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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.
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Some Republicans have reversed course to claim they support pre-existing conditions coverage, but have voted to repeal the whole ACA without calling for the exception
During the October 26 edition of CNN’s New Day, The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin suggested that Republicans “have an argument” when they say “we want to scrap the parts” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but save other provisions like protections for those with pre-existing conditions. In reality, there is ample evidence that Republicans are happily targeting pre-existing conditions coverage.
The vast majority of congressional Republicans have spent years attempting to repeal the ACA and offering replacements that would have substantially weakened or eliminated protections barring insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has publicly stated his intention to revisit a full repeal should Republicans do well in the midterm elections. Moreover, many Republicans remain publicly supportive of a lawsuit brought by “Republican attorneys general representing 20 states” that could end pre-existing conditions coverage. The president, McConnell, and other Republican officials and candidates all support the lawsuit. Faced with overwhelming public support for the ACA’s pre-existing conditions coverage, Republicans have started lying about their party’s very recent history of favoring restricted access for those with pre-existing conditions.
On New Day, Martin suggested Republicans could argue that the narrative that they're against protecting coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is not “fair” because Republicans in Congress had to vote against the Affordable Care Act as a whole entity, even if they supported some components of the law. However, these Republicans never expressed support for protections for people with pre-existing conditions until the midterm elections began to approach and haven't explained how they plan to repeal the ACA while protecting that provision. In reality, mandatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions only became possible because of the ACA’s individual mandate, which conservatives rallied against for years. The individual mandate forced healthy people to purchase insurance, helping to offset costs of covering those with pre-existing conditions. Conservatives’ efforts to repeal the ACA as a whole cannot be separated from attacks on pre-existing conditions. Republicans did pitch one new bill as a way to protect coverage, but it was quickly revealed to be “a fraud.”
During his appearance on CNN, Martin gave undue benefit of the doubt to GOP claims by ignoring obvious evidence of Republicans’ antipathy toward pre-existing conditions coverage and suggesting that they might want to protect it after all:
JONATHAN MARTIN (THE NEW YORK TIMES): The challenge they have is that they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a key part of which includes those protections. Now, the Republicans will say, “Look, we want to scrap the parts of the ACA that we don't like, we will save those.” And so they have an argument there. But obviously, politics is not always fair in terms of when you sort of vote to repeal a large bill and there’s popular items therein, that isn't always specified.
In the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, as polls show strong support among Democratic and Republican voters for the Affordable Care Act provision that prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, right-wing media seem to have muted their rhetoric about the provision. Conservative media, especially Fox News, are now helping Republicans whitewash the Republican Party's sordid record of attacks against the provision. But they have their own history of smearing the pre-existing condition provision of the law, including calling it a “luxury” and “welfare.”
As the midterm elections creep closer, Fox News has hosted a series of Republican candidates and party spokespeople eager to mislead viewers about their stances on health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. In the past eight days, Fox hosted four Republicans seeking office in November to brag about their alleged support for pre-existing condition coverage -- even though each of these candidates previously supported legislation that would make it more difficult for people with pre-existing conditions to access care. In none of those interviews did the host challenge the candidate’s claims, allowing the false information to go unchecked.
On the October 10 edition of Fox’s flagship morning show, Fox & Friends, Arizona congresswoman and Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally told the hosts that she has “voted and [is] passionate about making sure we protect people with pre-existing conditions.” However, HuffPost pointed out that McSally “voted for her party’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, including regulations that block insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.” In fact, her fervor for the bill was so strong that she reportedly “stood up in GOP conference meeting and said let's get this ‘fucking thing’ done.”
Less than a week later, Rep. Lou Barletta, the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, claimed on the October 16 edition of Fox & Friends that he “would not support anything that would deny anybody [with] pre-existing conditions” coverage. But Barletta supported Republican legislation to overturn the ACA last year, even though experts note that the bill “could have driven up premiums for people with pre-existing conditions who lose their insurance” and that it “lacked any guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions would get access to affordable coverage.”
Later that day, Indiana Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun said on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier that he wanted to be “crystal clear” about his stance and that he would “never be for any replacement [for the ACA] that didn't cover pre-existing conditions.” However, PolitiFact noted that Braun has repeatedly backed legislation and lawsuits that would have threatened pre-existing condition coverage. Braun supported the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, which would have made coverage for pre-existing conditions “more expensive and less accessible,” according to Urban Institute health policy analyst Linda Blumberg. Braun also endorsed a lawsuit that would “effectively end mandatory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.”
