Fox's Perino Falsely Accuses The Affordable Care Act Of Deepening Income Inequality

Fox News' Dana Perino falsely claimed that the Affordable Care Act would be responsible for deepening income inequality in the United States and would hurt low-income families.

The co-hosts of Fox News' The Five attacked the ACA on the last day of open enrollment in the law's health care exchanges. Amid reports that a last-minute surge had brought enrollment over 6 million people, Perino declared that the law “exacerbates income inequality” and will “end up hurting low-income people”:

PERINO: My big concern from the beginning on this, on the bigger picture Tom that you were talking about, is actually how it exacerbates income inequality. And it actually will end up hurting low-income people a lot more because as we've seen in the last few weeks you have more and more doctors deciding not to take insurance at all and not to take Medicaid patients, and they're not going to be told that they have to.

Perino's claim is absurd for a number of reasons. A January 2014 study by the Brookings Institution found that the Affordable Care Act will boost the incomes of Americans in the second-lowest income decile by more than 5 percent and those in the bottom income decile by more than 7 percent:

ACA chart 

Perino's suggestion that the ACA will cause doctors to refuse Medicaid patients is also dubious. The ACA expands Medicaid eligibility for adults with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson foundation estimated that the expanded eligibility meant that about 15.1 million uninsured adults could gain coverage. The ACA also increases certain payments to health care providers, a change that Wonkblog pointed out could “entice more providers to participate”:

That could mean that the states with the highest likelihood of expanding Medicaid might be those with the lower reimbursement rates - and fewer doctors willing to accept these patients by proxy. That could prove true in a state like California, where 1.8 million residents are expected to gain coverage - but fewer than 60 percent of providers accept new patients in the program.

It could also speak to the importance of some of the payment increases in the Affordable Care Act. The law increases Medicaid reimbursements for primary care doctors to match those of Medicare providers. That means that everyone on the right side of this chart will move over to the left. And that could entice more providers to participate. Decker estimates using this data set that it would raise the Medicaid participation rate to 78.6 percent, an 8.6 percent increase from where it stood in 2011.