Fox misinforms on health care reform's immediate benefits and deficit reductions


On Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson falsely suggested health care reform legislation contained no immediate benefits, and Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney claimed that "nobody believes" that health care reform will reduce the deficit. In fact, numerous benefits found in the Senate's bill and President Obama's proposal would begin immediately, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that both the Senate and the House's legislation will reduce deficits.

Fox & Friends advances falsehoods that health care reform has no immediate benefits and would not reduce the deficit

Varney: "Nobody believes" that health care reform will reduce the deficit. On the March 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Varney said that "even if ... you go to the right decade, and look at the correct numbers from the CBO, there is still a great deal of confusion as to whether or not you do actually save any money or whether it adds hugely to the deficit." Varney then claimed, "Look, nobody believes that you can cover 30 million extra people, maintain quality of care, and cut the deficit by a trillion dollars at the same time. Nobody believes that."

Carlson: "They're going to start taxing all the people" before the "so-called benefits kick in." After Varney cast doubt on the ability of health care reform to cut the deficit, Carlson said: "Here's how they're going to pay for it, here's how they're going to get all that: They're going to start taxing all the people first before any of the benefits -- so-called benefits -- kick in."

CBO: Health care reform will lower the deficit

CBO: Senate bill yields "a net reduction in federal deficits of $132 billion" over 10 years. On December 19, 2009, CBO reported of the Senate bill incorporating the manager's amendment:

CBO and JCT estimate that the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act incorporating the manager's amendment would yield a net reduction in federal deficits of $132 billion over the 2010-2019 period.

CBO: Over second 10 years, Senate bill would save "between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of GDP." In a December 20, 2009, letter amending the December 19 report, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf wrote:

All told, CBO expects that the legislation, if enacted, would reduce federal budget deficits over the decade after 2019 relative to those projected under current law -- with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of GDP.

CBO estimated the House bill will result in $138 billion in deficit reduction through 2019. On November 20, 2009, CBO reported of the House health care reform legislation, "CBO and JCT now estimate that the legislation would yield a net reduction in deficits of $138 billion over the 10-year period." CBO also stated in its November 6 estimate that "[i]n the subsequent decade, the collective effect of its provisions would probably be slight reductions in federal budget deficits. Those estimates are all subject to substantial uncertainty."

Numerous benefits from Senate health care bill would "be available in the first year after enactment" of the bill

Senate Democrats note "Immediate Benefits" of health care bill. Despite Carlson's suggestion, according to a document put forth by Senate Democrats summarizing the "Immediate Benefits" of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the bill includes numerous benefits that would "be available in the first year after enactment" of the bill. Indeed, blogger Ezra Klein published the following list of benefits that the Senate bill would provide "before 2014":

1) Eliminating lifetime limits, and cap annual limits, on health-care benefits. In other words, if you get an aggressive cancer and your treatment costs an extraordinary amount, your insurer can't suddenly remind you that subparagraph 15 limited your yearly expenses to $30,000, and they're not responsible for anything above that.

2) No more rescissions.

3) Some interim help for people who have preexisting conditions, though the bill does not instantly ban discrimination on preexisting conditions.

4) Requiring insurers to cover preventive care and immunizations.

5) Allowing young adults to stay on their parent's insurance plan until age 26.

6) Developing uniform coverage documents so people can compare different insurance policies in an apples-to-apples fashion.

7) Forcing insurers to spend 80 percent of all premium dollars on medical care (75 percent in the individual market), thus capping the money that can go toward administration, profits, etc.

8) Creating an appeals process and consumer advocate for insurance customers.

9) Developing a temporary re-insurance program to help early retirees (folks over 55) afford coverage.

10) Creating an internet portal to help people shop for and compare coverage.

11) Miscellaneous administrative simplification stuff.

12) Banning discrimination based on salary (i.e., where a company that's not self-insured makes only some full-time workers eligible for coverage.

