Health Care Reform

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  • Guide to right-wing media myths and facts about the Senate health care bill

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NICK FERNANDEZ

    Right-wing media figures are trying to curry favor for the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) by attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), pushing lies about the BCRA, disparaging the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) or distorting its analysis of the legislation, and muddying the truth about the health care system in general. Here is a guide to the myths right-wing media are employing to sell the Senate Republican health care bill.

  • Five great examples of local journalism showing what the GOP bill will do to Americans

    Blog ››› ››› SALVATORE COLLELUORI

    After the Senate GOP released a massive tax cut bill for the the wealthiest Americans disguised as a health care proposal, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected would kick 22 million Americans off their insurance, drastically cut spending on Medicaid, and raise premiums on seniors, Fox News used the opportunity to lie and spin on behalf of the Republican Party. For example, Fox hosts and guests have mocked legislators who correctly pointed out that the Senate bill would increase mortality rates in the United States. Additionally, hosts and guests claimed that millions not having health insurance is “the American way,” lied that Medicaid wouldn’t be cut by the bill, and attacked former President Barack Obama for speaking out against the proposal, which would reduce all of the gains in insurance coverage his signature law created.

    In stark juxtaposition to Fox News’ misinformation campaign, state and local media outlets have often properly covered the effects of the bill on citizens of their areas and debunked popular right-wing myths. Here are five of the best examples:

    KMGH’s 7 News @ 10 PM (Colorado): Despite administration talking points, “the CBO’s big-picture analysis” on Obamacare “was right.” KMGH anchor Anne Trujillo debunked a claim from President Donald Trump that the CBO produced “inaccurate predictions on Obamacare,” noting that “the CBO’s big-picture analysis, that Obamacare would bring the uninsured rate down to a historic low, that was right.” From the June 26 edition of KMGH’s 7 News @ 10:

    ANNE TRUJILLO (HOST): And the White House, once again, criticizes CBO today for its, what it calls “inaccurate predictions on Obamacare.” So we did some digging. And this is not a new argument from the administration. Back in March, our partners at PolitiFact ranked the criticism as “Half True.” And here’s why. In 2010, the CBO predicted 30 million more Americans would gain coverage by 2016. That number turned out to be 22 million, so off by 8 million. But PolitiFact says the CBO’s big-picture analysis, that Obamacare would bring the uninsured rate down to a historic low, that was right. PolitiFact also pointed out that the CBO could not have foreseen the Supreme Court’s decision on Medicaid expansion, which led 19 states to opt out.

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Georgia): Senate health plan may leave 680,000 more Georgians without insurance. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that, according to health care analyst Bill Custer of Georgia State University, the Senate bill would cause approximately 680,000 Georgians to lose their health insurance coverage. From the June 26 article:

    The Congressional Budget Office released its score of the Senate plan’s impacts late Monday. The nonpartisan office estimated that 22 million more Americans would be without health insurance at the end of 10 years if the plan becomes law. Georgia’s share of that figure is 680,000 or so, according to a health care analyst who has been following the debate, Bill Custer of Georgia State University.

    Georgia advocates for rural hospitals, patients and others likely to feel the cuts howled.

    “This legislation represents a giant leap backward from what Americans have come to expect and demand from their healthcare delivery system,” Earl Rogers, president of the Georgia Hospital Association, said in a statement.

    “Cuts to Medicaid take resources away from the entire healthcare delivery system, so tough decisions will have to be made regarding which services to scale back or eliminate entirely,” he added, cutbacks “that will affect all patients.” [Atlanta Journal Constitution, 6/26/17]

    Penn Live (Pennsylvania): “Senate bill for Obamacare repeal would ‘destabilize’ Pa. health care system: state official.” Penn Live, the online version of Harrisburg’s Patriot-News, noted that the state’s deputy secretary for human services estimated that the cuts to Medicaid would cost the state “about $4.5 billion annually.” In addition, “the cut would be especially damaging given the opioid addiction crisis, which is presently killing 13 Pennsylvania residents per day, according to Jennifer Smith, the acting secretary of drug and programs.” From the June 23 piece:

    The Medicaid expansion that covers 716,000 people in Pennsylvania would be phased out over three years ending in 2024. The state could continue paying for the coverage -- the federal government now pays about 90 percent under Obamacare -- but it would be unaffordable, according to Brendan Harris, the deputy secretary of human services. He said on Thursday afternoon the state hadn't yet figured out the exact financial impact, but estimated the state would lose about $4.5 billion annually.

