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Trump and Secretary Price can (and probably will) work to destabilize the current health care system behind the scenes. Media must hold them accountable.
After Senate Republicans failed in their latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is imperative that media stay focused on covering health care. President Donald Trump and Tom Price, his secretary of health and human services, are likely to make unilateral changes that will undermine the ACA and affect those currently covered under it. Media outlets cannot let these policy decisions happen in the dark, as they have in the past.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced on July 17 that the latest “effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” after four Republican senators said they would not vote for the bill. McConnell currently intends to vote on a bill to repeal the ACA with no replacement plan in place -- a move Trump supports -- which, The New York Times wrote, “has almost no chance to pass.”
Media largely failed to cover the debate leading up to this failed legislative attempt, which played out behind closed doors in “almost-unprecedented opacity,” leaving audiences in the dark about the consequences and stakes of the proposed bill. For the time being, it appears as if decisions about health care will continue to be made in the dark.
Without Congress, Trump and Price can still deal a potentially fatal blow to the health insurance market. On July 18, Trump reacted to the Senate’s failure to pass an ACA replacement, saying, “Let Obamacare fail. ... I’m not going to own it.” And, as Vox explained, “Especially in states with shakier exchanges, the president certainly does have some fairly broad discretionary authority that he and his health and human services secretary can use to deliberately sabotage the program if they want to.” In March, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told New York magazine that Trump and Price would have to decide “whether or not HHS will continue to reimburse insurance companies for cost-sharing expenses.” Sebelius explained that not making those payments, which Trump has threatened to do, “could cause a number of companies now offering plans in the marketplace to not sign up again for 2018.”
Given the likelihood that Trump and Price will work to destabilize the health care system however they can, media have an obligation to prioritize the issue, especially as Trump is likely to blame Democrats for any negative impacts to health care coverage or to the insurance market in general. The current health care system will undoubtedly continue to inspire debate and attempted sabotage throughout Trump’s time in office. Media better pay attention.
Senate Republicans are floating a possible vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement plan in place, a proposal that has been pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), President Donald Trump, and right-wing media. But this plan would leave tens of millions uninsured, cause a spike in premiums, and cause insurers to flee the market.
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If you're going to give Moore air time, at least fact-check him
Discredited economic pundit and former Trump campaign adviser Stephen Moore continues embarrassing CNN during news segments with his supposed policy expertise. Media Matters compared two of Moore’s recent appearances -- one in which he appeared alongside a credentialed policy expert, and one in which he faced only an ill-prepared network host -- and found distinct differences in the tone of each discussion. These differences demonstrate the dangers of news outlets continuing to rely on unscrupulous hangers-on from the Trump administration to comment on policy issues.
Over the years, Media Matters has chronicled Moore’s shoddy predictions, intentional misinformation, and misleading claims. Despite ample evidence of Moore’s gross incompetence as an economic analyst, CNN still hired him in January under the guise of “senior economics analyst” to serve as a sort of in-house surrogate for the Trump administration. Moore has spent his time at CNN undermining his colleagues and embarrassing his network while ceaselessly parroting the Republican Party’s agenda. His shameless defense of the president’s unfounded reasoning for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord even led Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs to blast CNN on its own program for maintaining a relationship with the pundit.
Moore’s two appearances late last week underscore how problematic he is as an employee of a news network and reveal how CNN ought to handle his future appearances.
During the July 13 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Moore was interviewed alongside University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee about the Republican-led Senate’s floundering proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Moore opened the segment by endorsing an amendment authored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), which experts believe would restrict coverage options and increase costs for Americans living with pre-existing conditions. He misleadingly blamed the ACA for increasing health care costs -- prices are actually "rising at historically low levels" since the law went into effect -- and encouraged the use of so-called “catastrophic” insurance policies, which provide limited packages to young individuals at low cost and are considered inadequate by health care experts. Luckily for CNN viewers, Goolsbee -- a former chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisers and college debate champion -- was there to provide pushback to these false and misleading claims:
Compare Goolsbee’s repeated fact-check of Moore’s misstatements to another Moore appearance in which CNN did not host an economic policy expert to counter the conservative pundit.
