Medicaid

Issues ››› Medicaid
  • 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.

  • LGBTQ media highlight repercussions of Trump’s budget proposals

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    News outlets, experts, and health care advocates blasted President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal that would rip health care away from millions while eliminating key HIV prevention and research programs. If enacted, these cuts would have a disproportionately devastating impact on members of the LGBTQ community, who rely more heavily on Medicaid than the general public does and face higher rates of HIV infection.

    Outcries continue to grow in response to Trump’s federal budget proposal for the 2018 fiscal year. The proposal faced immediate criticism for its unrealistic revenue projections and was branded by critics as a “repugnant grab bag” of cuts to vital anti-poverty and public health programs to pay for part of a massive tax cut for top earners. The latest criticism of Trump’s budget comes from public health experts and LGBTQ media, which are pointing out that its cuts to Medicaid, coupled with harsh reductions in funding of HIV treatment, prevention, and research add up to a reprehensible swipe at the LGBTQ community.

    Cuts to Medicaid would disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community, which faces higher levels of poverty than the public at large. On May 28, NBC Out reported that Trump’s budget would hit the LGBTQ community in several ways. Stephen Forssell, director of George Washington University’s graduate program in LGBTQ health policy, explained that Medicaid is “hugely important” for LGBTQ Americans, who are more likely than others to rely on the program:

    Medicaid is "hugely important" for the LGBTQ community," (sic) Gruberg told NBC Out, noting that 18 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have Medicaid compared to 8 percent of non-LGBTQ people.

    Gruberg also noted that Medicaid is the "largest source of coverage for people with HIV in the U.S.," adding that "a $1.4 trillion cut to Medicaid over 10 years will be detrimental to the ability of people living with HIV to get the health care they need to survive."

    HIV funding is of great concern for the LGBTQ community and faces steep cuts in the White House’s budget. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) outlined that the fiscal year 2018 budget would include a $59 million reduction to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, including eliminating all its funding for LGBTQ and minority education and HIV prevention. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS program funds health care services for individuals living with HIV as well as public service education programs about the virus. The program is named after an HIV activist who fought for the program’s enactment before tragically passing away just months before it was authorized after battling the virus.

    On May 31, the Washington Blade highlighted the funding cuts to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program and an additional $186 million in proposed cuts to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) work on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Doug Wirth, CEO of the nonprofit Amida Care, called Trump’s budget proposal a “cruel and callous attack” on those living with HIV. Advocacy groups argued that the funding cuts would lead to “more suffering” for those living with HIV, and the AIDS Institute criticized the White House’s “severe cuts” while noting that the 19 percent cut to the CDC’s HIV prevention program would set back efforts to eliminate the virus.

    According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, gay and bisexual men represent 2 percent of the American population but make up 56 percent of all Americans living with HIV and 55 percent of all HIV-related deaths in the U.S. The CDC reported that while HIV diagnoses have declined overall in recent years, diagnoses have increased among gay and bisexual men. The CDC found that much of the increase was among men of color and even projected that one out of every two black gay and bisexual men would become infected with the virus during their lives. Currently, gay and bisexual men make up 67 percent of all new HIV infections:

    Trump’s cuts to HIV programs are eerily reminiscent of cuts Vice President Mike Pence imposed on Indiana during his tenure as governor. Pence followed through on right-wing media’s obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood and cut funding to the health care provider ostensibly to reduce abortions, but in doing so actually shut down access to the only HIV testing centers available to many Indiana residents and may have inadvertently caused an HIV epidemic in rural parts of the state. Pence has a long history of supporting right-wing media causes against the LGBTQ community and during the 2016 presidential campaign was called out by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow for statements he made while serving in Congress.

    Trump campaigned as an alleged ally of the LGBTQ community, but community leaders recently slammed his “shameful” refusal to sign a proclamation declaring June LGBTQ Pride month, ending an eight-year tradition. The Trump administration also faced pushback after it announced it would not allow Americans to self-identify as LGBTQ in the 2020 national census.

