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  • CNN anchors misleadingly portray popular Democratic proposals such as "Medicare-for-all" and taxing the wealthy as far to the left

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    On Wednessday, CNN anchors Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow portrayed Democratic policy proposals that enjoy high public support as extreme, calling “Medicare-for-all” and a tax on high amounts of wealth “far left of center” and “very far left.”

    Polls have consistently shown high levels of support for these ideas: An August Reuters/Ipsos poll found 70 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all,” a January Politico/Harvard poll found 68 percent support a national health care plan like “Medicare-for-all,” and a January Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 56 percent of respondents support “Medicare-for-all.” Additionally, a February Morning Consult poll found 61 percent support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposal for a wealth tax on very wealthy households, while a January The Hill-HarrisX survey found 59 percent of registered voters support raising marginal tax rates to 70 percent on income above $10 million.

    From the February 20 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom:

    JIM SCIUTTO (CO-ANCHOR): Karen, the focus of the Democratic Party, many of the candidates will say, is on beating Donald Trump. Is this a good look, in effect, for the Democratic Party? Is this the right approach to 2020 to go so far left of center, when polls consistently show that most Americans have more center -- and some polls even show center-right views on some of these key issues?

    KAREN FINNEY (CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR): Well, look, I think we have to take a step back actually, because having just worked on a campaign in the South on Stacey Abrams’ campaign in 2018, and looked at a number of other campaigns, the issue landscape in this country is a little bit different. And so when we talk about things like expanding Medicaid, or we talk about things -- which, you know, some states have not done yet even under Obamacare -- when we talk about, you know, commonsense gun safety measures, those issues poll pretty well in a lot of states where a lot of Americans see that as a more mainstream issue. They don’t see that as a far-left issue. So there’s a lot of things -- like child care, which Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren has been talking about -- that actually appeal to people, working people in particular who struggle with these issues.

    SCIUTTO: True, but that’s different than like 70 percent tax rates. And I’m not saying that’s the whole party, but you have [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)] going down that path.

    FINNEY: Well, she’s not running for president, though.

    SCIUTTO: You know, universal health care, universal health care. You’re talking about background checks. That’s one kind of issue. But I’m talking about issues further to the left of the political spectrum.

    FINNEY: Right, but just because someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the House is talking about something that is, you know, that some may perceive as being to the left, that’s not necessarily going to influence what the presidential candidates are talking about. Because I think what they all recognize is, yes, they’re still in Congress, so they’re going to have to, at the right time, comment on some of these things because they may have to vote on them. But they also have to put forward their own visions. So I thought [Sen.] Amy Klobuchar, for example the other night, did a great job when she was talking about college affordability and what she would do. I know that student looked like he was a bit disappointed. So I think what you’re going to see -- and this is why the primary is so important and I think the debates are going to be so important -- you’re going to hear all of these ideas really teased out with similar goals and values at their core but different ideas about how we get there. And I think that’s going to be a really exciting thing for this country is to actually have conversations about ideas and not just tweets attacking people.

    POPPY HARLOW (CO-ANCHOR): And also let’s remember Elizabeth Warren, who is running for president, also, you know, proposing that wealth tax on people with any assets over $50 million -- also very far left.

  • Fox & Friends host claims that Democrats have no health care plan. They have 8.

    Blog ››› ››› COURTNEY HAGLE

    On the December 17 edition of Fox & Friends, host Steve Doocy claimed that Democrats “won the House on [health care], and they didn’t even have a plan.”  

    In fact, there are eight possible health care plans focused on expanding coverage for Americans, six proposed by members of Congress and two by major think tanks. According to a Vox analysis of all eight plans, they fall into two categories: three plans that “would eliminate private insurance and cover all Americans through the government,” and five plans that would allow people to choose whether “to buy into government insurance (like Medicare or Medicaid) if they wanted to, or continue to buy private insurance.” The plans primarily differ in how they handle decisions like “which public health program to expand and how aggressively to extend the reach of government.”

    The segment occurred in response to a ruling by a federal judge over the weekend declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Despite this ruling, the Affordable Care Act remains in place and unchanged for now. The ruling is expected to be appealed and tied up in courts, possibly reaching the Supreme Court.

  • Cable and broadcast news have virtually failed to discuss the ACA open-enrollment period

    Embarrassingly, Fox News devoted the most coverage to the topic, with just under 14 minutes total in two months

    Blog ››› ››› ROB SAVILLO

    The open-enrollment period to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the 39 states that use HealthCare.gov will end in less than two weeks on December 15, but if you rely on TV news you may not even know that the enrollment period began November 1. The three major cable news networks and the three broadcast news networks together have given the open-enrollment period embarrassingly scant coverage in the last two months -- a meager 16 1/2 minutes in total from October 3 to December 3, according to a Media Matters review.

    Key findings:

    • In a roughly two-month period, cable and broadcast news networks provided just 16 1/2 minutes of coverage of the ACA enrollment period.
    • CNN and MSNBC mentioned the open-enrollment period for less than two minutes combined.
    • ABC and NBC failed to cover the enrollment period, and CBS devoted just about one minute.
    Perhaps the most notable aspect of this very limited reporting is where it did show up: Fox News covered the open-enrollment period the most, with almost 14 minutes total. It was also the only network to host discussion-based segments framed around the enrollment. (A November 1 discussion on Fox’s Outnumbered Overtime with Fox News medical correspondent Marc Siegel and Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) touched on various aspects of the ACA, and another discussion on November 30’s Fox & Friends First with Nan Hayworth of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum focused on lower enrollment numbers for 2019.)

