Health Care

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  • Fox & Friends leaves out that Obamacare mother actually benefited from the law

    Hosts also pressure Republicans and deflect blame from Trump

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    As the Senate Republicans prepared to vote on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Fox & Friends spent the morning misleading its audience about congressional procedure heading into the vote, omitting key details in an interview with a critic of the ACA (a mother who blamed health care reform for a lack of options for her son's care), and failing to mention that the GOP sabotaged the ACA for years. The hosts also, directly and indirectly, pressured Republicans into voting for the bill while shifting blame away from President Donald Trump if it fails.

    One of the first health care segments on the July 25 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends was an interview with Marjorie Weer, a mother who was invited to the White House on July 24 to serve as an example of someone victimized by Obamacare.

    During the interview, Weer discussed her son’s disability and said the ACA has made it more difficult for her son to get care. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt, who conducted the interview, left out a few previously reported details of Weer’s story wherein her family directly benefitted from health care reform. A July 24 article in The Post and Courier pointed out that Weer and her family “benefited from the Obamacare provision that insurance companies cannot deny coverage to an individual because of a preexisting condition.” The Weer family also benefited from another provision banning “lifetime spending limits.”

    Additionally, Earhardt failed to note that cuts to Medicaid in the Republican-authored bills under consideration in Congress would cause sweeping cuts to special education programs, which would presumably be important to many families with a child who has a disability. During her Post and Courier interview, Weer admitted that her son has actually benefitted from Medicaid, which she called a “lifesaver” before endorsing efforts to “rein it in.” The Post and Courier added: "Ultimately, Weer said, she felt fairly confident that under the Senate Republican bill, preexisting conditions protections would be preserved, along with the ban on lifetime spending caps. Whether the legislation sufficiently accomplishes these goals is, in fact, subject to debate between supporters and critics."

    The topic of health care also came up when the hosts of Fox & Friends interviewed Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) later on in the program.

    In the interview, co-host Steve Doocy attempted to pressure Manchin into voting for a motion to proceed to a debate for legislation to replace the ACA by misleadingly suggesting that senators “can offer up amendments and change it to anyway you want it.” Doocy added that it appeared as if Democrats “are a party of no” because they do not support a motion to proceed. Manchin corrected Doocy, telling him, “That’s not the way it works in the real world.” Manchin pointed out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would be able to control what amendments are in the bill and would have the power to exclude Democratic amendments.

    During a later segment, co-host Ed Henry also framed the Senate vote by laying out the current state of Obamacare, saying that the health care system was “struggling” with costs and falsely claiming, “the exchanges are falling apart.”

    Henry also brought up “the destruction of the exchanges” again when he was recapping Weer’s interview.

    Henry left out some important context. The challenges the exchanges face today are largely due to Republican sabotage at the state and federal level. As The Washington Post noted, Republicans in Congress blocked funding to build a federal exchange and urged Republican-led states to “refuse to build their own insurance marketplaces.” Additionally, Politico reported, “Congressional Republicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds" needed for the federal government to "take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states" that “declined to create their own state insurance exchanges.” Republican stonewalling left "the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together HealthCare.gov by redirecting funds from existing programs," according to Politico.

    Fox & Friends also spent time pressuring Republican senators, either directly or indirectly, to support the bill. In an interview with Fox contributor Newt Gingrich, Doocy suggested that if they don’t support the bill, Republicans could look like they were “fibbing” when they promised for years to repeal the ACA.

    And in an interview with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has spoken out against both the health care reform law and numerous GOP replacement plans, Doocy said that “millions of people who voted for you guys are going to be disappointed” if any Republican senators object to proceeding with debate.

    As Obamacare’s fate is uncertain for the time being, the hosts covered their bases and attempted to deflect blame from Trump if the bills under consideration in the Republican-controlled Congress fail. Earhardt asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if Trump would “take the blame” if a repeal bill does not pass, leaving Huckabee Sanders to defend her boss and pre-emptively slam congressional Republicans.