  • Some of the best media take downs of Trump’s “repugnant grab bag” of a budget

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    On May 23, President Donald Trump released his vision for the fiscal year 2018 federal budget titled, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” which called for deep cuts to Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), student loan assistance, and anti-poverty programs geared toward working- and middle-class Americans while providing gargantuan tax cuts for top income earners and increasing military spending. As details of the budget began to surface in the lead up to the announcement, Media Matters identified some of the best take downs from journalists and experts hammering the proposal for its “ruthless” cuts.

  • Trump’s budget revolves around a glaring broken campaign promise -- the press needs to say so

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    President Donald Trump’s administration is proposing massive, unprecedented spending cuts on social aid programs while trying to balance the budget, pay for big tax cuts for the rich, and increase Pentagon spending. 

    At the center stands a gargantuan $800 billion reduction to Medicaid, which currently helps insure more than 70 million people, pays for millions of births each year, covers approximately 40 percent of all nursing home costs in America, and provides treatment for patients addicted to opioids.

    The cuts were detailed in President Trump’s first federal budget, which was delivered to Congress on Tuesday. The proposal represents a truly radical scheme.

    It also revolves around a stunning Trump flip-flop. Because while eyeing the White House, Trump had a much different plan as he promised to protect Medicaid, not take a chainsaw to it. (Trump in 2015: "I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.")

    Trump's promise means that some form of this headline should be appearing on news sites all across the country this week: “Trump breaks campaign promise by proposing massive cuts to Medicaid.”

    That’s just Beltway Journalism 101: If a politician promises one thing while running for office and then immediately does the complete opposite after being elected, that’s considered news. Especially if it’s the president of the United Sates. 

    But we’re not seeing many of those headlines with Trump and Medicaid. Yes, news organizations are stressing that Trump’s budget would result in unprecedented cuts to anti-poverty programs. But the second key part about Trump’s attack on America’s long-standing social safety net representing an abdication of a major campaign promise? That is getting very short shrift.

    That’s distressing because it evidences a larger problem where journalists no longer consider Trump’s rhetoric and promises to be serious enough to bother holding the president accountable.

    In other words, if the press is willing to normalize Trump’s duplicitous behavior to the point where it doesn’t even report that the cornerstone of his proposed budget represents a stunning case of political hypocrisy, then journalists are slowly becoming part of the problem.

    If we are at the point where journalists tend to shrug at the sight and sounds of a Trump lie or blatant flip-flop, that means Trump has successfully worn the press down to the point where journalists don't care about detailing the prevarications and deceits.

    For context, here’s how enormous the Medicaid cuts are that Trump is now proposing:

    And yet many in the press have glossed over the fact that the historic cuts clearly contradict Trump’s previous promises. In fact, some news outlets actually gave Trump credit this week for keeping some campaign promises with his budget.

    Here's how Axios originally reported on Trump's budget (emphasis added):

    President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't reform Social Security or Medicare — in line with his campaign promise — but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs.

    Axios wrote Trump kept “his campaign promise” by not touching Social Security or Medicare. But Axios was silent about the fact that Trump had obviously broken his promise not to cut Medicaid, let alone not to make “serious cuts.” (Furthermore, Axios was wrong that the budget doesn't cut Social Security and later deleted the "campaign promise" language and made other changes to its article.)

    NPR did the same thing. It noted that Trump kept his pledge regarding Medicare and completely ignored his broken budget promise for Medicaid. 

    More of the same from Reuters:

    Trump upheld his promise - for the most part - that he would not cut Medicare and Social Security, two expensive safety-net programs that deficit hawks have long targeted for reforms.

    (Note that both NPR and Reuters made the same mistake as Axios on Social Security -- seemingly not understanding cuts to Social Security disability payments in the budget)

    So Trump promises that are kept constitute news, but Trump promises that are broken get ignored?

    And more from CNN:

    Donald Trump's budget that is expected to be unveiled on Tuesday will include $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid -- a move that underscores the President's resolve to significantly downsize the federal program even as Republican lawmakers are clashing over the issue in Congress.

    Missing? Any context regarding candidate Trump and Medicaid. (Only later did CNN publish a story noting the broken promise.)

    ABC News reported that the Trump budget includes "deep cuts" to Medicaid and then noted that “Democrats are criticizing the White House proposal, accusing Trump of going back on his promise to his campaign supporters.”  

