Once Again, Fox Misleads To Manufacture Obamacare Victims

In yet another attempt to craft and promote victims of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Fox News piggybacked on NBC's misleading coverage of two individuals whose current insurance plans are being cancelled. However, Fox ignored that their alleged victims could spend less on plans that dwarf their current coverage should they opt to use the state exchanges.

The October 29 edition of Your World with Neil Cavuto featured two “victims” of the ACA who had previously appeared in a misleading NBC report on the sticker shock of the health care law. Host Neil Cavuto spoke first with Deborah Cavallaro, a Los Angeles resident highlighted repeatedly by NBC, who received a notice saying her current plan would be replaced by a plan with higher premiums. 

Like NBC, Fox failed to mention that Cavallaro's current plan “barely deserved to be called insurance at all.” Moreover, neither network compared Cavallaro's current plan to those that she could get on the California exchange, where a Bronze Plan would cost less and likely offer more coverage than her current bare-bones plan. In a post for The American Prospect, Paul Waldman described the shortcomings of Cavallaro's current plan, and his search on the California exchange website using her information:

We learn in this story that her insurer is cancelling her current plan, which costs $293 a month, because it doesn't comply with the new law. They've offered her a new plan at $484 a month. That sounds like it sucks! But here are some things the story never tells us.

First, what exactly was her old plan? Deborah looks to be around 45. If she bought a plan on the individual market for $293 a month, I can guarantee you it barely deserved to be called insurance at all (I've bought insurance like this on the individual market). It probably had a deductible in the thousands of dollars and had substantial cost-sharing for any significant medical event. But the story doesn't tell us what sort of insurance she has.


But wait. Maybe she's not a victim after all. How does the $484 plan her current insurer is offering compare to the other ones she could get? Did she or the reporter go to the California exchange and try to figure that out? Apparently, they didn't. But I did.

It took less than 60 seconds. Let's assume that Deborah has a high enough income that she isn't eligible for subsidies. I put in that I was 45 years old and got nine different choices for a Bronze plan, which in all likelihood most closely resembles what Deborah has now. The average monthly cost was $258, or $35 a month less than what Deborah's paying now for her bare-bones plan. And that's for a plan that, while it's the least expensive option, almost certainly involves less cost-sharing that what Deborah has to deal with now. She can get a Silver plan, with more generous coverage, for $316, only $23 more than she's paying now. Congratulations, Deborah!

Cavuto also hosted Richard Helgren, a retiree from Lansing who, like Cavallaro, was featured in the NBC report. Helgren said that his “plan would no longer be available because of changes under the ACA,” and that his deductible would skyrocket under an alternative policy offered by his insurance company. Although Helgren did not shop through the exchanges, he ultimately used an insurance agent to find a good plan with a lower premium, a fact noted by the NBC report but neglected on Fox:

The higher costs spooked him and his wife, who have painstakingly planned for their retirement years. “Every dollar we didn't plan for erodes our standard of living,” Helgren said.

Ulltimately, though Helgren opted not to shop through the ACA exchanges, he was able to apply for a good plan with a slightly lower premium through an insurance agent.

Unlike NBC, Fox has shown no indication that it will rethink its reliance on questionable anecdotal evidence, a tactic which the network has embraced in the past to smear the ACA.