  • MSNBC host ridiculously claims Medicaid recipients only have “paper insurance”

    Hugh Hewitt: “Medicaid is paper insurance that isn’t actually health care”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt, a right-wing radio host and Trump apologist who was bizarrely rewarded by the network last month with his own weekend show, used an appearance on the July 24 edition of MSNBC Live to push the absurd claim that Medicaid is just “paper insurance” for many recipients and “isn't actually health care.” Hewitt’s disparagement of the Medicaid program came just moments after President Donald Trump concluded an anti-Obamacare tirade at the White House, in which Trump pressured undecided Republican senators to support the GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Right-wing media figures routinely criticise the Medicaid program and its recipients while promoting Republican plans to gut the program. Hewitt’s critique of the supposedly low quality of Medicaid coverage has become more prevalent among Trump-aligned pundits in recent weeks despite it having been discredited years ago. From the July 24 segment:

    ALI VELSHI (HOST): Frankly, the stuff that Donald Trump said, you and I have discussed this many times, he does say a lot of things that just aren’t true about Obamacare. He is focused on the Obamacare exchanges and the difficulties that they have had, which we have outlined on this show. They are absolutely very real, many Americans have seen their premiums go up. But carrying on about how it’s broken, and it’s all a mess, and it’s-- everything is a lie, and it’s all a failure, and the whole thing is destroyed. It’s disingenuous, and it’s not going to work for [Sen. Shelley Moore] Capito [(R-WV)], and [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski [(R-AK)], and [Sen. Susan] Collins [(R-ME)], and [Sen. Dean] Heller [(R-NV)].

    [...]

    VELSHI: More Americans benefitted from the Medicaid expansion than the Obamacare markets, that’s the part that the president never talks about.

    HUGH HEWITT: It depends on what you define as “benefitted” from Medicaid. There are a lot of people -- and I was a local health administration for a number of years -- who believe that Medicaid is paper insurance that isn’t actually health care. It does work for a lot of people, it doesn’t do anything for many people.

  • Somehow, Sean Hannity managed to talk about Hillary Clinton more than health care in the last week

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Over the past week, Senate Republicans worked tirelessly to take health insurance away from 32 million people -- or slightly fewer, paired with giant tax cuts for their wealthiest friends. However, Hannity viewers might have thought we were still in the election cycle of 2016 and that the news of the week actually revolved around former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    A Media Matters analysis found that from July 13 to 19, Fox News’ Sean Hannity devoted more time to so-called “scandals” surrounding Hillary Clinton than to health care -- spending 1 hour, 7 minutes and 51 seconds on his prime-time show on the Clintons compared to 44 minutes and 34 seconds on health care.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Although one whose main source for news is Hannity might not realize it, there has been a lot of health care news in the past week. On July 13, the Senate finally unveiled its newest plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). By July 17, Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) had announced they wouldn’t be supporting the motion to proceed on the bill, effectively killing the legislation. The same night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that Republicans would move forward with a straight repeal, an idea that met its demise the next day. The Senate GOP’s health care bills have been almost universally criticized and marred by bad poll numbers. Amid the negative coverage of the latest bill, it appears as if Hannity chose instead to focus his attention, and his viewers’, on a common right-wing foe instead: Hillary Clinton.

    Hannity’s obsessive Clinton chatter focused on bogus and debunked smears, including accusations that she colluded with Ukraine:

    Hannity also hyped a previously debunked smear from the error-filled book Clinton Cash that as secretary of state, Clinton approved the transfer of up to 20 percent of America’s uranium to Russia:

    Hannity’s absurd focus on Clinton and sycophantic coverage of President Donald Trump are nothing new. But it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Hannity’s Clinton crusade is an attempt to paint an alternate reality for his viewers -- a reality where Clinton “scandals” are more relevant than Trump’s disastrous policy agenda. It’s clear that not only is Hannity incapable of moving past the 2016 election, but that the only move he has in his playbook is attacking Clinton.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts and SnapStream for mentions of health care, healthcare, Better Care Reconciliation Act, BCRA, Senate health, GOP health, or Republican health, Affordable Care Act, ACA, Obama care, and Obamacare, as well as Bill, Hillary, and Clinton on Fox News’ Hannity between July 13 and 19.