And on the October 17 edition of America’s Newsroom, Montana’s Republican Senate nominee, Matt Rosendale, told Fox anchor Bill Hemmer that he has “really worked very hard to make sure pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions are covered.” In reality, as Montana’s state insurance commissioner, Rosendale allowed “the sale of insurance-like products that ‘do not guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.’” In fact, a program Rosendale re-authorized after it was banned in Montana due to allegations of fraud, Medi-Share, “explicitly excludes coverage for pre-existing conditions.”
In addition to these candidates, Fox has also hosted Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and President Donald Trump, who each falsely painted Republicans as champions of protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions. McDaniel said, “Of course we’re going to protect pre-existing conditions,” and Trump said, “We are 100 percent for pre-existing -- and covering people with pre-existing conditions.” But again, neither of these claims were challenged. In reality, the Trump Department of Justice has argued that protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be abandoned, and a recent Republican bill that was pitched as a way to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions was quickly revealed to be “a fraud.”
Faced with overwhelming public support for the ACA’s pre-existing conditions coverage, Republicans have been forced to lie about their party’s very recent history of favoring restricted access for those with pre-existing conditions. Fox News has served as a willing partner to spread these falsehoods.
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Fox News did not mention that Matt Rosendale reauthorized a program, previously banned for fraud, that excluded coverage for pre-existing conditions
Montana’s Republican Senate nominee and state insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale told Fox anchor Bill Hemmer that he has “really worked very hard to make sure pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions are covered.”
But as Montana newspapers have detailed, Rosendale supports repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which guarantees coverage for pre-existing conditions. Furthermore, in his role as insurance Commissioner Rosendale even authorized the sale of insurance-like products that “do not guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.”
Instead of giving his viewers these facts, Hemmer offered only a weak rebuttal, citing a brief quote from Rosendale’s opponent, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT): “He’s arguing that you’re putting pre-existing conditions at risk.”
From the October 17 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom:
BILL HEMMER (HOST): Matt Rosendale is my guest now in Montana. ... I did a lot of reading trying to figure out what the issues are. Health care keeps coming up time and again. Is that what decides this race in Montana?
MATT ROSENDALE (MONTANA GOP SENATE CANDIDATE): Health care is one of the real big factors here, Bill. Jon Tester is the fella who brought us Obamacare, and my work in the auditor's office has shown that I have really worked very hard to make sure pre-existing conditions and chronic conditions are covered, and make sure people of Montana have a broad range of health care options to accommodate --
HEMMER: Because he is arguing that you are putting pre-existing conditions at risk. This is the one thing you guys agree on, is that you both believe health care costs are going higher and there has to be a solution to it, but you differ on what the solution is.
ROSENDALE: Absolutely. The problem is he brought us Obamacare, which is what is driving the costs up, Bill.
HEMMER: Based on his vote for the ACA.
ROSENDALE: I've been working for quite some time now to make sure that the people of Montana have a broad range of options to make sure they can accommodate their health care needs in a way that recognizes their budget, their personal needs, and their personal choices as well.
Montana news coverage shows how misleading and insufficient this Fox segment is. Rosendale has introduced and supported insurance-like schemes that do not cover pre-existing conditions. Specifically, Rosendale re-authorized Medi-Share, a program that was banned for “fraudulent practices” for refusing to pay for the health care of a Montana man who had cancer. In another instance, Medi-Share refused to pay for the treatment of a Montana pastor until a court ordered otherwise.
Here is an article from the Helena, MT-based Independent Record (emphasis added):
In his role as state Auditor, which oversees the insurance industry in Montana, Rosendale has brought in primary care agreements that allow people to enter into direct contracts with primary care providers outside of the health insurance framework.
He’s also advocated for the short-term plans, the ones Tester calls “junk plans,” and allowed a religious health care sharing ministry to return to operating in the state after it was banned in 2007.
“People have a multitude of options to take care of their needs in a way that recognizes their budget, their specific health care needs and their personal choices,” Rosendale said.
The primary care agreements were twice vetoed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, who said they did not provide value to consumers and often charged for treatments already covered by insurance.
Medi-Share, the health ministry that is operating in Montana, was banned in 2007 because of fraudulent practices after it did not pay a claim for a Montana man who had cancer. Both products are not regulated by the auditor's office because they are not traditional insurance.
Medi-Share and the short-term insurance plans do not guarantee coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, one of the landmark protections in the Affordable Care Act.
Here’s how this works: To join the pyramid you must must pledge your devout Christian faith (and even get a reference from a minister). You must not drink, take drugs or have sex outside of a “traditional” marriage. Pre-existing conditions make you ineligible to participate at all, although one does get the benefit of a “prayer chain.”
The coverage doesn’t include products of “un-Biblical lifestyles,” such as contraception or substance use rehabilitation–or preventive care like PAP tests, colonoscopies and mammograms.
