By: Bethany Stotts
Accuracy in Media
The courts this week issued two conflicting rulings regarding whether the federal government has the ability to provide subsidies to persons purchasing health care on the federal exchanges under the so-called Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The battle of the courts has the potential to affect not only the provision of federal subsidies, but also the enforcement of the individual mandate and the employer mandate.
“The ruling also could undermine the requirement for larger employers to offer health coverage to their employees,” reports The New York Times’ Robert Pear on the 2-1 vote by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. “That requirement is enforced through penalties imposed on employers if any of their employees receive subsidies to buy insurance on an exchange.” Thus, the Washington Examiner noted back in March that, if the plaintiffs ultimately win, “anti-Obamacare states could become more attractive to businesses trying to get around the employer mandate.”
Accuracy in Media’s Roger Aronoff reported on this ruling’s potential back in March of this year, when most of the media were focusing on the Hobby Lobby case. At that time, he predicted that it was likely that the ruling would be in favor of the plaintiffs, who support the plain language of the law, i.e., that federal subsidies are only supposed to go to individuals who have signed up for healthcare on state exchanges, and that an en banc review was likely, meaning the full court will hear the case.
As Aronoff pointed out, MSBNC’s Adam Serwer hopes that an en banc review would rule in favor of the government because the President has stacked the court. “Though judges’ opinions don’t always track with those of the party that appointed them, thanks to the changes to the filibuster, more Democratic appointees than Republican appointees would rule on the matter,” Serwer wrote. “Of the 11 judges that could rehear the case, seven are Democrats and four are Republicans,” reports Fox News. Indeed, an en banc judgment could easily overturn this ruling and favor the government.
Fox also reports that the D.C. Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the plaintiffs dealt Obamacare a “major blow” because there are only 14 state-run exchanges. The Washington Times calls it a “massive setback” that could “blow a massive hole in President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.”
The Obama administration seems unconcerned about the ruling. Little surprise, considering that the Fourth Circuit ruled in their favor on the same issue on the same day, within hours. “While this ruling is interesting to legal theorists, it has no practical impact,” said press secretary Josh Earnest about the D.C. Court of Appeals ruling, which had described the Justice Department as “tilting at windmills.”
After the “en banc” hearing, this case may go the Supreme Court.
But the media—even conservative media—are committing malpractice in their coverage of this issue.
Currently, according to Fox News, the government estimates that it will pay $1 trillion in subsidies over the next 10 years. The average subsidy is about $4,400 per person this year, according to Pear. But what are they purchasing? Is it “affordable” care?
Fox News and other outlets fall into a dangerous trap in talking about the provision of “affordable” health insurance. As we have discussed earlier, there is no such thing as an “affordable” Affordable Care Act, which depends on the redistribution of monies from one group to another through subsidies and taxes.
And it seems like those with Obamacare sometimes may not even receive treatment while covered. Yet, Fox’s Barnini Chakraborty writes, “Nearly 90 percent of the federal exchange’s insurance enrollees were eligible for subsidies because of low or moderate incomes, and the outcome of the case could potentially leave millions without affordable health insurance.” If the health care’s not affordable, it’s likely because the costs have skyrocketed due to the law, not despite it. The Washington Times’ Tom Howell calls the subsidies “critical to making coverage affordable.” Pear writes, “Subsidies, in the form of tax credits, are a crucial element of the Affordable Care Act. Without them, insurance would be unaffordable to millions of Americans.”
And thus a new entitlement upon which members of the populace have artificially been made dependent is defended in the guise of helping the helpless.
This isn’t affordable coverage; this is highway bank robbery.
You want free, cheap or subsidized health care? Then you’ll take what the government gives you, whether that means you can see your doctor or not. We’ve long known that Obama was lying when he said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period.” But now that reality is coming home to roost.
Consider, for example, Shawnna Simpson, who I reported about in January. She was unable to find a family doctor who accepted her insurance within her county due to a narrow network. That was in Tennessee. Politico’s Brett Norman reports more recently that “In New Hampshire, for instance, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield was the only insurer on the market, and it cut 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals out of its network.” And, he reports, “Even if a patient goes to an in-network hospital, not all the doctors are necessarily part of the plan. For instance, patients can get stuck with thousands of dollars in bills for anesthesia, even if surgery is covered.”
These types of shenanigans have become a major electoral issue. “But since the beginning of 2013, more than 70 bills have been introduced in 22 states to clarify the network rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures,” writes Norman. He casts the issue as a waiting game for consumers: next year will be better. But customers shouldn’t have to pay a whole year for a failing product just because the government takes a year to fix itself. Nor should they have to swallow the line that subsidies make Obamacare “affordable,” when the Heritage Foundation has shown that 45 out of 50 states saw price increases in the first year of this law. Now, faced with a potential broadening of their narrow networks, insurers threaten that they cannot control costs, according to Norman.
Heritage called savings under Obamacare a “fantasy” back in 2013. It’s still a fantasy now, and one that the conservative media should not be furthering alongside the mainstream media.