    Conversations were included in this study if health care or the Clintons was the stated topic or discussion or if two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed health care or the Clintons with one another. If a speaker mentioned health care or the Clintons in a multitopic segment and no other speaker in that segment engaged with the comment, then it was excluded from the analysis as a passing mention. All teasers of upcoming segments about health care or the Clintons were excluded from the analysis.

  • The NY Times missed an opportunity to press Trump on health care specifics

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The New York Times is drawing well-earned plaudits for yesterday’s news-making interview with President Donald Trump. In their wide-ranging conversation, reporters Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt, and Maggie Haberman repeatedly used to great effect a strategy of asking open-ended questions and gently prodding the president along, breaking lots of new ground with regard to the ongoing Russia investigation.

    But in contrast to its other successes, the Times missed out on an opportunity to get Trump to answer questions about health care policy.

    There was certainly a need for such an interrogation. The interview came just days after the Senate health care bill collapsed because conservative and more moderate Republicans were unable to reach agreement on the legislation’s contours. Trump has been generally vague about which side’s policy views he favors, but he supported the Senate legislation even though it violates many of the promises he has made to the American people. In tweets and other public statements since it became clear the bill lacked the votes to pass, Trump has taken a variety of positions on what to do next.

    Based on the voluminous excerpts from the interview the paper has published, which “omit several off-the-record comments and asides,” the Times reporters appeared to make no real effort to get at any of the contradictions surrounding Trump’s health care position, or to elucidate for their audience the type of policies he favors. Millions of people will be impacted by the results of this debate; the Times reporters, though, seem primarily concerned with the senators who will vote on it.

    Here are all the questions The New York Times reporters asked Trump about health care, as well as one comment that inspired a response:

    • PETER BAKER: Good. Good. How was your lunch [with Republican senators]?

    • MAGGIE HABERMAN: That’s been the thing for four years. When you win an entitlement, you can’t take it back.

    • HABERMAN: Am I wrong in thinking — I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right? I mean, I think that you come at it from the view of …

    • BAKER: Did the senators want to try again?

    • HABERMAN: How about the last [meeting with Republican senators about health care] in June? Do you guys remember how many came?

    • BAKER: Who is the key guy?

    • HABERMAN: Where does it go from here, do you think?

    • MICHAEL SCHMIDT: How’s [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell to work with?

    As you can see, their questions about health care were almost entirely driven by the process and politics of the bill. The closest they came to asking about policy was Haberman’s vague question about whether Trump is “generally of the view that people should have health care”; Trump responded, “Yes, yes,” and the conversation moved on.

    There were some tantalizing openings for the reporters to quiz Trump on his health care policy views that were not taken. At one point, Trump said of Obamacare, “Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.” A reporter could have followed up and asked why, in spite of the political challenge, Trump believes there is a policy imperative to remove that guarantee and limit the ability of people with pre-existing conditions to gain coverage.

    Trump also said:

    Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

    I don't really understand what the president is saying here. He appears to be claiming that the model for health insurance is people pay a very low amount of money beginning when they are young and hope to garner benefits when they are old. If true, that’s a staggering display of ignorance; that’s how term life insurance works, not health insurance. Unfortunately, it’s hard to really nail this down because there were no follow-up questions.

    Trump also said of passing health care legislation, “If we don’t get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we’ll blame the Democrats.” This would have been a good opportunity to point out that experts say Obamacare is not failing, ask the president why his administration is taking steps to ensure the system’s decline, or discuss the impact that Obamacare failing might have on Americans who depend on the legislation. Instead, Baker asked, “Did the senators want to try again?”

    The failure of the Times to ask the president tough questions about his health care position is all the more important because there have been vanishingly few opportunities for reporters to do so. The president has largely retreated from press scrutiny in recent months. Trump has not held a full press conference since February; he broke with tradition and did not hold one following the G20 meeting earlier this month. His only on-camera interviews in the last two months have been with the pro-Trump propagandists at Fox and, most recently, with The 700 Club’s Pat Robertson, who has said the president’s critics serve Satan.