Usually, bill-sharing plan members contribute a predetermined amount each month. When they have a medical bill, they receive monetary help from fellow members. All of the programs are careful to bury in the fine print that they not promising to pay bills, only “facilitating a voluntary sharing.” Some of these schemes even publish your medical problems in a newsletter to “share” your bill with the community in case anyone wants to chip in–so much for medical privacy.
The pro-ACA advocacy organization Protect Our Care provided additional details about how Rosendale’s policies could leave Montana residents without coverage for pre-existing conditions.
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Both local and national media have largely failed to cover recent proposals by Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance providers to increase premiums in Maryland and Virginia, and media have all but ignored the connection between Republican efforts to weaken the ACA and increasing health care costs.
On May 4, two of Virginia’s ACA health insurance providers requested that state officials approve significant premium increases in 2019. Cigna and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield both proposed average premium hikes that are in the double digits. They were joined days later by several other Virginia insurers and both of Maryland’s providers, Kaiser and CareFirst, the latter of which requested a 91 percent rate increase for members on its PPO plan.
These increases are not unexpected; many organizations, as well as the Congressional Budget Office, predicted that insurance rates would skyrocket if the Trump administration and the Republican-held Congress eliminated the ACA’s individual mandate, which required people to have health insurance or pay a penalty. On December 22, President Donald Trump signed the Republican tax bill into law, officially repealing the individual mandate and ensuring a rise in insurance premiums. Both Cigna and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield have already blamed the termination of the mandate for their soaring rates.
Without the individual mandate, people are more likely to withdraw from the market, meaning that cost sharing is spread among fewer people, and, as a result, the burden increases for everyone. Additionally, young and healthy people are the most likely to forego purchasing health insurance, leaving the market saturated with older and unhealthy people who require more medical attention, which pushes premiums up. Trump’s former Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, admitted as much during a May 1 speech at the World Health Care Congress in Washington, where he said that repealing the mandate would lead to “younger and healthier” people exiting the exchanges and “consequently, that drives up the cost.”
Four major TV news stations in the Baltimore media market mentioned premium increases a combined four times in evening weekday coverage. Two stations didn't mention them at all. Between May 7 and May 14, rising premiums were mentioned four times among the four major local TV news stations during their weekday evening news coverage*; only one network noted the role of Republican health care reform in proposed premium increases:
Three major Maryland newspapers ran a total of just two articles that mentioned rate increases. Since Maryland insurers requested double-digit premium hikes on May 7, only two of three major print newspapers have printed a report on it:
The Baltimore Sun ran one article about the proposed soaring premiums between May 7 and May 14. The article accurately pointed out the connection between the proposed increases and the individual mandate repeal.
Four major TV news stations in Virginia’s largest media market mentioned premium increases a combined three times in evening weekday coverage. Two stations didn't mention them at all. Of the four stations carrying local news in the Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News media market, only two discussed potential premium increases between May 4 and May 14:
Three major Virginia newspapers ran a combined five articles about the proposed premium hikes, but mostly excluded important context about the GOP sabotage effort. Between May 4 -- when several Virginia insurers first requested premium hikes -- and May 14, three major Virginia newspapers ran five articles that mentioned potential rate increases:
The looming premium hikes were mentioned a total of six times on all evening national cable news outlets. From May 4 to May 14, the requested premium increases were mentioned twice on Fox News, twice on CNN, and twice on MSNBC. In almost every instance, the premium increases were brought up in the context of Democratic messaging for the 2018 midterm elections, and none of the discussions mentioned specific examples of where or by how much premiums could potentially rise. During a May 5 interview with Tom Price, the former health and human services secretary attempted to clarify his statement from May 1 in which he acknowledged that ending the individual mandate will lead to higher premiums if other reforms are not implemented; this was the only segment that tied the increases to the GOP-led health care reform effort.
Of the three national broadcast evening news programs, only one mentioned the expected rise in premiums. CBS Evening News was the only national broadcast evening news program to mention the premium increases; the brief mention failed to explain the role of the Republican individual mandate repeal in rising premiums. The other two broadcast evening news programs, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and ABC World News Tonight with David Muir, did not report on the news.
Only one major U.S. newspapers mentioned the premium increases. The Washington Post was the only major newspaper to discuss the premium hikes in a news article. The paper published two articles that referred to the proposed premium hikes. The New York Times published one opinion piece about the proposed increases and tied the change to the GOP’s individual mandate repeal. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the New York Post, and Chicago Tribune have not reported on the proposals in their print editions.