On the July 14 edition of CNN’s Wolf, Moore sat for an interview with guest host Jim Sciutto, the network’s chief national security correspondent, to discuss the same topics and was allowed to promote his right-wing agenda virtually unchallenged. Moore falsely claimed that catastrophic health insurance plans could save middle-class families thousands of dollars and got away with an unsubstantiated guess that politically, the GOP bill’s reduction of insurance premiums outweighs the fact that it would strip coverage from 22 million people. When Sciutto questioned him about the fact that repealing ACA would harm millions of Americans who receive Medicaid, Moore promoted the right-wing lie that “Medicaid is one of the worst insurance systems” and low-income Americans would be better off without it. Sciutto did not challenge Moore when he falsely claimed that the ACA repeal process in 2017 is “déjà vu all over again” compared to how the law was passed in 2010 when, according to Moore, then-President Barack Obama “had to buy those last couple of votes in Senate to get there.” In reality, the ACA passed 60-39 with the support of every Democrat in the chamber, whereas the current Senate bill has yet to get 50 supporters among 52 Republican senators:
Moore’s partisan talking points can be easily unraveled by competent analysts and experts; his attempt to promote the same right-wing fallacies about health care was rebutted by health care expert Andy Slavitt during the July 10 edition of New Day. In fact, his dissembling can be easily countered if the interviewer is adequately prepared. But since Moore is a professional misinformer who has spent years honing his craft, if an interviewer is ill-prepared, the segment can quickly devolve into Moore amplifying his routine talking points, which serve only his conservative political agenda.
Cornyn misleads about GOP bill’s effects, Republicans’ record on sabotaging the health insurance market, and Democrats’ willingness to offer improvements
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd failed to correct or contextualize Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) multiple misleading statements about the GOP Senate’s bill, which would cost millions of Americans their health insurance.
On July 13, Senate Republicans released a revised version of their bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act after the original version, which would have kicked 22 million Americans off of their health insurance, failed to secure enough votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote for the revised version, planned for this week, after Sen. John McCain recently underwent surgery, and two GOP senators have so far said they will not vote for the revised bill, leaving its future uncertain.
On July 16, Cornyn appeared on Meet the Press to make the case for the GOP bill and made statements misrepresenting the bill, the current insurance market under the Affordable Care Act, and Democrats’ alternatives to improve the insurance market -- and Todd let him.
When asked by Todd near the beginning of the interview what it says about the bill that the vote is so close that they need McCain’s vote to move forward, Cornyn decried that the bill has “become a partisan issue,” stating, “our Democratic friends are refusing to lift a finger to help their burdened constituents who are being hurt.” But Cornyn’s protestation rings hollow given the unprecedented secret process Senate Republicans used to draft the bill, which barred any Democratic input. And the process was designed from the start to pass with only Republican votes through the budget reconciliation process, without help from Democrats.
Later, Cornyn claimed Republicans are “offering a better alternative” to the current health insurance market, bemoaning that “we know millions of people are seeing sky-high premiums, [and] unaffordable deductibles, and fleeing insurance markets.” Yet the CBO predicted that if the BCRA passes, premiums would rise until 2020, and only decline after that because the insurance plans would cover fewer services, and thus would be worth less. And the bill would cause deductibles to climb even higher -- in some cases, up to 24 times higher.
At the end of the interview, Cornyn claimed Republicans are “willing to do what we can to shore up the system now, to stabilize it to make health care available to people now” and asserted that Democrats don’t want to make any changes. Cornyn’s first claim here is just ludicrous on its face; Republicans have spent years sabotaging the the Affordable Care Act, from ending risk corridor payments to insurance companies, to obstructing efforts by both states and the federal government to create the health insurance exchange marketplaces, and of course to some Republican-controlled states declining to participate in the Medicaid expansion and leaving many of their constituents uninsured. Insurers have even admitted that they are raising premiums and pulling out of exchanges because of the uncertainty in the market created by Republicans.
Democratic senators offered back in March to work with Republicans to fix problems with the insurance market if they agreed to drop their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And days ago, some House Democrats said they will introduce some fixes to the individual insurance market, which includes a reinsurance program to offset the costs of the sickest patients, removing uncertainty from the Trump administration's threats to end some cost-sharing subsidies, moving the open enrollment season, and offering a Medicare buy-in for some older Americans.
Todd allowed Cornyn to make these statements without any pushback. Republicans have been repeatedly called out for their lies and deceptions regarding their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- both by media outlets and even other Republicans. With the insurance coverage of millions at stake, interviewers like Chuck Todd must be better prepared to confront Republican lawmakers when they make their case with lies and misrepresentations.
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Americans will face greater hardship if Republicans in Congress succeed in reversing the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) patient protections and expansion of Medicaid -- and this is especially true for people living with HIV -- yet, print and television news have almost completely ignored their stories.
