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Bill Hemmer

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  • Fox News interview hides that Montana Republican Senate candidate would allow insurance companies not to cover pre-existing conditions

    Fox News did not mention that Matt Rosendale reauthorized a program, previously banned for fraud, that excluded coverage for pre-existing conditions

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    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.

    Medi-Share explicitly excludes coverage for pre-existing conditions. In 2017, Montana Cowgirl Blog described what Medi-Share does offer:

    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.

  • Fox News suggested Trump could take on prison reform, but his administration’s policies are worsening mass incarceration

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After President Donald Trump commuted the excessive sentence for a nonviolent, first-time drug offender, Fox News speculated that he could lead an initiative for bipartisan prison reform. In reality, the drug policies enacted by the Trump administration are more likely to worsen mass incarceration.

    After Trump met with celebrity Kim Kardashian West on June 6, he commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who had spent 21 years in prison for two drug charges. The Johnson commutation, part of Trump’s arbitrary clemency spree, led Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer to suggest that the government could do “prison reform under this president.” Fox headlines anchor Carley Shimkus responded, saying that according to the ACLU, “there’s 3,000 nonviolent, first-time offenders in prison right now” and that there could be “some common ground” across the political spectrum on this issue because “this is something that the anthem-kneelers are always preaching about.”

    In reality, Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has adopted several policies that will actually worsen mass incarceration, especially for the nonviolent, first-time offenders Shimkus was talking about. 

    Even before he was in office, analysts predicted that Trump would grow the federal prison population. Although that population has been decreasing since 2013, the rate of decrease has slowed significantly under the Trump administration. According to Bureau of Prisons statistics, the total number of federal inmates dropped by only around 6,500 in 2017, as opposed to more than 13,500 the year before. Since the current number of federal inmates is already only around 1,500 lower than last year’s total, Trump seems likely to preside over the first growth in federal prison populations in half a decade.

    Contributing to Trump’s reversal of declining prison populations is his punitive immigration and drug policies. Trump’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has made a very high-profile habit of imprisoning immigrants (or people who simply appear to be immigrants) and trying to deport them, including by falsely accusing them of being affiliated with gangs. 

    On drugs, the Trump administration’s extremely regressive policies have flown under the radar and allowed Trump to grab occasional credit for entertaining “prison reform,” even as he and Sessions shovel more people into the maw of mass incarceration. Sessions’ tenure as attorney general makes a mockery of the concept of criminal justice reform; he threatened to prosecute marijuana businesses operating legally under state law and reversed an Obama-era guideline to avoid pursuing charges for first-time nonviolent drug offenders that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences, instructing prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible.

    In addition, Sessions ended an Obama-era program investigating abusive police forces, and his Department of Justice made a months-long attempt to federally prosecute a woman for laughing at him. On Trump’s part, his administration has been an unprecedented boon for the scourge that is private prisons, he has reauthorized police departments to use military surplus gear and weapons, and Trump himself has repeatedly expressed a desire to execute drug dealers.

  • Cheney biographer Steve Hayes tells Gina Haspel to bring back torture

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    As CIA director nominee Gina Haspel prepared for her confirmation hearing, The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes, who has authored a sympathetic biography of Iraq War architect and former Vice President Dick Cheney, advocated for her confirmation on Fox News and encouraged her to go forward with a “detention and interrogation program” if accepted to the post.

    On the May 9 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, Hayes joined host Bill Hemmer in downplaying Haspel’s leading role in operating a black site in Thailand and later destroying possibly incriminating evidence of torture, telling Hemmer that Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) will “try to make a big deal of that.” Hayes also asserted that “the American people … would like somebody who is regarded as tough on terror,” boosting a talking point from the White House:

    Finally, Hayes endorsed the future use of a “detention and interrogation program” if Haspel is confirmed, saying, “I, for one, would like there to be a detention and interrogation program. Now we can have a debate about whether it should include some of the advanced interrogation techniques that were used, but one of the problems under the Obama administration is that there was no serious detention and interrogation program for the jihadist leaders that we captured.” These tactics have not only proven ineffective, but the record of torture under the Bush administration had serious issues with regards to human rights and legality. Hayes mentions none of this.