    But it’s a fact that Trump went back on his promise, not merely a Democratic accusation.

    For the record, there were major news organizations that did include references to Trump’s blatant Medicaid flip-flop in their coverage. But they did so much too timidly.

    The Wall Street JournalLos Angeles TimesCBSUSA Today, and NBC all noted Trump’s Medicaid flip-flop. The problem was that the salient fact was mentioned only in passing -- often via a single sentence -- and was often buried deep into the news accounts.

    Trump advertises his hypocrisy every day. The press shouldn’t ignore his boasts.

  • Media fell for Trump's spin that cutting Social Security isn't really a cut to Social Security

    Trump promised not to touch Social Security during the campaign, but some reporters reframed that broken promise for him

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A number of usually reliable reporters were duped by White House spin that President Donald Trump’s draconian budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 to slash spending for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was not a violation of his major campaign pledge to protect Social Security from cuts.

    During his June 16, 2015, announcement to run for president, Trump clearly and unequivocally promised that if he was elected, he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Trump’s campaign declaration fit previous statements he made in the run-up to his announcement, wherein he claimed he was “the only [Republican] who won’t cut Social Security” and stated “I am going to save Social Security without any cuts.” Trump even hit then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee for copying his call to safeguard Social Security with “no cuts” and later reiterated his promise to “save” the program while attacking former presidential candidate and current member of Trump’s cabinet Ben Carson:

    After Trump’s repeated statements that he would not cut Social Security, the White House’s decision to include significant cuts to SSDI in its 2018 budget request represents a broken campaign promise. Some journalists -- including Washington Post reporter Philip Bump, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, and NBC News reporter Benjy Sarlin -- caught on to what was actually being proposed, and Vox’s Dylan Matthews stated that these cuts clearly break “a crucial campaign promise.” Yet, despite this, several other journalists fell for the White House’s misleading spin.

    In the midst of an otherwise brutal recap of Trump’s budget, HuffPost reporter Arthur Delaney claimed “the document mostly honors Trump’s unorthodox campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare” before actually quoting Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, as he expounded on proposed cuts to “disability insurance.”* In her write-up of the budget that detailed the profound impact it will have on low-income communities, New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor noted that Trump “would cut access to disability payments through Social Security” but casually added “the main function of Social Security — retirement income — would flow unimpeded.” New York Times reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis included similar misleading language in her report on the budget, arguing, “The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare” and promoting the administration’s claim that Trump’s promise to protect “retirement” was intact.

    Washington Post reporters Damian Paletta and Robert Costa also fell for the White House’s misdirection gambit, writing of the president’s campaign rhetoric: “Trump insisted that they could not cut retirement benefits for Social Security.” NPR reporter Scott Horsley also detailed the “significant cuts to social safety net programs” while promoting the Trump administration’s spin that the campaign promise was merely to “preserve” the “Social Security retirement program.” Axios reporter Jonathan Swan managed to write a review of Trump’s budget that committed both sins; first claiming that the Trump budget fulfilled “his campaign promise” not to touch Social Security and later claiming that it merely would not affect retirees**:

    ORIGINAL: President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't reform Social Security or Medicare — in line with his campaign promise — but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs. A source with direct knowledge tells me the Trump budget will save $1.7 trillion on the mandatory side over the next ten years.

    CURRENT: President Trump's 2018 budget proposal on Tuesday won't cut Social Security payments to retirees or Medicare, but it will make serious cuts to other entitlement programs. A source with direct knowledge tells me the Trump budget will save $1.7 trillion on the mandatory side over the next ten years.

    *The HuffPost report was corrected after pressure from readers and disability advocates to include the word “mostly.” The original post did not include that conditional language and incorrectly stated “the document honors Trump’s unorthodox campaign promise not to cut Social Security or Medicare.”

    **The Axios report was changed after its initial publication but no editor’s note or correction was added to indicate the revision. Media Matters had criticized the original language of the article in a May 22 blog.

