Las Vegas Review-Journal Can't Let Go Of Obamacare Myths

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Sherman Frederick hyped two debunked myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the false claim that the Cleveland Clinic is cutting costs as a direct result of the ACA and that “skinny networks” will limit access to quality care.

In his September 28 column, Frederick claimed the truth about the ACA was revealed when Eileen Sheil, corporate communications director for the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said that the clinic would be cutting its budget and making other employment decisions due to the law. The column continued:

Ms. Sheil announced that in order to prepare for Obamacare, the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world's best health care providers, would slash up to 6 percent of its 2014 budget, put some 3,000 employees into early retirement, hold positions vacant longer and, if necessary, lay off employees.

Let that sink in. Just like that, the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic brought to bended knee by Obamacare. If this law can do that to one of our best medical institutions, what's going to happen to the quality of our local hospitals? How will isolated, rural facilities cope?

The problem with Frederick's assertion is that it's not true. The Atlantic reached out to Sheil who “seemed a bit confused by the emphasis on Obamacare in reports” and explained that the clinic had been “working on reducing costs for years” in order to remain viable, and the ACA was just the catalyst to implement those decisions. Fox News' Greta Van Susteren also debunked this myth when she backpedaled on initial Fox reports after speaking with Toby Cosgrove, CEO of the clinic.

Frederick also hyped a New York Times piece which discussed “skinny” or “narrow” networks to claim that the ACA will limit all health care consumers' choices and result in lower quality of care:

The Times said insurers plan to create small networks to keep entry-level premiums lower. The doctors and hospitals in those “skinny” networks will be pressured to charge less and less. Patients who require expensive specialists outside the “skinny” network (hello, Cleveland Clinic) will be forced to pay “astronomic” costs out of pocket.

Obamacare advocates contend that a “skinny” network is better than no network. And that's no doubt true for those initially being forced to get health care under the new law. But the newly insured will quickly find out, as will people already insured and accustomed to wider networks, that Obamacare will result in profound dissatisfaction -- longer waits, scarcity of services and limited access to specialists.

As Frederick's own paper explained in a September 11 article, “skinny” or “narrow” networks will not affect anyone who currently has insurance coverage, meaning already insured people will have the same networks they do now. In addition, many employers that currently offer coverage to their employees offer plans with narrow networks, which have been found to emphasize both quality and cost. Massachusetts, for example, which enacted a similar law to the ACA in 2006 and uses narrow networks, has matched the national average in health access and availability of care.