Fox's Reporting On Medicaid Expansion Absolves The GOP Of Blame For 5 Million Uninsured

Fox News disingenuously blamed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for a “coverage gap” that could leave 5 million low income Americans without health insurance. In doing so, Fox absolved the sins of the Republican governors whose refusal to expand Medicaid is responsible for the gap and will cost states money.

The ACA allows states to expand Medicaid programs to provide coverage for people whose income falls below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Initially, the federal government covers the full cost of new enrollees for the first three years. However, many states have refused to expand their Medicaid coverage under the law, “thanks largely to hostility to the law among GOP governors,” according to The Washington Post's Greg Sargent.

On the February 10 edition of Fox's America's News HQ, host Bill Hemmer condemned the coverage gap as “another problem growing out of Obamacare.” Fox business host Melissa Francis explained that 5 million Americans fall into a gap where they earn too little for federal subsidies but too much for Medicaid benefits and argued that many states did not expand Medicaid benefits under the ACA because they can't afford it:

FRANCIS: The Kaiser Foundation studies this and they say there's about 5 million people between the ages of 18 and 64 who fall into this gap. And it all comes from that Supreme Court decision that said that we couldn't force states to expand Medicaid. Now places like Alabama where this one gentleman who is the example lives, they have said that they can't cover more people with their state program because they simply can't afford it. So that's how these people got left out in the middle but there is a lot of them, 5 million.


FRANCIS: The states, though, are pushing back and saying look, we didn't expand Medicaid because we can't afford it, and even though the federal government will pay for it for 3 years, after that it's on us and we just simply can't afford this. So it's going to be a really tough problem to fix.

Francis conveniently omitted the fact that the coverage gap is due to the refusal of "Republican led-states" to expand Medicaid in opposition to the Obama administration, and she omits the findings of health policy experts who say it would actually cost states more money to not participate in Medicaid expansion.

For example, a recent study conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that “the decision not to participate will cost those states billions of dollars over the next decade -- costs that will be passed on to taxpayers.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reported that "[e]xpanding Medicaid is thus a very favorable financial deal for states":

  • CBO estimates show that the federal government will bear nearly 93 percent of the costs of the Medicaid expansion over its first nine years (2014-2022).  The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of covering people made newly eligible for Medicaid for the first three years (2014-2016) and no less than 90 percent on a permanent basis.
  • The additional cost to the states represents a 2.8 percent increase in what they would have spent on Medicaid from 2014 to 2022 in the absence of health reform, the CBO estimates indicate.
  • This 2.8 percent figure significantly overstates the net impact on state budgets because it does not reflect the savings that state and local governments will realize in other health care spending for the uninsured.  The Urban Institute has estimated that overall state savings in these areas will total between $26 and $52 billion from 2014 through 2019.  The Lewin Group estimates state and local government savings of $101 billion in uncompensated care.

This isn't the first time Fox has suggested that the cost of expanding Medicaid will be too expensive for states to bear -- the network has a history of misinforming on the health care law.