    When mainstream journalists have had the opportunity to ask Trump to discuss the legislation, they’ve largely dropped the ball. Health care is not mentioned in the excerpts Reuters released of reporter Steve Holland’s July 12 interview with the president. The only reference to the issue in the excerpts the White House released of a conversation Trump had with the press corps during their trip to Paris that night involves the president saying that passing a bill is “tough” but the result will be “really good.” (It’s possible that health care had been discussed in more detail and the White House refused to release those portions, but Haberman would have been aware of this since she participated in that conversation, and that should have provided all the more reason for the Times reporters to ask him about the issue.)

    This is unfortunately typical of a media that has largely focused on politics and process, not policy or the personal stories of those who will be impacted by the passage of the Republican legislation.

    The Times lost out on its opportunity to put the president on the record on his top priority. Given how rare these chances have become, that’s a big miss.

  • Media can't take their eyes off the ball on health care

    Trump and Secretary Price can (and probably will) work to destabilize the current health care system behind the scenes. Media must hold them accountable.

    Blog ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN


    Dayanita Ramesh/Media Matters

    After Senate Republicans failed in their latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is imperative that media stay focused on covering health care. President Donald Trump and Tom Price, his secretary of health and human services, are likely to make unilateral changes that will undermine the ACA and affect those currently covered under it. Media outlets cannot let these policy decisions happen in the dark, as they have in the past.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on July 17 that the latest “effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” after four Republican senators said they would not vote for the bill. McConnell currently intends to vote on a bill to repeal the ACA with no replacement plan in place -- a move Trump supports -- which, The New York Times wrote, “has almost no chance to pass.”

    Media largely failed to cover the debate leading up to this failed legislative attempt, which played out behind closed doors in “almost-unprecedented opacity,” leaving audiences in the dark about the consequences and stakes of the proposed bill. For the time being, it appears as if decisions about health care will continue to be made in the dark.

    Without Congress, Trump and Price can still deal a potentially fatal blow to the health insurance market. On July 18, Trump reacted to the Senate’s failure to pass an ACA replacement, saying, “Let Obamacare fail. ... I’m not going to own it.” And, as Vox explained, “Especially in states with shakier exchanges, the president certainly does have some fairly broad discretionary authority that he and his health and human services secretary can use to deliberately sabotage the program if they want to.” In March, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told New York magazine that Trump and Price would have to decide “whether or not HHS will continue to reimburse insurance companies for cost-sharing expenses.” Sebelius explained that not making those payments, which Trump has threatened to do, “could cause a number of companies now offering plans in the marketplace to not sign up again for 2018.”

    Given the likelihood that Trump and Price will work to destabilize the health care system however they can, media have an obligation to prioritize the issue, especially as Trump is likely to blame Democrats for any negative impacts to health care coverage or to the insurance market in general. The current health care system will undoubtedly continue to inspire debate and attempted sabotage throughout Trump’s time in office. Media better pay attention.

  • Republicans float vote on right-wing media’s disastrous plan to repeal the ACA with no replacement

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN & ALEX MORASH

    Senate Republicans are floating a possible vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan in place, a proposal that has been pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), President Donald Trump, and right-wing media. But this plan would leave tens of millions uninsured, cause a spike in premiums, and cause insurers to flee the market.

  • The Senate bill on health care imploded, and pro-Trump media is a mess. Sad!

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Senate health care bill is dead again after two conservative Republican senators said last night they would not vote to advance the legislation because it does not repeal enough of former President Barack Obama’s signature health law. As GOP leaders scramble to find a new tactic that will allow them to strip health insurance from millions while slashing taxes for the wealthy, President Donald Trump’s media supporters have been left grasping for a message.

    The original bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assembled through a secretive process and tried to rush through with little public debate, would lead to 22 million more Americans being uninsured at the end of the decade, largely due to cuts to Medicaid; many of those who retain insurance under the bill would pay more for fewer benefits. The bill was amended after the Congressional Budget Office offered that verdict, but the GOP decided not to wait for a new score before moving forward. Democratic senators are universally opposed to the legislation, while the most moderate and conservative Republicans have also refused to sign on, either because it does too much or too little to move away from Obamacare’s improvements to the health care system.