LGBTQ Americans deal with higher rates of poverty, greater need for Medicaid, and higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. Republican plans to decimate Medicaid and roll back patient protections will create disproportionate impacts for LGBTQ Americans. Yet, according to new research from Media Matters, major print and television news outlets have been virtually silent on how GOP health care proposals may harm members of the LGBTQ community.
Media Matters reviewed major broadcast and cable news providers (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) available via Nexis from May 4 through July 13 and found only two significant segments discussing how the Republican health care rollback would affect LGBTQ people and only two other unrelated segments discussing how the rollback would affect Americans living with HIV. A Media Matters review during the same period of time of print newspapers available via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) found only three print articles that discussed how the GOP health care plan may affect the LGBTQ community and/or people living with HIV.
A July 12 analysis from Media Matters found a similar lack of reporting by major television and print news outlets on how communities of color may be affected by Republican health care proposals. Additional Media Matters research has found that television news missed an opportunity to report on the unprecedented nature of the Senate’s health care secrecy and that television coverage had drowned out reports on how the legislation would impact tens of millions of Americans in favor of airing stories focused on the bill’s political machinations. Previous Media Matters research revealed that newspapers kept reports on health care off the front page during crucial periods of debate and that broadcast and cable news coverage neglected to consider diversity when booking guests to discuss health care-related topics.
LGBTQ news outlets including The Advocate, NBC Out, and The Washington Blade have all covered how Republicans plans to roll back Medicaid would affect LGBTQ Americans as well as the more than 1 million people living with HIV. According to the Center for American Progress (CAP), Medicaid is of significant importance for many LGBTQ Americans who face higher rates of poverty than the general population, and these higher rates of poverty correlate with fewer LGBTQ Americans having health insurance. On July 6, CAP reported that the ACA repeal legislation being considered by the Republican-led Senate -- the so-called Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) -- may result in up to 560,000 LGBTQ Americans losing Medicaid coverage while restricting health care access for transgender Americans. From the report:
The BCRA slashes Medicaid by $772 billion over 10 years and would end Medicaid expansion over time:
- Medicaid covers at least 1.8 million LGBTQ adults, including 31 percent of LGBTQ adults living with a disability and 40 percent of LGBTQ adults with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
- An estimated 560,000 LGBTQ adults will lose coverage if Medicaid expansion is ended.
- The BCRA prohibits federal Medicaid reimbursements for Planned Parenthood for one year; Planned Parenthood is one of the country’s largest providers of transgender-inclusive health care.
On February 14, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion has lowered the uninsurance rates for people living with HIV from 22 percent to 15 percent from 2012 to 2014. The California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers found that in California alone, the Medicaid expansion covered an additional 11,500 people living with HIV. Coverage and care for those living with HIV is of significant concern for many in the LGBTQ community, as the Kaiser Foundation points out, because gay and bisexual men make up 56 percent of Americans living with HIV and 55 percent of all HIV-related deaths in the U.S. despite comprising just 2 percent of the American population.
If congressional Republicans are successful enacting their health care agenda, it could cause real harm to the nearly 69 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid, making it crucially important that news outlets tell their stories.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 13, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of available transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.
We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and noneditorial articles that included any of the following keywords: gay or lesbian or transgender or bisexual or LGBT or LGBTQ or queer or same-sex within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.
Rubio previously sabotaged a similar measure in the ACA
Local and national reporters should question Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) about the new draft of the Senate bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and specifically about whether he supports a provision similar to the ACA’s “risk corridor” payments, which he previously led efforts to sabotage.
The Washington Post reported that the draft of the Senate bill, which would allow insurers to offer “bare-bones policies” as long as they also provide “more-comprehensive ones,” unveiled on July 13 “would establish a $70 billion fund to subsidize insurers providing both kinds of plans ‘for the associated costs of covering high-risk individuals,’ according to a GOP summary of the bill.” The fund appears to be similar to the ACA’s temporary risk corridor program, which, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “was intended to promote accurate premiums in the early years of the exchanges (2014 through 2016) by discouraging insurers from setting premiums high in response to uncertainty about who will enroll and what they will cost. The program worked by cushioning insurers participating in exchanges and marketplaces from extreme gains and losses.” George Washington University professor of health law Sara Rosenbaum said of a previous version of the Senate bill (which had a similar funding provision) that "There's 'no difference' between the insurer funds in Obamacare and the ones in the Senate Republican bill," according to Bloomberg.
