As Congress continues to debate health care reform legislation, Media Matters for America presents the latest in a series of reports identifying and debunking myths and falsehoods in the media's coverage of the issue.
CLAIM: Republican victories in the November 3, 2009, elections -- specifically in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections -- dealt a “deathblow to ObamaCare.”
- In a November 4 New York Post column, “A deathblow to ObamaCare,” Dick Morris wrote: “Until last night, Democratic moderates, the so-called blue dogs, could bask in the light of their candidate's success in 2008. But now they must hear hoof beats behind them. The party discipline on which Obama depends to pass a health-care program that Americans reject by 42 percent for, 55 percent against (Rasmussen again) will only work if beleaguered Democratic incumbents can wrap themselves in Obama's cloak and tough out the popular criticism.” He added: “In the coming weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will be asking their troops to cast potentially career-ending votes for health-care changes, Medicare cuts, higher taxes and fines on the uninsured. Whether they take that risk depends on their faith in Obama's drawing power.”
- GRETCHEN CARLSON: [T]he elections last night may have a big impact on those Blue Dog Democrats -- the conservative Democrats -- in the way in which they approach health care now. Because if they think that the tide was changing, even though it was only two states from last night, they may be more apt to listen to the American people in their states who are saying, hold on, let's not spend so much money. [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 11/4/09]
REALITY: Exit polls show that voters concerned with health care sided with Democrats. According to New Jersey exit polls, 17 percent of voters indicated that “health care” was the “one issue” that “mattered most in deciding how you voted for governor.” Of that 17 percent, 78 percent voted for the Democrat, Jon Corzine. Likewise, according to Virginia exit polls, 24 percent of respondents indicated that “health care” was the “one issue” that “mattered most in deciding how you voted for governor.” Of that 24 percent, 51 percent voted for the Democrat, Creigh Deeds.
Two pro-reform Democratic representatives elected. In November 4 special elections, Democrats Bill Owens and John Garamendi were elected to the House. In an October 30 debate, Owens endorsed both the House bill and the public option contained within it. According to an October 30 AP article, Garamendi said during the campaign: “I'm a strong supporter of universal health care, including now the public option.” Both subsequently voted for the House health reform bill.
CLAIM: According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the average health insurance premium in the individual market would be $5,000 cheaper under the Republican health care alternative bill than that under the least expensive plan offered under the Democratic bill.
- CAROLINE SHIVELY: Now, on the other side of the aisle, Republicans have gotten favorable reports from the Congressional Budget Office on the cost of their health care bill. GOP lawmakers say that means premiums for millions of families will be almost $5,000 lower under their plan, compared to the cheapest plan in the Democrats' exchange. [Fox & Friends, 11/5/09]
- MARTHA MacCALLUM: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is saying that the Republican bill ... will carry lower costs for Americans. The CBO estimates that health insurance premiums would be nearly $5,000 cheaper under the Republican reforms than the Democratic ones. [Fox News' America's Newsroom, 11/5/09]
REALITY: GOP-calculated $5,000 figure ignores premium caps in House Democrats' plan. This calculation -- originally propagated in a November 4 press release from Ways and Means ranking member Rep. Dave Camp -- misleads about premiums as formulated under the Democrats' plan. Republicans arrived at the $5,000 figure by estimating that the premium for plans in the individual market under the GOP alternative is $10,120, while “the CBO estimated that in 2016 [the lowest cost plan] under the House Democrats' bill would be $15,000 for a family.” In fact, $15,000 is the average cost of the “reference plan” in the House Democrats' bill before taking into account caps placed on premiums. But because the Democrats' health care bill provides premium caps on a sliding scale based on income, the lowest amount that a family would have to pay in premiums is significantly less than the GOP alternative. Indeed, the CBO analysis of premiums under the House plan includes a chart indicating that when accounting for the premium caps, most families will pay premiums of significantly less than $15,000 in 2016 to purchase the reference plan in the exchange. For example, according to CBO, a family of four making $78,000 per year would pay a premium of $8,800 in 2016.
Calculation also excludes subsidies for cost-sharing in Democrats' bill. The House Democrats' health care reform bill also includes subsidies for cost-sharing, which encompasses certain out-of-pocket medical expenses associated with health insurance plans. These subsidies are provided on a sliding scale, according to income. Families of four whose income is no more than 350 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) would receive some sort of cost-sharing subsidy under the House Democrats' bill. CBO makes no mention of subsidies when scoring the Republican plan.
CLAIM: The House health reform bill would result in a “torrent of red ink.”