  • News reports on Trump's budget highlight human cost of his broken promises

    Budget proposal will include deep cuts to Medicaid and Social Security, programs Trump promised to protect during campaign

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Multiple news outlets have reported on the harsh human toll of President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, which is expected to gut programs that guarantee basic living standards, including parts of Medicaid and Social Security. These cuts directly contradict Trump’s promise to save the programs “without cuts.”

    The White House first hinted at slashing programs that help working- and middle-class Americans on February 26 when, according to Bloomberg, Trump floated proposals to increase defense spending by 10 percent while cutting programs including assistance for low-income Americans while still promising not to touch Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The White House claimed these drastic cuts would help spur economic growth, an absurd claim that was resoundingly ridiculed by economists as “deep voodoo” and “wholly unrealistic.” The administration’s initial budgetary proposals were so drastic and poorly thought out that they stunned many observers and experts. The White House even advocated cutting assistance to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which would be particularly harmful to “small-town America,” and Meals on Wheels, which “doesn’t make economic sense” and would cruelly deny millions of elderly Americans basic companionship and a hot meal.

    On May 21, The Washington Post reported that the White House will unveil a formal federal budget proposal that goes even further than the administration’s earlier indications by proposing “massive cuts to Medicaid” and other anti-poverty public assistance programs. On May 22, Axios reported that the president plans to cut $1.7 trillion over 10 years from federal assistance programs including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), which collectively serve tens of millions of people. (Axios incorrectly stated that Trump’s budget plan “won’t reform Social Security or Medicare,” before outlining Trump’s plan to cut SSDI and incorporate massive Medicaid restrictions that would become law if his Obamacare repeal plan is ever enacted.)

    As details of Trump’s budget plan continued to leak, some media outlets explained the devastating consequences for millions of Americans if the White House gets its way and these drastic cuts take effect. They also explained that Trump’s embrace of deep cuts to components of Medicaid and Social Security represent a betrayal of his promises from the campaign.

    CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans explained on the May 22 edition of CNN Newsroom that much of the money being cut from mandatory spending would come from Medicaid, which could see up to a 25 percent reduction in federal funding, pushing the financial burden onto the states and kicking 14 million people off their health insurance programs. Romans mentioned that protecting Medicaid is one of many campaign promises from Trump “that are turning out not to be true.”

    On the May 22 edition of MSNBC Live, host Chris Jansing went even further in breaking down the human toll of Trump’s budget cuts with NBC News senior editor Beth Fouhy and New York Times national reporter Yamiche Alcindor. The show aired part of an interview with a mother of two young children, who told Fouhy that if these cuts are enacted, the costs of care for her child with cerebral palsy will bankrupt her. Then they showed a clip of Trump on the campaign trail proclaiming that he would “save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts.” Alcindor discussed a report she wrote for the Times earlier this month about the human costs of budget cuts that would lead eliminate programs that help provide small communities with access to clean drinking water, drug rehabilitation centers, and jobs programs:

  • CNN’s Stephen Moore Accidentally Confirms Trump Was Lying About Commitment To Protect Medicaid

    Moore: Medicaid Cuts Were “Central To Our Plan All Along,” Contrary To Trump’s Public Statements

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Discredited right-wing economic pundit and former Trump campaign economic adviser Stephen Moore accidentally let slip that gutting the Medicaid program “was central” to President Donald Trump’s plan to repeal Obamacare, despite the president’s repeated assertions that he would not touch the program. The statement corroborates admissions Moore made at a private event last July, when he claimed that Trump would fund massive tax cuts and reckless spending by dismantling programs that provide basic living standards for millions of Americans.

    During the May 8 edition of CNN Newsroom, Moore -- CNN’s “senior economics analyst” -- was joined by University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee to discuss the merits of billionaire businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett’s argument that the Trump health care agenda amounts to little more than a tax cut for the rich funded by cuts to health care subsidies for low-income Americans. Goolsbee pointed out that Trump’s health care legislation “cuts taxes for high-income people by hundreds of billions of dollars” at the expense of Medicare and Medicaid, which Trump promised “he would never cut.” Moore interjected falsely: “He never said that we weren’t going to reform Medicaid,” arguing, “That was central to our plan all along”:

    Moore’s claim was debunked on air by co-hosts John Berman and Poppy Harlow, as well as Goolsbee, who cited Trump’s tweets and public statements as proof that he had broken his promise to protect Medicaid. Reporters who tuned in for the performance also noted Moore’s false statement. Moore accepted Berman’s correction before quickly pivoting to talking points extolling the virtues of converting Medicaid to block grants, which would also amount to a massive benefit cut for recipients.