In 2013, Rubio committed what The New York Times called “quiet legislative sabotage” by limiting how much federal funding could go to these risk corridors. Right-wing media also adopted Rubio’s attack on the funds, with pundits like then-Fox host Bill O’Reilly claiming the payments “subsidize private insurance companies if they don't make profit from Obamacare.” Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik noted that Rubio’s sabotage forced some small insurers out of business and created “higher premiums for [Rubio’s] constituents and insurance customers as a whole.”
Rubio told the Miami Herald that he will vote for a motion to proceed with debate over the bill on the Senate floor, but, according to The Washington Post, he has been “unclear” about whether he will vote for the bill to pass.
Rubio's actions are part of a pattern of Republicans sabotaging the ACA. Reporters cannot settle for Rubio’s vague position on the bill, especially given the potential hypocrisy if he decides to support it. Journalists must question Rubio about his support for the bill, especially in regards to risk corridor funds.
People of color have been ignored during the health care debate
The Republican Party’s plan to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will disproportionately hurt people of color -- a fact television and print news outlets have almost completely ignored in their coverage of ongoing health care debates.
On May 4, President Donald Trump held a White House celebration with a predominantly white group of Republican members of Congress after the House of Representatives voted to fund tax cuts for high-income earners by cutting health care subsidies and loosening patient protections benefitting low- and middle-income Americans. On May 8, The New York Times reported that 13 white Republican men would draft the Senate’s version of a health care reform bill, which remained shrouded in secrecy until it was released on June 22. Almost as if taking their que from the GOP, broadcast and cable news outlets made little effort over the same time period to invite diverse guests to discuss the health care bill despite dedicating significant coverage to the issue.
In fact, according to new research from Media Matters, news outlets have almost completely ignored how GOP health care plans would disproportionately impact people of color. A Media Matters review of the major broadcast and cable news providers available via Nexis (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) found only three significant stories from May 4 through July 9 on the health care bill’s disproportionate impact on communities of color. All three stories appeared on MSNBC's weekend program Politics Nation. Media Matters conducted the same analysis of five major print newspapers via Nexis and Factiva (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal) and found only four print articles -- three in the Times and one in the Post -- highlighting that the GOP plans to repeal and replace the ACA would harm these already disadvantaged communities.
One of the few pieces discussing communities of color was an in-depth June 6 report (published in-print on June 11) in The New York Times on an overlooked HIV epidemic in African-American communities in southern states. Phill Wilson, president of the Black AIDS Institute, told the Times that ACA repeal would halt momentum for treating HIV and that he feared people would die if coverage was taken away. From the article:
“The key to ending the AIDS epidemic requires people to have either therapeutic or preventive treatments, so repealing the A.C.A. means that any momentum we have is dead on arrival,” said Phill Wilson, chief executive and president of the Black AIDS Institute, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. “For the most vulnerable, do we end up back in a time when people had only emergency care or no care and were literally dying on the streets? We don’t know yet, but we have to think about it.”
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected the Senate’s health care overhaul would result in 22 million fewer people with health insurance by 2026, including 15 million fewer low-income Americans being enrolled in the Medicaid program. Communities of color are disproportionately likely to receive Medicaid and restrictions could leave millions of people in disadvantaged communities at a loss. The Commonwealth Fund reported in August 2016 that communities of color benefitted greatly from the ACA’s provisions aimed at reducing health care inequality, and those communities could be hammered by GOP proposals to roll back successful reforms:
According to HuffPost contributor Richard Eskow, a senior fellow with the progressive group Campaign for America’s Future, Republican plans to gut the ACA “will disproportionately harm people of color” while the 400 wealthiest families in the United States would receive an average tax cut of $7 million. It is because GOP plans so directly harm people of color that journalist Vann Newkirk wrote in The Atlantic that health care is a civil rights issue for millions of Americans. On the July 10 edition of MSNBC’s Politics Nation, Newkirk discussed the importance for expanding access to health care as a means of reducing economic and health disparities that have existed along racial lines for generations:
Republican plans to repeal the ACA will exact an extraordinary toll on millions of Americans, and will have a disproportionate impact on people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. That is why it is more important than ever for news outlets to contextualize this human cost.
Media Matters conducted a Nexis and Factiva search of print editions of the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from May 4 through July 9, 2017. Media Matters also conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of broadcast and cable news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC over the same time period.
We identified and reviewed all broadcast and cable news segments and non-editorial articles that included any of the following keywords: black or African-American or African American or hispanic or latina or latino or Asian or racism or racial or native american or people of color or indian or pacific islander within 10 words of health care or healthcare or health reform or AHCA or Trumpcare or American Health Care Act or ACA or Obamacare or Affordable Care Act or CBO or BHCA or Medicaid.