- KARL ROVE: [T]he tax cuts, the tax increases and the benefit cuts, and it back-loads the program costs, which means that by the end of the first 10 years, this program is running annual deficits. If it's running annual deficits by the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th year, we can count on this being a torrent of red ink in the second decade, when the program is fully operational, so there are lots of -- there are lots of problems that could cause this to be -- to end up being a non-starter, but they will get something through the House, and it will go to the Senate. [America's Newsroom, 10/30/09]
REALITY: CBO estimated federal budget deficit reductions of $104 billion during first decade, further reductions in next decade. According to the CBO score available when Rove made his false claim, CBO found that the House health care reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), “would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $104 billion over the 2010-2019 period.” CBO also found that in the decade after 2019, “the legislation would slightly reduce federal budget deficits ... relative to those projected under current law-with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range between zero and one-quarter percent of GDP [gross domestic product].” [CBO score, 10/29/09]
CBO's updated score incorporating manager's amendment found the House bill would reduce the deficit by an additional $5 billion. CBO found that the House health care reform bill, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962), “would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2010-2019 period.” CBO also found that in the decade after 2019, “the collective effect of its provisions would probably be slight reductions in federal budget deficits.” [CBO score, 11/06/09]
CLAIM: House bill doesn't offset its coverage costs.
- A Washington Times article about the House bill claimed that "[t]he Congressional Budget Office says the bill will have a gross cost of $1.06 trillion but, with $167 billion in new penalty taxes imposed on businesses and individuals, the net cost is $894 billion." [The Washington Times, 10/30/09]
- CHRIS WALLACE: Democrats say the total price tag [of the House health care reform bill] is $894 billion -- that's under President Obama's ceiling. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the real price tag is $1.05 trillion. [Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, 11/1/09]
REALITY: CBO found the bill offsets its $894 billion coverage costs. In stating that $894 billion was the bill's “net cost” and its “real price tag is $1.05 trillion,” The Washington Times and Wallace were respectively citing CBO's score of the net and gross costs of the bill's coverage provisions -- the costs of which are fully covered. Indeed, according to the CBO score available when they made their claims, CBO found that “the net cost of the coverage expansions would be more than offset by the combination of other spending changes, which CBO estimates would save $426 billion, and receipts resulting from the income tax surcharge on high-income individuals and other provisions, which JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] and CBO estimate would increase federal revenues by $572 billion” over 10 years.
CBO's updated score incorporating manager's amendment similarly found the House bill offsets its $891 billion coverage costs. CBO found that the House bill had a “net cost of $891 billion over 10 years for the proposed expansions in insurance coverage” and that the bill's “gross total” amounted to $1.05 trillion. And as with prior score, CBO found that “the net cost of the coverage expansions would be more than offset by the combination of other spending changes, which CBO estimates would save $427 billion, and receipts resulting from the income tax surcharge on high-income individuals and other provisions, which JCT and CBO estimate would increase federal revenues by $574 billion over that period.” [CBO score, 11/06/09]
CLAIM: The House health care bill “prohibits the sale of private, individual health insurance.”
- RUSH LIMBAUGH: Page 94, Pelosi plan, prohibits the sale of private, individual health insurance policies beginning in 2013, forcing individuals to purchase coverage through the federal government. 2013, after the 2012 presidential election. In 2013, there is no private insurance allowed. The sale of it will be prohibited. [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/30/09]
- SEAN HANNITY: [O]ne of the other things, page 92, one of the main promises the President made was that if you like your insurance, you'll be able to keep your insurance. Now, you [Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)] have been spending time sifting through the bill. My read of page 92 is that is not true. [Fox News' Hannity, 10/30/09]
REALITY: Cited pages of House bill allow private individual insurance to be offered, but only through Exchange. According to page 94 of the House health care reform bill as brought to the floor (page 96 of the bill as passed by the House), “Individual health insurance coverage that is not grandfathered health insurance coverage under subsection (a) may only be offered on or after the first day of Y1 as an Exchange-participating health benefits plan.”
Bill provides for grandfathering in of existing plans purchased outside of Exchange under certain conditions. According to page 91 of the bill as brought to the floor, “individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before” before the bill takes effect can be grandfathered in and sold outside of the Health Insurance Exchange if it meets certain conditions.
CLAIM: “Small businesses are gonna lose their tax breaks for health coverage” under the House bill.
- LIMBAUGH: From the new House bill. I've got a couple of passages from it here, the thing Pelosi announced today. It's -- I wanna read it to you just to show you what we're going to be dealing with. Now, as I go through this, it -- this section I'm gonna read part of, it looks like small businesses are gonna lose their tax breaks for health coverage. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/29/09]
REALITY: Section creates a tax credit; it would not take a tax credit away. The section of the version of the health care bill that Limbaugh cited, Section 521 of Division A, would add an additional small-business tax credit for health coverage to the Internal Revenue Code; it would not take a tax credit away. An employer could take that tax credit for a maximum of two years. Additionally, the committee summary says that bill makes a tax credit “available” for small businesses.