    Moore’s secondary claim that gutting Medicaid was “central to our plan all along” drew little notice from the fact-checkers, but it sheds light on Trump’s real agenda. According to a September 7 article from HuffPost political reporter Christina Wilkie, Moore had outlined Trump’s often contradictory economic plans during a “question-and-answer session” at a private July 14 meeting of the conservative Council for National Policy (CNP) in Cleveland, OH. During the event, Moore suggested that Trump planned to pay for his costly economic agenda by removing supposedly onerous public protections imposed by the federal government and enacting “draconian public assistance reforms and cuts in social services.” Since taking office, Trump has proposed a budget and health care agenda that would fulfill those promises. As the article noted, Moore’s zeal for tearing down anti-poverty programs, including Medicaid, seems to undermine Trump’s claim that he would focus on “looking out for the downtrodden.” It also confirms that imposing this harsh agenda -- and lying about it -- was indeed “central to” the Trump team’s economic plan “all along.”

  • The AHCA Is Even Worse Than You've Read

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    A Media Matters study of four major newspapers’ coverage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) after it was passed by the Republican-led House found a serious lack of reporting on detrimental effects of the bill. Analysis of the coverage revealed a dearth of reporting on the AHCA’s negative impact on access to mental health care and substance abuse treatment, women’s health care, special education funding, services for the elderly, and funding for rural hospitals.

  • This Kentucky Paper Shows How To Cover Draconian Medicaid Changes Across The U.S.

    Blog ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    Kentucky’s Courier-Journal led the way in reporting on Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s push to fundamentally change the state’s Medicaid program through a waiver request that would implement draconian policies to cut coverage and hurt vulnerable communities. The Courier-Journal’s coverage of the Medicaid waiver highlights some best practices -- such as discussing specific policy impacts and citing local experts and people affected by the proposal -- thus providing a model newspapers in other states with similar proposed changes to Medicaid should emulate.

    In June 2016, Bevin released a Medicaid waiver proposal called Kentucky HEALTH, which included a series of draconian policies that would gut the state’s existing Medicaid program. Bevin’s waiver has been soundly criticized by experts who emphasize that it would create barriers to obtaining coverage, decrease the use of key preventive services, and harm the overall health of Kentucky’s Medicaid population. Work requirements in particular have been criticized as poor-shaming, since the majority of Medicaid recipients come from working homes and such a policy has never been approved in the entire history of the program.

    However, the election of President Donald Trump and the installation of new leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services mean a new openness to previously rejected policies like work requirements. This shift has spurred a couple other Republican-led states -- Wisconsin and Florida -- to explore the possibility of obtaining waivers so they can include policies like mandatory drug testing and work requirements, a trend that could negatively impact Medicaid beneficiaries across the country.

    The Courier-Journal’s coverage of Bevin’s proposal models the best practices for state-level reporting on attempts to impose cruel restrictions on Medicaid programs -- a model that other outlets should adopt as more state legislatures attempt to enact radical reforms. Here’s what The Courier-Journal did correctly, and the one thing the paper could have improved on:

    1. Discuss Specific Policies Within Medicaid Waiver Proposals And Outline Their Impact On Local Public Health Issues

    The Courier-Journal consistently reported on the specific policies Bevin included in his Kentucky HEALTH proposal, not just generalities about the waiver, and highlighted the impact these changes would have on the citizens of Kentucky. A Media Matters study of the paper’s coverage showed that the majority of its reporting clearly outlined the major policies included in Kentucky HEALTH such as the requirement that “most ‘able-bodied working age’ adults … put in up to 20 hours a week working” or volunteering, the provision to “charge premiums for coverage that is now largely free,” and the elimination of “dental and vision benefits from basic Medicaid coverage.”