    Eliminating the Medicaid expansion would impact drug and alcohol treatment. About 124,000 people covered by the expansion have accessed such treatment. The cut would be especially damaging given the opioid addiction crisis, which is presently killing 13 Pennsylvania residents per day, according to Jennifer Smith, the acting secretary of drug and programs.

    Overall Medicaid spending would be capped. States could choose between a block grant or a per capita limit, although children with major medical needs would be exempt from the cap. Moreover, increases to Medicaid spending would eventually be based on increases in the consumer price index. Increases are presently based on medical cost inflation, which is higher than CPI increases. Asked whether that might have the positive impact of bending the cost curve downward, a state official said it would not. Rather, it would shift costs to medical providers and private insurers and create pressure that would harm services.

    [...]

    The income limit for people to receive federal subsidies to help buy coverage on the electronic exchange would drop to 350 percent of the federal poverty level, down from 400 percent. About 426,000 Pennsylvania residents have exchange coverage, with 80 percent receiving a subsidy, Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller said. Also, subsidies would be based on 56 percent of the benchmark plan, down from 70 percent, which would lower their value, Miller said. Miller said the changes would increase the number of people who can't afford coverage.

    [...]

    Secretary of Health Karen Murphy said the cuts to Medicaid would "destabilize" the health care system in Pennsylvania and result in "hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs." Other impacts would include the loss of $22 million in annual funds that go toward disease prevention. [Penn Live, 6/23/17]

    The News Journal (Delaware): ‘People will die’ under new health care proposal. An article in Delaware’s The News Journal quoted the director of Delaware’s Division of Public Health, who called the GOP’s legislation “simply inhumane” and said, “People will die.” [The News Journal, 6/23/17]

    WLWT’s News 5 at 11:00 (Ohio): Senate bill would “allow insurers to charge older policyholders more.” A segment on WLWT’s News 5 at 11:00 explained that the CBO score found that 22 million Americans would lose their health insurance by 2026 under the bill, which would “end enhanced Medicaid expansion, eliminate coverage mandates, and allow insurers to charge older policyholders more.” In addition, the segment explained that “those in the individual market would be hit with dramatic increases for services.” From the June 26 edition of WLWT News 5 at 11:00:

    MIKE DARDIS (CO-HOST): Well, Republicans can’t seem to agree on the best way to repeal and replace Obamacare, a promise several years in the making.

    SHEREE PAOLELLO (CO-HOST): The Senate is expected to vote on this newest health care bill a little bit later this week, but some new numbers out this evening may not help convince the holdouts.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): CBO’s report today makes clear that this bill is every bit as mean as the House bill.

    [END VIDEO]

    REPORTER: Twenty-two million -- that’s how many more Americans would be without health insurance by 2026 if the proposed Senate GOP health care bill passes, according to the Congressional Budget Office report. Like the House version of the bill that passed in May, this version would end enhanced Medicaid expansion, eliminate coverage mandates, and allow insurers to charge older policyholders more. Premiums would be down about 20 percent over the next 10 years for the average customer. The U.S. deficit could also by cut by $321 billion. But those in the individual market would be hit with dramatic increases for services. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is scrambling now to shore up votes for the bill, but these numbers may not help.

    [BEGIN VIDEO]

    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): From a political point of view, if you had a problem with the bill, the CBO score didn’t help you at all. It’s going to be tough to get to 50, but time will tell.

    [END VIDEO]

    REPORTER: Senate Republicans unveiled their version of the Obamacare repeal last Thursday to an underwhelming response by many in their own party.

  • Stalin, East Germany, and emancipation: The 12 dumbest takes (so far) on 22 million people losing health insurance

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After a report on the Senate health care legislation by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showed that the Republican plan would lead to 22 million more uninsured Americans than under the Affordable Care Act, right-wing media figures either tried to spin the CBO report by saying it was “extremely positive,” or attacked and undermined the CBO’s integrity. From an East Germany analogy to the suggestion that senators simply “forget” the millions that will be uninsured, here are 13 of the worst right-wing CBO takes. 

  • For one fleeting moment, Fox & Friends debunked Kellyanne Conway's lie about Medicaid

    Then helped her lie again

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    On the June 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-hosts Steve Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Ainsley Earhardt flip-flopped twice on Medicaid cuts, supporting, then debunking, then returning to supporting the White House’s false claim that the Republican health care bill doesn’t cut Medicaid funding.

    During the first hour of the program, the hosts repeated a debunked claim from Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, that the Republican Senate’s health care bill does not cut Medicaid funding. Doocy claimed that those covered by Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion “will continue [being covered] in the future,” and Kilmeade added later that “we don’t even have that money” to fund the Obamacare Medicaid expansion “to begin with,” but the Republicans’ bill is “still increasing it” to guarantee coverage for the needy.