CLAIM: Merged House bill calls for “death panels,” just like prior congressional bills supposedly did.
- Peter Johnson Jr. asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): “With regard to the death panel, has anything changed?” When Cornyn did not directly address the question, Johnson stated, “So with regard to the death panel, nothing much has changed.” [Fox & Friends, 10/30/09]
- HANNITY: Remember those death panels we spent so much time talking about? Well, guess what? The death panels are back. [Hannity, 10/30/09]
REALITY: Health care bill still does not contain “death panels.” The House health care bill does not contain “death panels” but provides for voluntary, Medicare-subsidized end-of-life counseling sessions. According to Section 1233, “Voluntary Advance Care Planning Consultation,” of H.R. 3962, “The voluntary advance care planning consultation described in section 1861(hhh) of the Social Security Act, as added by subsection (a), shall be completely optional.”
“Death panel” claims have been conclusively discredited. In one of more than 40 media reports debunking claims of euthanasia and “death panels” originally raised by Sarah Palin in attacking earlier versions of the Democrats' heath reform legislation, PolitiFact wrote: “We've looked at the inflammatory claims that the health care bill encourages euthanasia. It doesn't. There's certainly no 'death board' that determines the worthiness of individuals to receive care. ... [Palin] said that the Democratic plan will ration care and 'my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's ”death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care.' Palin's statement sounds more like a science fiction movie (Soylent Green, anyone?) than part of an actual bill before Congress. We rate her statement Pants on Fire!" [PolitiFact.com, 8/10/09]
CLAIM: Restrictions under the Stupak amendment are aimed solely at prohibiting federal funds from being used for abortion.
- Several media figures have claimed that an anti-abortion amendment included in the House health care reform bill would only have the effect of prohibiting government money from being used to pay for abortions, echoing a myth previously advanced about a proposed amendment to a prior version of that legislation.
REALITY: As The New York Times wrote, amendment “reached far beyond Hyde and made it largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage.” In a November 9 editorial, the Times wrote that an amendment to the House bill offered by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA) would make it “largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage” and “would prevent millions of Americans from buying insurance that covers abortions -- even if they use their own money.” The Times noted that the amendment's supporters “reached far beyond Hyde and made it largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage” because the amendment “would ban the use of federal subsidies to pay for 'any part' of a policy that includes abortion coverage.” As the Times noted, the Hyde Amendment “bans the use of federal dollars to pay for almost all abortions in a number of government programs.” The Times further wrote:
If insurers want to attract subsidized customers, who will be the great majority on the exchange, they will have to offer them plans that don't cover abortions. It is theoretically possible that insurers could offer plans aimed only at nonsubsidized customers, but it is highly uncertain that they will find it worthwhile to do so.
In that case, some women who have coverage for abortion services through policies bought by small employers could actually lose that coverage if their employer decides to transfer its workers to the exchange. Ultimately, if larger employers are permitted to make use of the exchange, ever larger numbers of women might lose abortion coverage that they now have.
The restrictive language allows people to buy “riders” that would cover abortions. But nobody plans to have an unplanned pregnancy, so this concession is meaningless. It is not clear that insurers would even offer the riders since few people would buy them.
CLAIM: Under Democratic health care reform bills, undocumented immigrants will be eligible for federally subsidized coverage.
- DICK MORRIS: The point about these death panels is that if you restrict the amount -- the lifesaving surgeries, and you tell someone, no, you can't have that bypass surgery -- but I'm going to die if I don't have it. Well, here's the grief counselor. That will happen. And whether they fund the grief counselor or the end-of-life counselor or not, the rationing will take place when they tell you, no, you can't have the surgery because we have to give it to a 40-year-old illegal immigrant instead. [Hannity, 8/17/09]
- During an interview with Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), who accused President Obama of lying when he said “our reform efforts” would not “insure illegal immigrants,” Hannity stated: “Congressional Research -- they actually investigated this and it said, in fact -- well, why don't you tell everybody, in fact, what they found is the direct opposite of what the president said?” Wilson stated that “the Congressional Research office, just last month, in August, they did a study and indicated that there were no restrictions against providing -- or not enforceable restrictions -- for illegal aliens to fully participate in the programs.” [Hannity, 9/10/09]
REALITY: The House bill stipulates that those “not lawfully present” may not receive subsidies to purchase insurance. Under the Individual Affordability Credits section of the Affordable Health Care for America Act (H.R. 3962):
SEC. 342. AFFORDABLE CREDIT ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUAL.
