Fox's Obamacare Victims Aren't Victims At All

HannityA recent Obamacare special on Fox News' Hannity illuminated the network's political bias, pattern of misinformation, and questionable use of anecdotal evidence, brought to light when a former adviser to Montana's governor fact-checked the special and found that not one of the show's guests--who lamented the horrors of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on air--had directly suffered from the law or even visited the insurance exchange. Hannity's reliance on guests who condemned Obamacare due to existing political bias demonstrates Fox News' habit of misinforming on the ACA and raises serious questions about the credibility of other guests that have recounted the “consequences” of the law.

On October 11, Fox News aired a Hannity special, which attempted to misinform on the ACA by hosting six guests who recounted their alleged "'Obamacare' horror stories." After watching the special, Eric Stern, former senior adviser to Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana, tracked down the guests and found that not one of them had been negatively impacted by the new health care law. Stern detailed his investigation in an October 18 article for Salon:

First I spoke with Paul Cox of Leicester, N.C.  He and his wife Michelle had lamented to Hannity that because of Obamacare, they can't grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers.

Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? “Well,” he said, “I haven't been forced to do so, it's just that I've chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs.” What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he'd call me back. He never did.

Furthermore, Stern learned that none of host Sean Hannity's guests had even attempted to shop on the exchange. When he shopped on the exchange with the information he was given for two of the three couples Hannity hosted, he found that both families could save thousands annually by enrolling in an ACA-compliant policy.

Stern concluded that Hannity was misleading his audience by hosting guests who condemn the ACA solely due to their “general pessimistic belief about Obamacare.”

Stern's investigation casts doubt on Fox's use of anecdotal evidence, especially from supposed victims of the ACA who have smeared the law without demonstrating an actual premium increase or causal link between the ACA and their misfortune. The October 3 edition of Fox's Special Report relayed the story of Tom Gialanella in a segment that blamed the ACA for skyrocketing premiums. In fact, Gialanella did not mention that his premiums had increased, and a letter briefly shown onscreen simply stated that his premiums could increase if he opted to drop his employer coverage and purchase insurance through the exchange.

On October 18, Fox & Friends hosted two small business owners, Larry and Debbie Underkoffler, who expressed confusion about the costs of enrolling their employees in Obamacare versus opting out of coverage. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck stoked fears that the law would force small businesses to shift to part-time labor even as the couple said they could feasibly cover their employees under “a reasonable plan.”

Fox's reliance on questionable anecdotal evidence to smear the ACA fits with the network's ongoing campaign of falsehoods to undermine the health care law.