Obama's plan also provides immediate benefits. According to the House Committee on Education and Labor, Obama's health care plan also provides numerous benefits that will enact immediately after the bill's passage or within the first year, including protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, tax breaks for small businesses, and aid to seniors participating in Medicare Part D. From the House Committee on Education and Labor:

Access to Affordable Coverage for the Uninsured with Pre-existing Conditions

  • The President's proposal will provide $5 billion in immediate federal support for a new program to provide affordable coverage to uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions. This provision is effective 90 days after enactment, and coverage under this program will continue until new Exchanges are operational in 2014.

Access to Quality Care for Vulnerable Populations

  • The President's proposal makes an immediate and substantial investment in Community Health Centers to provide the funding needed to expand access to health care in communities where it is needed most. This $11 billion investment begins in 2010 and extends for five years.

No Pre-existing Coverage Exclusions for Children

  • The President's proposal eliminates pre-existing condition exclusions for all Americans beginning in 2014, when the Exchanges are operational. Recognizing the special vulnerability of children, the plan prohibits health insurers from excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions for children, effective six months after enactment and applying to all new plans.

Re-insurance for Retiree Health Benefit Plans

  • The President's proposal will create immediate access to re-insurance for employer health plans providing coverage for early retirees, effective 90 days after enactment. This re-insurance will help protect coverage while reducing premiums for employers and retirees.

Closing the Coverage Gap in the Medicare (Part D) Drug Benefit

  • The President's proposal begins to fill the "donut hole" by giving seniors a $250 rebate to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the donut hole in 2010.

Small Business Tax Credits

  • The President's proposal will offer tax credits to small businesses beginning in 2010 to make employee coverage more affordable.
  • Tax credits of up to 35 percent of premiums will be immediately available to firms that choose to offer coverage; later, when Exchanges are operational, tax credits will be up to 50 percent of premiums. The full credit will be available to firms with 10 or fewer employees with average annual wages of $25,000, while firms with up to 25 or fewer employees and average annual wages of up to $50,000 will also be eligible for the credit.


Patient Protections

  • The President's proposal protects patients' choice of doctors by allowing plan members to pick any participating primary care provider, prohibiting insurers from requiring prior authorization before and woman sees an ob-gyn, and ensuring access to emergency care. This provision takes effect six months after enactment and applies to all new plans.

Extension of Dependent Coverage for Young Adults

  • The President's proposal will require insurers to permit children to stay on family policies until age 26. This provision takes effect six months after enactment and applies to all plans for young adults who are not offered qualified coverage elsewhere.

Free Prevention Benefits

  • The President's proposal will require coverage of prevention and wellness benefits and exempt these benefits from deductibles and other cost-sharing requirements in public and private insurance coverage. This provision takes effect six months after enactment and applies to all new plans and all plans in 2018.
  • Beginning on January 1, 2011, Medicare beneficiaries will receive a free, annual wellness visit and will have all cost-sharing waived for prevention services.

No Lifetime Limits on Coverage

  • The President's proposal will prohibit insurers from imposing lifetime limits on benefits. This provision takes effect six months after enactment and applies to all plans.

Restricted Annual Limits on Coverage

  • The President's proposal will tightly restrict insurance companies' use of annual limits to ensure access to needed care, effective six months after enactment for all new health plans. These tight restrictions will be defined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. When the Exchanges are operational, the use of annual limits will be banned for all plans in 2014.

Protection from Rescissions of Existing Coverage

  • The President's proposal will stop insurers from rescinding insurance when claims are filed, except in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of material fact. This provision takes effect six months after enactment and applies to all plans.

Prohibits Discrimination Based on Salary

  • The President's proposal will prohibit group health plans from establishing any eligibility rules for health care coverage that have the effect of discriminating in favor of higher wage employees. This provision takes effect six months after enactment and applies to all group health plans in 2014.
Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Fox News Channel
Stuart Varney, Gretchen Carlson
FOX & Friends
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