(a) DEFINITION. --
(1) IN GENERAL. -- For purposes of this division, the term “affordable credit eligible individual” means, subject to subsection (b) and section 346, an individual who is lawfully present in a State in the United States (other than as a nonimmigrant described in a subparagraph (excluding subparagraphs (K), (T), (U), and (V)) of section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) --
SEC. 347. NO FEDERAL PAYMENT FOR UNDOCUMENTED ALIENS.
Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.
Senate HELP bill excludes those “not lawfully present” from federal funding. Under the “Making Coverage Affordable” section of the Affordable Health Choices Act:
(h) NO FEDERAL FUNDING. -- Nothing in this Act shall allow Federal payments for individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States.
Senate Finance bill excludes unlawful aliens from Exchange, credit eligibility. Under the “Exchange and Consumer Assistance” part of the Senate Finance Committee's bill:
SEC. 2238. PROCEDURES FOR DETERMINING ELIGIBILITY FOR EXCHANGE PARTICIPATION, PREMIUM CREDITS AND COST-SHARING SUBSIDIES, AND INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY EXEMPTIONS.
(a) IN GENERAL. -- The Secretary shall establish a program meeting the requirements of this section for determining --
(1) whether an individual who is to be covered by a qualified health benefits plan offered through an exchange, or who is claiming a premium credit or cost-sharing subsidy, meets the requirements of sections 2236(c)(2)(B) and 2247(e) of this title and section 36B(e) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 that the individual be a citizen or national of the United States, an alien lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence, or an alien lawfully present in the United States
CLAIM: House bill excludes undocumented immigrants from tax provision in House bill.
- BETSY McCAUGHEY: Sec. 59b (pp. 297-299) says that when you file your taxes, you must include proof that you are in a qualified plan. If not, you will be fined thousands of dollars. Illegal immigrants are exempt from this requirement. [Wall Street Journal, 11/7/09]
REALITY: Bill exempts “nonresident aliens,” not “illegal immigrants,” and those terms are not equivalent. There is no Section 59b of the bill. Section 501 of the bill adds a Section 59b to the Internal Revenue Code and is on pages 296-299 of the bill as introduced, and this is presumably the section to which McCaughey is referring. That section does not mention “illegal immigrants.” Rather, it provides exceptions to the tax for dependents, individuals residing outside the United States, residents of U.S. possessions, people who claim a “religious conscience exemption,” and “nonresident aliens.” But “nonresident aliens” are not the same as “illegal immigrants.” Indeed, the IRS explicitly states that “even an undocumented (illegal) alien under the immigration laws who passes the Substantial Presence Test will be treated for tax purposes as a RESIDENT ALIEN."
CLAIM: The public option is unaffordable because it would be financed by a tax hike or would otherwise be “costly to taxpayers.”
- Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich stated of the yet-to-be released Senate health reform bill that “nobody knows what this idea is. Nobody knows how it would work. And I think you have to raise a question. What if a big state like Texas opts out? Does that mean they don't have to pay taxes on it?” He added, “Or are they going to opt out and pay for California and New York's health care?” [Fox News' On the Record, 10/26/09]
- The Associated Press reported that “Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman says while he's 'strongly inclined' to vote to move Sen. Harry Reid's health care plan to the Senate floor for debate, he would ultimately oppose the measure because it includes a public option,” adding that Lieberman said “he's worried a public option would be costly to taxpayers and drive up insurance premiums.” [AP, 10/27/09]
REALITY: Public option financed by premiums -- not taxes. Although the Senate has not released the text of its compromise bill, both the House bill and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee's bill require their public options to charge premiums sufficient to cover administrative costs as well as the cost of enrollees' benefits.
Bills' tax revenues are used to cover expansion of coverage, with or without public option. The Senate Finance Committee's bill, which does not include a public option, requires a tax on high-cost plans to cover the expansion of Medicaid and subsidies for lower- and middle-income Americans purchasing insurance. Similarly, CBO's July 2 analysis of the Senate HELP bill shows that the bulk of cost is for subsidies for lower- and middle-income Americans purchasing insurance. And CBO found that the House bill's proposed Medicaid expansion and subsidy provision for some families to purchase insurance through the exchanges would cost roughly $891 billion over 10 years, which would be “more than offset by the combination of other spending changes, which CBO estimates would save $427 billion, and receipts resulting from the income tax surcharge on high-income individuals and other provisions, which JCT and CBO estimate would increase federal revenues by $594 billion over that period.”
CLAIM: Most Americans do not want a public option included in health care reform legislation.
