunking claims of euthanasia and “death panels,” PolitiFact reiterated that “there's certainly no 'death board' that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care” through the Affordable Care Act, assigning the claim a “Pants on Fire!” rating:

We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no 'death board' that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. ... [Palin] said that the Democratic plan will ration care and 'my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.' Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire! [PolitiFact.com, 8/10/09]

MYTH: Health Care Premiums Will Rise Dramatically Thanks To Obamacare

Conservative Media Cite Anonymously Sourced Article To Claim Premiums Will “Skyrocket.” In a March 19 post for The Hill's Healthwatch blog, Elise Viebeck quoted an anonymous source to make the highly speculative claim that “ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country.” Subsequently, Fox Nation highlighted the post with a headline declaring “300%: Insurance Industry Predicts Skyrocketing ObamaCare Premiums.” [Media Matters, 3/20/14]

Fox News Co-opts Report On Slow-Down In Health Care Premium Increases To Hype Fears Of Rising Premiums. On December 7 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ, host Shannon Bream twisted a report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which outlined that premiums would generally “rise modestly” but explained that before the ACA, “people who purchased health insurance plans in the individual market often saw double-digit rate increases on average.” Guest Stephen Moore asserted that there has been a “dramatic increase” in premium prices and that “these numbers are going to go up even higher in future years.” [Fox News, America's News HQ12/7/14] [HHS, 12/4/1412/4/14]

Fox's Tantaros: Health Insurance Premiums “Have Been Driven Through The Roof.” Andrea Tantaros capitalized on the HHS report on the December 5 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered to question whether its assertion of a “modest” increase in premiums was a “shell-game” meant to conceal other costs, and to claim premiums “have been driven through the roof.” [Fox News, Outnumbered12/5/14]

REALITY: Increases In Health Care Premiums Have Slowed Since Implementation Of ACA

ThinkProgress: Health Care Premiums Increasing “At A Far Slower Rate” Than Prior To The Affordable Care Act. ThinkProgress' Igor Volsky explained that health care premiums are increasing at “a far slower rate than they did before” the Affordable Care Act was passed. Noting that at least 14 states will actually experience a decrease on average premiums, Volsky pointed out that prior to the passage of health care reform, premiums typically rose by more than 10% annually:

Obama administration officials announced on Thursday that health care premiums for policies available through the Affordable Care Act will increase slightly on average in 2015, growing at a far slower rate than they did before President Barack Obama signed reform into law in 2010.

Premiums will decrease, on average, in at least 14 of the 35 states where the federal government has established a health care exchange. In the remaining 21 states, premiums will fluctuate between a two percent increase in Utah and Wisconsin to a 28 percent spike in Alaska. On average, the report concludes that premiums for the second-lowest cost policy will rise “by 2 percent on average this year before tax credits, while premiums for the lowest-cost silver plan will increase on average by 5 percent.”

Prior to reform, an analysis conducted for the Commonwealth Fund, found that on average, premiums in the individual and small group markets rose by more than 10 percent annually. [ThinkProgress, 12/4/14]