    That Fox provided the most coverage of the enrollment period is troubling on its own; the network has a history of providing misleading and outright false coverage of the ACA as a part of a larger effort by right-wing media to discredit the health care law. Recently, the network allowed Republican politicians to lie about their positions on insurance coverage protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, misled in its coverage of President Donald Trump’s administration ending subsidies that make health care plans on the exchanges affordable, and aired misleading charts about enrollment numbers. Not to mention the network’s record of airing misleading human interest stories, false narratives, and unending refrains that the ACA is “failing.”


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In addition to the two segments featuring longer discussions of the ACA, Fox also ran three news briefs on November 1 announcing the open-enrollment period. CBS ran two news briefs announcing the enrollment period that same day, which amounted to roughly one minute of airtime.

    No other network aired a segment about the enrollment period. CNN and MSNBC only mentioned the enrollment period in passing for less than one minute each, while ABC and NBC did not mention it at all. No cable news or broadcast news network aired an advance announcement of the enrollment period; all coverage in the 29 days before the November 1 enrollment start date was mere passing mentions amounting to about one and a half minutes.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the latest Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking poll, only 24 percent of non-group enrollees ages 18-64 (those who are uninsured or who purchase their own individual insurance) knew about the December 15 deadline for open enrollment. The percentage of non-group enrollees who did not know about the deadline at all increased from 53 percent in October 2017 to 61 percent last month.

    Since taking office, the Trump administration has shortened the open-enrollment period by half, from 12 weeks to six. Previously, enrollment was open from November 1 to January 31, but bowing to pressure from health insurers, Trump set a cutoff of December 15.

    This smaller sign-up window is not the only assault on enrollment numbers. The Trump administration has also scheduled 60 hours of downtime for the HealthCare.gov website for scheduled maintenance every Sunday from midnight to noon during the enrolment period (except for the last Sunday), has reduced funding for enrollment groups that work to sign up Americans in states that don’t run their own exchanges by as much as 92 percent, and has slashed funding for its advertising by 90 percent.

    As a result of these Trump administration policies, advocates predicted a decline in enrollment in the health care exchanges. Sign-ups for 2018 were down to 11.8 million from 12.2 million the year before, and sign-ups for this enrollment period are on track to be even lower.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for mentions of “enrollment” within close proximity of “Affordable Care Act,” “ACA,” “health care,” “healthcare,” “Obama care,” or “Obamacare” from October 3 (the earliest transcripts were still available) to December 3, 2018, on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from 4 a.m. through midnight and on ABC’s, CBS’, and NBC’s early morning shows, morning shows, evening shows, and Sunday morning political talk shows.

    We timed and coded any passing mention, teaser, news brief, or news segment mentioning or discussing the open-enrollment period. For passing mentions, we only timed the relevant speech. For teasers and segments, we timed them in their entirety.

  • Fox anchor echoes Trump’s lies while advising GOP to scare Florida seniors about Medicare for All

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Fox Business anchor Dagen McDowell urged Republicans to scare Florida’s seniors about proposed Medicare for All legislation and claim that it would result in “Medicare for none” ahead of next week’s midterm elections. In fact, the legislation in question would improve on Medicare’s single-payer health insurance, reduce the cost of health care, and extend it to all Americans.

    During a November 1 discussion on Fox News’ Outnumbered about President Donald Trump’s attacks on Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mayor Andrew Gillum, McDowell argued that Republicans should tell Florida’s seniors that “that in terms of Medicare for All, if Andrew Gillum is backing what Bernie Sanders wants to do, it's Medicare for none":

    DAGEN MCDOWELL (CO-HOST): This is getting in the weeds, and if you want to talk about health care, what Republicans ought to be saying about single payer -- the Democrats like calling it Medicare for All -- that in terms of Medicare for All, if Andrew Gillum is backing what Bernie Sanders wants to do, it's Medicare for none. Because his bill gets rid of Medicare. Where do seniors live? Florida. They want to get rid of your Medicare. That's all the Republicans need to say. They want to eliminate private competition with these bills that are in Washington. That's all they need to say. The seniors in Florida would be screaming at the top of their lungs, and the Republicans are not getting that message out.

    Despite both McDowell and Trump saying Medicare for All is “Medicare for none,” that’s simply not true. Experts have explained that Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan would offer better health care for seniors than the current system because it covers more benefits while reducing the amount beneficiaries have to pay for care. The Urban Institute’s Linda Blumberg told PolitiFact that Medicare for All “would actually give an expanded version of traditional Medicare to everyone, with broader coverage -- including items such as dental and vision care -- while eliminating virtually all out of pocket costs.” RAND Corporation health policy analyst Christine Eibner also explained to PolitiFact that seniors could benefit by everyone being covered by Medicare for All because doctors are currently incentivized to choose non-Medicare patients, since private insurance pays more.

    Health policy journalist Sarah Kliff explained at Vox that Sanders’ Medicare for All plan “is more generous than the current Medicare program” because it “does not subject consumers to any out-of-pocket spending on health aside from prescriptions drugs.” Kliff also noted that Sanders’ Medicare for All “is more generous than the plans Americans currently receive at work too.”

    Health policy experts Katie Keith and Timothy Jost also went into detail about the plan’s benefits and explained that, while Medicare for All would forbid private insurance that offers the same benefits, it permits private insurance to cover benefits not covered by Medicare for All. So if Americans felt that they needed additional health insurance, they could still purchase it from private insurers.