- Glenn Beck claimed that only “35 percent of the population” supported a public option and accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of lying when he said, in Gretchen Carlson's words, “the public wants this.” [Fox & Friends 10/27/09]
- After Bill O'Reilly aired a clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating that the American people “like universal quality health insurance and reform if it has a public option,” O'Reilly stated, "[T]hat's not what the polls show," and, “I haven't seen one tea party demanding that the government run” health care. Karl Rove said that "[b]y a better than two-to-one margin, people want to get their health insurance from a private company as opposed to the government. Where she comes up with that people are out there protesting in the streets and going, please ... I want the post office to be in charge of health care." [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 10/13/09]
REALITY: Numerous recent polls on public option found widespread support. Several recent polls found that at least a plurality -- but more often a majority -- of respondents support a public option. An October 30-November 1 CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 55 percent favor “creating a public health insurance option administered by the federal government that would compete with plans offered by private health insurance companies.” This finding aligns with polls taken throughout October. For instance, an October 15-18 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 57 percent support a government plan “to compete with private health insurance plans”; an October 8-15 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 57 percent favor "[c]reating a government-administered public health insurance option"; and an October 16-19 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 50 percent support a “public, government-run insurance plan.”
CLAIM: Poll finding support for the public option was “rigged” or its “wording” skewed its results.
- According to a post on the website of Salt Lake City radio station KSL, Newt Gingrich said on air: “I think this poll was deliberately rigged and produced a result that's fundamentally false.” KSL reported that Gingrich also said: “It's a typical Washington Post effort to slant the world in favor of liberal Democrats.” [KSL.com, 10/20/09]
- ROVE: But one of the other things is asking the question. In the Washington Post/ABC poll, they got 57 percent of the people who said that they agreed with the proposition that we ought to have a new health insurance plan to compete with private insurance. Fifty-seven percent of the people agreed with that. Gallup, out in the field at roughly the same time, said, do you believe in a public, government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurance. That got 50 percent. So, sometimes the wording of the question is important. [Hannity, 10/21/09]
REALITY: Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted “in accord with most other recent good-quality surveys measuring political partisanship.” Responding to Gingrich's attack on the poll, ABC News polling director Gary Langer wrote in part: "[C]onsider the partisan self-identification reported in other recent publicly released polls rated as airworthy by ABC News standards. They range from 18 to 27 percent Republican, averaging 21 percent -- almost precisely the same as our estimate."
Washington Post/ABC News poll did ask about “having the government create a new health insurance plan.” Contrary to Rove's suggestion that the poll results finding broad support for a public option were skewed because “the wording of the question” didn't make clear that the public option would include government involvement, the Washington Post/ABC News poll question did in fact ask about support for “having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans.”
CLAIM: Pelosi broke a pledge to post the “final” health care bill online 72 hours before it comes to a vote.
- The Weekly Standard's John McCormack wrote that Pelosi broke her pledge to put the “final” health care bill online 72 hours before it comes to a vote because, even though she posted the text of the bill and the manager's amendment online, “House members are still negotiating important issues in the bill--whether it will provide taxpayer-funding for abortions, for example.” McCormack wrote that this is because the “Rules Committee hasn't yet released its resolution, or rule, that must be passed before the bill can move from committee to the floor.” [Weekly Standard's The Blog, 11/05/09]
- STEPHEN MOORE: It now appears, Greta [Van Susteren], that that bill will not -- the bill as it will be voted on will not be posted on the Internet 72 hours before the vote, which means that most of the members will not have read it, and the American people will not have at least 72 hours to read the bill to see what they're voting on. We're talking about one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history. It's an outrage. [On the Record, 11/05/09]
REALITY: Pelosi's office posted the bill text, manager's amendment 72 hours in advance. In line with Pelosi's reported support of a measure “to put the final health-care bill online for 72 hours before the House votes on it” -- presumably H. Res. 554, which would require full text and committee reports to be posted 72 hours in advance -- her office posted the text of the legislation, H.R. 3962, online on October 29, and it posted the manager's amendment to the bill online on Tuesday, November 3. Since the bill received a vote on Saturday, November 7, that means both were online at least 72 hours before the vote. Additionally, the three House committees that voted on H.R. 3200, the House's original health care reform bill, all posted committee reports online. After the three bills were merged, it became H.R. 3962. The Energy and Commerce Committee linked to its report in a July 14 post, a July 15-17 Republican press release for the Education and Labor Committee linked to its report, and the Ways and Means Committee linked to its report in an October 15 post.
Rules committee amendments don't apply to 72-hour measure. According to a post by The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit organization that advocates for government transparency, “the proposed 72 hour rule written into H. Res. 554 (the Read the Bill bill) does not cover amendments to bills," and the manager's amendment “amount[s] to an extra-final version of legislation.” The post stated that Pelosi's decision to put the Manager's Amendment online 72 hours in advance was “commendable.”