In the past, media outlets have often left audiences in the dark over the negative effects of the Republican health care push. And while local media outlets have covered this issue better than national outlets, so far, the reporting on potentially increasing premiums from Virginia and Maryland outlets has been lackluster. As insurance companies continue to propose higher premiums across the country, national and local media outlets must do a better job preparing their audiences for the upcoming changes to their health care.
Using Nexis, Media Matters searched three widely circulated Virginia-based print newspapers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Virginian Pilot, and The Roanoke Times, from May 4 to May 14 and reviewed relevant articles that included variations of the terms "premium," "rate," "insurance," "health," or "coverage," and "increase," "change," "go up," "rise," or "jump.". The same search was used to search widely circulated Maryland-based newspapers, The Baltimore Sun, Annapolis’ The Capital, and The Salisbury Daily Times, from May 7 to May 14. The search was replicated for major national print outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the New York Post, and the Chicago Tribune between May 4 and May 14. The database Factiva was used to search for relevant articles from The Wall Street Journal during the same time frame with the search terms “health care,” and “premium.” Articles that only appeared online were not included.
Using iQ Media, Media Matters searched Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, the largest local news market in Virginia, between May 4 and May 14 and relevant transcripts that included some variation of the terms "health care," "healthcare," "premium," or "insurance" on local CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC stations. The same search was conducted in Maryland’s largest news market, Baltimore County, between May 7 and May 14. Weekend coverage was not counted.
Media Matters searched Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC for “health care” or “premium” using SnapStream between the dates of May 4 and May 14 and reviewed all relevant mentions of the expected premium hikes. Mentions were included only if they addressed rising premiums specifically.
*Each local station varies in its news programming depending on the network and market. For this reason, the number of times the premium rises were mentioned was presented as a proportion of the individual station’s total evening news programming per week.
The extraordinarily unpopular bill is built on lies and ignores what we know about economics
President Donald Trump and his Republican congressional allies are enjoying a round of praise from media commentators for finally getting a legislative “win” on the board as their tax bill closes in on passage before the end of the year. The budget-busting corporate giveaway will enrich the superwealthy and do little for Americans who have to work for a living.
Republicans finally unveiled the finished version of their tax legislation last Friday evening, and -- despite the public having just days to absorb its 1,097 pages -- both chambers of Congress plan to vote on the bill before the end of the week. If everything goes according to plan, the president will sign the bill into law just in time for members to head home for the holidays.
After a year plagued by self-destructive outbursts, failed policy changes, unprecedented legal troubles, embarrassing scandals, humiliating legislative defeats, and nationwide political upheaval, many in the press are framing the GOP tax proposal as a crucial “win” for Trump and his party.
On the December 18 edition of CNN Newsroom, co-host Poppy Harlow wondered how anyone could argue the past year “hasn’t been a win for the president on some big fronts,” given a handful of recent accomplishments, including the new tax bill. Reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns agreed with Harlow’s assessment while noting that such favorable framing fits “the way that the White House has been messaging their own achievements”:
During an earlier segment on CNN’s New Day, guest A.B. Stoddard suggested that the Republican tax bill, which the Economic Policy Institute has labeled “a scam,” could count as “a great boon for Republicans” and “a win on the board,” if the bill actually fulfilled its over the top promises. (It won’t.) Commentary framing the expected party-line vote as a major victory for the GOP also cropped up in The Associated Press, Politico, The Hill, and The New York Times. Reporters have seemingly gone out of their way to pat Republicans on the back for endorsing legislation so historically unpopular it registers significantly less support than some previous tax hikes:
In a December 15 video, Eric Schoenberg of the activist group Patriotic Millionaires explained how the GOP tax bill overwhelming favors wealthy people like him (and the Trump family) while doing little for lower- and middle-class people. Trump and the Republicans continue falsely claiming that the bill will spur business development, boost wages, and stoke renewed economic growth, but the message is such a fantasy even Fox News had to admit there was nothing to it. Previous studies from the Congressional Research Service and the Brookings Institution have demonstrated little relationship between tax cuts for the wealthy and invigorated economic activity, which Trump and the GOP have promised will result from this tax bill.
The bill permanently cuts taxes for corporations while giving only modest, temporary relief for working people. It loosens tax structures affecting the wealthiest Americans while threatening funds for Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and other initiatives that guarantee basic economic security to low-income families. The bill promises to add another $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade despite years of hysteria about Obama-era revenue shortfalls. The bill also senselessly repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which will likely result in millions of Americans dropping out of the insurance market.
Rather than praising the Republican Party for ending a remarkably unproductive year by managing to cobble together a tax giveaway to the super rich, journalists should report on what is actually in the bill. Trump and the GOP have definitely enjoyed some "wins" this year, but reporters need to point out that the Republican Party's successes have often resulted in pain and suffering for millions of Americans.
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