Fox News' Chris Wallace Misleadingly Claims ACA “Demands” Insurance Companies Change Existing Plans

Fox News host Chris Wallace misleadingly suggested that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “demands” that insurance companies change all coverage options, ignoring that the healthcare reform law grandfathered in plans in place before the law was enacted in 2010 and that insurers are only required to update plans if the company made a substantial change to the coverage since the ACA's enactment.

On the November 3 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace stated “the Obamacare law demands that the insurance companies change their plans.”

One of the primary goals of healthcare reform, also known as Obamacare, was to raise the quality of health care Americans receive. To this end, the Affordable Care Act requires plans which post-date the law's enactment on March 23, 2010, to contain a set of 10 “essential health benefits” including outpatient treatment, preventative care, and ambulatory services. Furthermore, the ACA significantly mandates that insurance companies cannot decline coverage for a preexisting condition.

However, the ACA also grandfathers most plans in existence prior to March 23, 2010, even if the plan does not comply with all of these requirements of the law. Only if an insurance company elected to make a “significant” change to a plan after the ACA's enactment does the plan have to be updated to comply with the law.

As Kaiser Health News explained, “Most health insurance plans that existed on March 23, 2010 are eligible for grandfathered status and therefore do not have to meet all the requirements of the health care law. But if an insurer or employer makes significant changes to a plan's benefits or how much members pay through premiums, copays or deductibles, then the plan loses that status.”

Wallace also misleadingly claimed that the Obama administration “didn't tell the American people” about this facet of the healthcare reform law in order to attack the president's pledge that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

In fact, the Obama administration made it clear in 2010 that healthcare reform would involve some plans transitioning to stronger coverage, while others would be grandfathered. While Wallace misleadingly framed this as a surprising twist to the law's implementation, it was a development discussed on Fox at the time and by the law's proponents even before it was enacted.

A June 2010 press release from Health and Human Services explicitly stated that some individuals would face changes to their plans, stating “roughly 42 million people insured through small businesses will likely transition from their current plan to one with the new Affordable Care Act protections over the next few years” and that the 17 million “who are covered in the individual health insurance market, where switching of plans and substantial changes in coverage are common, will receive the new protections of the Affordable Care Act.”

Wallace's distortion of the Affordable Care Act follows a series of misrepresentations and falsehoods about healthcare reform from Fox News since the opening of health insurance exchanges on October 1.