    In the second hour of the program, Doocy asked Fox News contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier if “the Senate health care bill, as it stands this morning,” cuts Medicaid or not. Saphier claimed that it “depends on who you ask, [but] I’m going to say there will be cuts to Medicaid” because “you’re not taking away real-time dollars, however what you’re gonna see is a slowing of spending in the future.” Doocy attempted to diminish her claim by noting that it will be up to states to decide how to handle Medicaid, but Saphier said that “we’re not quite sure” how states will respond to the cut in federal funding.

    Saphier’s analysis resembles that of several panelists on CNN’s New Day, who highlighted that the Senate is “handing a gigantic -- by one estimate $43 billion check -- I should say bill -- to the governors and asking them to figure out how to pay for this,” and that several states, “if they don't have the money to do that federal match, then they can just jump out of this altogether.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the House version of the bill clearly states that “several major provisions affecting Medicaid would decrease direct spending by $880 billion over the 2017-2026 period, … culminating in 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026, a reduction of about 17 percent relative to the number under current law.” 

    Shortly after Saphier debunked the White House’s false talking point, the hosts had Kellyanne Conway on the program to “set the record straight” because “if you watch the mainstream media this morning, they’re saying that you were caught in a lie.” Conway maintained that “it’s not a lie” because “it is slowing the growth of Medicaid” although it “continues to be funded.” She noted that “Medicaid over time would be unsustainable and unaffordable because Obamacare failed to bring costs down for health care, so these states are having a very difficult time meeting the bills.” Conway attacked “detractors and Trump haters” for “call[ing] me a liar because they don’t want to do the homework and look at what’s actually happening to Medicaid,” as Saphier did minutes earlier. 

  • It’s never been more important to talk about the human cost of rolling back health care

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Sarah Wasko/Media Matters

    Republican senators produced a version of health care reform behind closed doors that would repeal and replace key aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and would put potentially millions of people at risk of losing access to vital medical care. Americans deserve to hear from those who would be most directly impacted by the proposed legislation.

    On June 22, Senate Republicans released their proposed health care reform bill, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA). The bill was drafted in secret by a small group of white Republican men without input from women, minorities, Senate Democrats, or even the majority of Senate Republicans. Overall, the Senate bill is largely similar to the House’s earlier health care plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), in that it guts Medicaid spending, denies federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year, reduces subsidies for health care coverage, and offers a windfall in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.

    As if taking cue from the Senate Republicans, cable and broadcast news media have largely shut out women and minorities in their coverage of the Senate’s health care bill, focusing instead on white men to provide analysis and opinion. As Media Matters has documented, men comprised two-thirds of all appearances on prime-time cable news, broadcast morning and nightly news shows, and Sunday morning political shows during discussions of the Republican health care bill. The study also found that 87 percent of all appearances were made by white guests. Media Matters found this trend with guests continued on cable news into the first full day of coverage of the Senate bill’s release.

    However, reports indicate that women and minorities would be disproportionately affected by the Republican Party’s legislation. The LGBTQ community, people of color, and women would be disproportionately hit by cuts to Medicaid. For low-income Americans, losing health insurance could mean they would not receive regular care needed to keep them alive, even if they were to go to the emergency room. The GOP plan may also force those with disabilities into institutions. Women would find that some realities of being a woman -- having heavy periods or getting pregnant -- are now pre-existing conditions.

    Medicaid cuts have a real impact on people’s lives -- impacts evident in rare examples of television news telling these stories. One such story was presented during the June 23 edition of CBS’ CBS Evening News, when reporter Mark Strassmann interviewed Jodi Maness, a 22-year-old mother and Medicaid recipient. He said she is worried about losing Medicaid and having to pay more for health care, saying that her biggest fear is the possible impact on her small children:

    But highlighting the personal impact of the Republican health care plans has been rare, as television news channels largely have not emphasized the impact these proposals would have on women and minorities. Last Febuary, Media Matters reported that cable news outlets featured only three prime-time interviews of individuals who had participated in congressional town halls during the February 18-26 week -- informally called “Resistance Recess” -- instead relying primarily on talking heads to discuss the week of action. It’s still true that audiences would be better served by hearing directly from the women and minorities who would be directly impacted by this legislation rather than just pundits endlessly debating it.

    If the congressional Republicans’ health care agenda is successful, it would cause real harm to wide swaths of Americans. With nearly 75 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, there are plenty of individuals who would be affected by the Senate’s health care bill for the media to interview, if only the press would be willing to sit down with them.