CLAIM: The Senate Finance Committee's bill, and the process of crafting health reform more generally, was overly partisan and Democrats are to blame.
- LAURA INGRAHAM: This crowd is the most partisan crowd I have ever seen in Washington. They said Bush was partisan? Look at what they are doing to a fifth of our economy with no Republican support. It's -- it's mind-boggling. And everyone listening to this across the country watching this show, you should be outraged. You're about to have your entire health care system changed by one party that's wildly unpopular right now. Unbelievable." [Fox & Friends, 10/27/09]
- Discussing the Senate's health reform legislation, Time's Mark Halperin told co-host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough: “I agree with what you have been saying for months, which is they made a mistake not making this bipartisan, once they made the decision to do it with Democratic votes.” [MSNBC's Morning Joe, 10/27/09]
REALITY: Senate bills included numerous GOP amendments, reflected bipartisan meetings. According to a HELP Committee document about bipartisan aspects of the health reform bill the committee passed July 15, the final bill included “161 Republican amendments,” including “several amendments from Senators [Mike] Enzi [R-WY], [Tom] Coburn [R-OK], [Pat] Roberts [R-KS] and others [that] make certain that nothing in the legislation will allow for rationing of care,” and reflected the efforts of “six bipartisan working groups” that “met a combined 72 times” in 2009 as well as “30 bipartisan hearings on health care reform” since 2007, half of which were held in 2009. [HELP Committee document, 7/09] And according to the Senate Finance Committee's document detailing the amendments to the Chairman's Mark considered, at least 13 amendments sponsored by one or more Republican senators were included in the bill.
GOP senators made clear they didn't intend to negotiate with Democrats in good faith. For instance, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) asserted during a July 17 conference call organized by the anti-health care reform group Conservatives for Patients Rights while discussing health care reform: “If we're able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” Similarly, Minority Whip Jon Kyl (AZ) reportedly admitted August 18 that “almost all Republicans” will oppose Democratic health care reform efforts, regardless of the compromises Democrats might make in attempting to win their support. And Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley during an August town hall meeting told the audience they “have every right to fear” the end-of-life counseling provision in the House bill, adding that the “government-run plan” could " could lead to “decide when to pull the plug on grandma.” During an August interview, Grassley also admitted he wouldn't vote for his own bill if the GOP remained opposed.
CLAIM: Health care reform proposals under consideration by Congress are unconstitutional.
- Fox News' senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that "[i]n United States v. Lopez (1995), the Court ruled that the Commerce Clause may only be used by Congress to regulate human activity that is truly commercial at its core and that has not traditionally been regulated by the states. The movement of illegal guns from one state to another, the Court ruled, was criminal and not commercial at its core, and school safety has historically been a state function. Applying these principles to President Barack Obama's health-care proposal, it's clear that his plan is unconstitutional at its core." Napolitano added: “What we have here is raw abuse of power by the federal government for political purposes.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/09]
- Bill O'Reilly interrupted a statement by Fox News contributor Lis Wiehl explaining why Congress has the power to pass health care reform legislation under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution and stated: “I want the audience to know, this is total B.S. This is why people hate lawyers. This is nuts.” O'Reilly then said that a requirement to buy health insurance is “unconstitutional.” Later in the discussion, when Fox News host Megyn Kelly brought up the Commerce Clause again, O'Reilly again interrupted, saying: “All right. I don't want to hear it. You're giving me a headache. I'm going to go on record as saying now: This is unconstitutional.” [The O'Reilly Factor, 8/25/09]
REALITY: Legal experts have disputed claim that the reform bill is unconstitutional. Legal scholars -- including George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr, who recently served as a special counsel to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) during Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation proceedings -- have pointed out the flaws in conservatives' arguments, including the facts that regulation of the health care sector falls under Congress' broad power to regulate interstate commerce and that Congress has repeatedly passed laws regulating health care and health insurance. Fox example, Kerr said Napolitano's op-ed was “filled with so many errors, misstatements, and plainly weak claims that the mere number of those becomes far more interesting than the argument of the op-ed itself.” And assessing the whether such a mandate is constitutional, Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf wrote that he “rejected” what he described as the “libertarian” “objection that an individual mandate would be an unprecedented burden on liberty because it would affirmatively direct conduct, rather than either forbidding conduct or imposing affirmative obligations on only those who engage in conduct that the government has the power to forbid.” He added that there are substantial precedents for such affirmative obligations and even if there were not, there is no reason in principle why an affirmative duty is a greater restriction on liberty than a prohibition or condition." He also assessed the “federalism objection” to the mandate's constitutionality, writing, in part, that “the individual mandate is 'plainly adapted' to the undoubtedly legitimate end of regulating the enormous and enormously important health-care sector of the national economy. It is therefore constitutional.”