    Additionally, The Courier-Journal analyzed how the specific policies would impact Kentucky’s Medicaid beneficiaries. Reporting highlighted the impact the waiver would have on the detection of diabetes -- a huge public health issue in Kentucky -- and the negative impacts on public health of eliminating dental and vision benefits.

    2. Include Information On Public Hearings And Information Sessions -- Opportunities For Citizens To Make Their Voice Heard On Medicaid Proposals

    The Courier-Journal consistently included information on the timing and location of public hearings and other opportunities for citizens to express their views. After Bevin revealed his Kentucky HEALTH proposal, there was a public comment process, in which Kentucky’s Department for Medicaid Services held a series of public hearings and accepted comments from residents. The Courier-Journal outlined how to get more information on the proposal and public hearings, including the dates, times, and locations. As the backlash over the GOP’s American Health Care Act illustrated, when people show up it forces politicians to listen.

    3. Seek Out Testimony From Local Experts And Individuals Impacted By The Medicaid Proposals

    The Courier-Journal bolstered its comprehensive reporting by citing local experts and interviewing individuals who would be impacted by Bevin’s proposal. The Courier-Journal received comments from health care experts like Bill Wagner, the executive director of Family Health Centers, and public health advocates like Sheila Schuster and Emily Beauregard of Kentucky Voices for Health. Articles cited feedback from Kentucky doctors and health care organizations that identified the grave public health problems posed by Bevin’s proposed changes.

    The newspaper also contextualized its reporting by including testimony from individuals who had personal experience with Kentucky’s Medicaid program or would be impacted by the proposal. This type of reporting humanizes public policy debates and provides concrete examples of the consequences of such drastic changes.

    4. Contextualize Proposed Changes To The State’s Existing Medicaid Program

    The Courier-Journal consistently included information on the massive gains in health care coverage achieved by the ACA-facilitated Kentucky Medicaid expansion in its reporting on Bevin’s proposal, which is essential to properly contextualize the policy discussion. Medicaid expansion in Kentucky dramatically increased access to health care for vulnerable communities, aided in the fight against the opioid epidemic, and improved public health through increased use of preventive services. It is important for newspapers to ground their reporting on potential changes to Medicaid in the context of how Medicaid expansion affected public health -- particularly given the false claims propagated by Bevin and his officials about Medicaid’s stability.

    But There’s Still Room For Improvement -- Outlets Must Clarify When Proposals Address Nonexistent Problems

    The Courier-Journal set the gold standard for reporting on state-based attempts to gut Medicaid programs in Kentucky, but there is still room for improvement. The paper largely failed to note that Bevin’s proposed work requirement is a solution in search of a problem. Work requirements operate under the false assumption that programs like Medicaid undermine individual work ethic when in reality, the majority of Kentuckians who gained insurance under the Medicaid expansion were low-wage workers. The Kaiser Family Foundation noted that, nationwide, “nearly 8 in 10” Medicaid-enrolled adults “live in working families, and a majority are working themselves.” Only two of the newspaper’s articles mentioned that the majority of the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries have jobs.

    Right-wing media and politicians like Bevin often demonize Medicaid and push work requirements as a mechanism for fostering personal responsibility and forcing people to have “skin in the game.” Similarly, Wisconsin just released a waiver proposal that would institute mandatory drug testing for Medicaid beneficiaries, which reinforces stigmatizing stereotypes rather than helping actual substance abusers. It is incumbent on news outlets to contextualize proposals to change Medicaid by identifying the actual problems they purport to solve -- and noting when they’re merely right-wing fictions.

    Graphics by Sarah Wasko. 

  • Top Kentucky Newspapers Consistently Reported On The Substance And Impact Of Kentucky's Medicaid Waiver

    ››› ››› CAT DUFFY

    A Media Matters analysis of the top two Kentucky newspapers’ coverage of an effort to radically alter the state's Medicaid program found that while both substantively covered the changes and impacts, The Courier-Journal led the way in in-depth reporting on the impacts of a Medicaid waiver on the state. The waiver request submitted by Gov. Matt Bevin included instituting draconian policies like a work requirement and mandated monthly premiums.