    Trump’s propagandists look to him to set the tone for how to respond to bad news. But the message out of the White House has always been incoherent on health care, largely because the president seems to have no real interest in the various, serious policy debates surrounding the future of health insurance for the American people -- he just wants a win. In May, the president held a Rose Garden event to celebrate the passage of the House bill, which he described as a “great plan.” Weeks later, he turned around and privately called that legislation “mean.”

    That sort of policy incoherence gets in the way of formulating messaging around legislative setbacks. Last night, for instance, Trump tweeted that “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” But that tactical messaging completely ignores the question of what a good health care plan would look like, and whether the Senate bill that just went down in flames met that criteria. Without clearly defined heroes and villains or a clear policy vision, his media allies have been left to their own devices. The noise machine is grinding to a halt.

    Absent messaging from the top, here are a few ways the pro-Trump media are responding:

    The GOP leadership failed Trump

    Most of Trump’s propagandists are of the opinion that Trump cannot fail; he can only be failed. As such, they’ve quickly turned their fire on McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI).

    “I know the president is frustrated with the situation. A lot has been promised to him and not much delivered,” Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle said last night. “I think this is a failure on the part of the leadership, to be quite honest. Because they needed to get this to stick and to coalesce and get it done.”

    “Second failure for Mitch McConnell,” Steve Doocy added on Fox & Friends this morning, pointing to the bill’s previous collapse last month.

    Even Matt Drudge is getting in on the act:

    If the Senate bill continues to struggle, and Trump doesn’t publicly support McConnell, we could see calls for his replacement in the near future.

    “It was a lousy bill”

    Trump’s lack of interest in policy leaves his supporters plenty of room to say that they didn’t like the bill, without creating any dissonance about the fact that the president supported the legislation.

    Doocy went after the bill from the start this morning, saying, “Ultimately, what undid this bill is -- the one that they are not going to vote on now --  is it was a lousy bill. I mean, it still had big taxes. It still had a lot of regulations. It had that insurance company subsidy slush fund that Rand Paul was talking about. It was not what the American people” wanted. Notably, since Doocy also has little knowledge of or interest in policy, he can’t really say what a good replacement would look like either, simply saying Congress should “get rid of all that stuff and come up with something new.”

    “Maybe it’s time to nuclear option things”

    One of the problems Senate Republicans faced in trying to push through health care legislation is that because they knew no bill would attract enough Democratic support to overcome a filibuster, they were trying to pass the bill with a 50-vote threshold through the budget reconciliation process. But that process limits what can actually go into the bill, making full repeal of Obamacare extremely difficult.

    In order to sidestep that process, the hosts of Fox & Friends are calling for Senate Republicans to deploy the “nuclear option” and eliminate the filibuster altogether, making all votes subject only to a majority vote. It’s unclear how this would help pass a health care bill since Republicans just demonstrated they don’t have 50 votes in the Senate, but this morning Doocy, co-host Brian Kilmeade, and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer all seemed eager to push through that proposal.

    A few hours later, Trump, who regularly watches Fox & Friends, chimed in, tweeting, “The Senate must go to a 51 vote majority instead of current 60 votes. Even parts of full Repeal need 60. 8 Dems control Senate. Crazy!”

    Hey look over here!

    For some, the best way to get through a crushing defeat for the president is to downplay that it happened.

    Time to move on to tax reform

    Another option is to give up altogether. That’s the current recommendation of Fox News host Eric Bolling, at least until the president makes clear that he’s sticking with health care.

    “Let's just say this thing fails. They put it off to the side,” he said on this morning’s Fox & Friends. “They screwed up. They failed. You shore up the individual insurance markets. You put it off to the side. Then you take up something that I think every single American, whether you are Democrat, independent, or Republican, can wrap their brain around, tax reform.”

    The good news for the pro-Trump media is that tax reform is a very simple issue with few stakeholders and broad agreement in Congress on a way forward. It also helps that the president has learned important lessons from the health care fight about overconfidence in the face of policy fights.