CLAIM: H1N1 vaccine shortage reveals that the Obama administration can't manage health reform.
- Washington Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott wrote: “The same government that only weeks ago promised abundant supplies of swine flu vaccine by mid-October will be running your health care system under Obamacare.” [Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog, 10/24/09]
- Pat Robertson suggested that the number of people lining up to get the H1N1 vaccine should be “enough to scare you away from this public option.” He added: “They think the government is now -- is going to handle your health. They can't even get out vaccines for people, and they've had -- they've had a good year or better to get the supply together, and they don't have it yet.” [The 700 Club 10/27/09]
REALITY: CDC, Sebelius say manufacturers' projections of available vaccines were too high. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Thomas Friedan said that vaccine supplies were below the number predicted because the estimates from the vaccine manufacturers -- presumably the experts in flu vaccine manufacturing -- were too high. Friedan stated: “What we have learned more in the last couple of weeks is that not only is the virus unpredictable, but vaccine production is much less predictable than we wish. We are nowhere near where we thought we'd be by now. We are not near where the vaccine manufacturers predicted we would be.” And Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has called the projections the government received from the manufacturers “overly rosy.”
CLAIM: The Obama administration fearmongered about H1N1 to pass health care reform.
- Limbaugh asserted “if that's true” that the government is “hyping the number of” H1N1 cases, “that doesn't surprise me. Create panic and chaos, sell health care, keep general unrest out there amongst the population -- it's right out the Obama formula.” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/28/09]
- During a discussion of Obama's decision to declare the H1N1 pandemic a national emergency, Glenn Beck Show co-host Pat Gray asserted of the Obama administration: “We're just declaring a national emergency so that we can take power, but we don't really want you to panic.” [The Glenn Beck Show, 10/26/09]
REALITY: The H1N1 virus is prevalent among Americans. Obama announced that he declared the pandemic a national emergency because “the rapid increase in illness across the Nation may overburden health care resources and that the temporary waiver of certain standard Federal requirements may be warranted in order to enable U.S. health care facilities to implement emergency operations plans, the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the United States constitutes a national emergency.” Indeed, CDC has attributed at least 17,000 hospitalizations and more than 600 deaths to the virus, according to a Washington Post report about Obama's national emergency declaration.
CLAIM: Betsy McCaughey is a credible health care expert.
REALITY: McCaughey recently exposed as Big Tobacco shill during 1994 health care debate. Rolling Stone revealed that in 1994, tobacco giant Philip Morris implemented a “strategy to derail Hillarycare,” which included an “effort to 'work on the development of favorable pieces' with 'friendly contacts in the media' ” -- specifically mentioning the company's collaboration with McCaughey on her 1994 New Republic hit piece on the Clintons' health care reform bill. McCaughey has described as “outrageous and fictional” the charge that she “worked for a tobacco company in writing my critique of the dangers of the Clinton Plan. I did not.” McCaughey asserted that she “did no fundraising or conferring with corporations.”
McCaughey is a serial misinformer who has perpetuated numerous falsehoods about health care reform. McCaughey has repeatedly published op-eds in the New York Post and Wall Street Journal advancing falsehoods about health reform. Notably, she falsely claimed that a prior version of the House health care reform bill would “absolutely require” end-of-life counseling for seniors on Medicare “that will tell them how to end their life sooner” -- a claim that many in the media repeated. McCaughey repeatedly falsely claimed that the Senate HELP committee's bill “basically” “pushes everyone into an HMO-style plan.” Additionally, McCaughey concocted the false claim, which was nonetheless widely repeated in the media, that a health IT provision in the economic recovery act enabled government bureaucrats to “monitor treatments” or restrict what “your doctor is doing” with regard to patient care. On multiple occasions, after being challenged on her false claims about health care legislation, McCaughey reportedly insisted that she was right about the ultimate effect (if not the literal wording) of a bill.
CLAIM: Newt Gingrich is a credible health care expert.
REALITY: Newt Gingrich has a financial stake in opposing Democrats' reform proposals. Numerous media outlets have provided Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich a forum to discuss his opposition to the inclusion of a public option and increased insurance regulations in health care reform legislation. But those media have not noted that that his Center for Health Transformation -- a for-profit entity that Gingrich founded and reportedly profits from -- receives annual membership fees from several major health insurance companies, which have a financial interest in preventing the implementation of those policies. Recently, NBC's Meet the Press hosted Gingrich, who attacked proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage programs under Democratic health reform legislation, but neither he nor host David Gregory disclosed his position as head of the Center for Health Transformation, which receives fees from insurance companies that sell Medicare Advantage plans. Gingrich has also repeatedly spread misinformation about health care reform.
