Fox News Continues To Falsely Label ACA “Government-Run Health Insurance”

Fox News' Chris Stirewalt adopted the false, GOP-inspired label of “government run health insurance” during Fox's coverage of House hearings on the Affordable Care Act health reform rollout.  

On the November 13 edition of America's Newsroom, host Martha MacCallum used a House hearing on the health exchange website to ask Stirewalt to comment on problems in the rollout of Obamacare's exchanges. Stirewalt claimed that problems accessing the website are a major problem because people have been “compelled against their wishes to purchase government run health insurance.”

But the ACA is not “government-run” health insurance. The Affordable Care Act creates exchanges in which consumers can purchase health insurance that will be managed and operated by private health insurers. The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog pointed out that the ACA “builds on the existing private insurance” much like Massachusetts health insurance reform of 2006. Politfact called the claim that the ACA is a “government takeover of health care” the 2010 “Lie of the Year,” explaining that the law “relies largely on the free market”: 

  • Employers will continue to provide health insurance to the majority of Americans through private insurance companies.
  •  Contrary to the claim, more people will get private health coverage. The law sets up “exchanges” where private insurers will compete to provide coverage to people who don't have it.
  • The government will not seize control of hospitals or nationalize doctors.
  • The law does not include the public option, a government-run insurance plan that would have competed with private insurers.
  •  The law gives tax credits to people who have difficulty affording insurance, so they can buy their coverage from private providers on the exchange. But here too, the approach relies on a free market with regulations, not socialized medicine.

A Media Mattersstudy found that this misleading description of health care reform came from a memo released by conservative pollster Frank Luntz. Internal memos in 2010 from Fox executives showed that Fox pushed reporters to use the biased phrase “government-run health insurance” in place of official terms.