CLAIM: AAPS-affiliated members are credible health care experts.
REALITY: AAPS is a conservative-leaning group that has promoted and endorsed controversial views on medicine and health. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a conservative-leaning group that has promoted and endorsed controversial views on medicine and health, including urging doctors not to serve as Medicare providers and supporting a “moratorium on vaccine mandates.” AAPS also filed an amicus brief pressing for the public release of photos of former Clinton deputy counsel Vince Foster -- whom AAPS described as “the attorney assigned by Hillary Clinton to 'fix' the AAPS lawsuit against the Health Care Task Force” -- taken following his 1993 death, which numerous investigations have determined a suicide. The group also published an article falsely claiming that “in the past three years America has more than 7,000 cases of leprosy” and tying the increase to illegal immigration. Despite these facts, Fox News' Glenn Beck has hosted AAPS director Richard Amerling, as well as AAPS-affiliated David McKalip, the doctor who notoriously emailed a racist image depicting Obama as a witch doctor to his fellow “tea party” activists, to weigh in on the health care reform debate.
CLAIM: Progressive health care reform proposals will introduce a system of “rationing” into American medicine.
- HANNITY: We're gonna have a government rationing body that tells women with breast cancer, 'You're dead.' It's a death sentence. [Fox News' Hannity, 6/19/09]
- In a column, Michelle Malkin wrote, “Big Nanny Democrats want to ration health care for everyone in America -- except those who break our immigration laws.” [Malkin column, 7/22/09]
REALITY: Insurance companies already ration care. Insurance companies acknowledge that they ration care, restricting coverage of procedures and tests like MRIs and CAT scans and denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions.
Sanjay Gupta: “I can tell you, as a practicing physician ... who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time.” As Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, explained: "[P]eople always say, 'Is there going to be rationed care?' And I can tell you, as a practicing physician, as someone who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time. I mean, I was in the clinic this past week. And I -- you know, at the end of clinic, I get all this paperwork that basically says, 'Justify why you're doing such and such procedure. Justify why you're ordering such and such test.' And if the justification is inadequate, the answer comes back, 'Well, that's not going to be covered.' Which basically is saying that the patient is going to have to pay for it on their own, which is, in essence, is what rationing is, in so many ways." [CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, 8/12/09]
Insurance companies ration care by rescinding coverage. As former senior executive at CIGNA health insurance company Wendell Potter explained in June 24 Senate testimony, insurance companies restrict or deny coverage by rescinding health insurance policies on the grounds that people had undisclosed pre-existing conditions.
CLAIM: Health care reform proposals are socialist and will lead to socialized medicine.
- BECK: President Obama has his massive $1.5 trillion health care plan. It's hogging up the news cycle. The Republicans and, you know, a lot of people are starting to say, 'Isn't this socialist here? I mean, this is pretty crazy.' The answer to me on that one is really easy: Yep, it's good old socialism. You know, pretty much raping the pocketbooks of the rich to give to the poor. I think that's socialism. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 7/21/09]
- LIMBAUGH: The Obama budget also funds the relentless drive toward socialized medicine. And all that is just the beginning. The way to look at this budget is not with an economic lens, it is with a philosophical one. Liberals want to make America -- remake it in their image. And this is how you will pay for it. [“Rush's Morning Update,” 2/27/09]
- Guest-hosting The O'Reilly Factor, Laura Ingraham stated: “Powerful arguments against socialized medicine have been around not for months, but for decades. Ronald Reagan was saying this back in 1961.” After playing a clip from Reagan's recording, Ingraham added, “I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums where law abiding and hard-working Americans are standing up for freedom.” [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 8/14/09]
REALITY: Conservatives have trotted out “socialized medicine” smear for 75 years. Numerous conservative media figures have revived the “socialized medicine” smear to undermine the efforts of Obama and congressional Democrats, most recently by promoting Ronald Reagan's 1961 attacks on a legislative precursor to Medicare. But as the Urban Institute wrote in an April 2008 analysis, “socialized medicine involves government financing and direct provision of health care services,” and therefore, recent progressive health care reform proposals do not “fit this description.” The analysis also noted: “Similar rhetoric was used to defeat national health care reform proposals in the 1990s and, with less success, to argue against the creation of Medicare in the 1960s.” Indeed, a Media Matters analysis found that dating as far back as the 1930s -- with respect to at least 16 different reform initiatives including President Franklin D. Roosevelt's consideration of government health insurance when crafting the 1935 Social Security bill; President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 legislation establishing Medicare; and the health care initiative by President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton in 1993 and 1994 -- conservatives have attempted to smear those proposals by calling them “socialized medicine” or a step toward that purportedly inevitable result.