By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media
President Obama is once again telling lies about Obamacare while bullying the Supreme Court to decide in his administration’s favor in King v. Burwell, a court case which will likely be decided this month and which has the potential to gut the law’s subsidies. On cue, the mainstream media have marshaled their forces in defense of Obama and his signature legislation. And the media, just like the President, have been peddling many of the same lies about this law at the expense of the health and welfare of average Americans.
A recent health care poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, popular with many in the media, asked whether Congress should intervene on behalf of low-income persons who might lose their subsidies. Not surprisingly, six in ten responded, “Yes.” But that poll does not appear to have asked the deeper question of whether all three branches of the federal government should respect the law as written.
“And under well-established statutory interpretation …you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for,” said Obama at a June 8 press conference in Germany.
He added, “It has been well documented that those who passed this legislation never intended for folks who were going through the federal exchange not to have their citizens get subsidies.”
Furthermore, he said, “And so this should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up. And since we’re going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.”
In other words, President Obama has determined what the Supreme Court Justices should decide, and that it should be in his favor. But he is wrong on his facts, and abusing his powers.
Whatever happened to the separation of powers? The President clearly doesn’t believe in that doctrine. In 2010, President Obama publicly attacked the members of the court during his State of the Union address over the Citizens United decision.
Why does President Obama criticize the Supreme Court so much? asked a recent Washington Post headline. Their answer sounds like an endorsement of his tactics: “Obama’s willingness to plunge into the court’s business reflects his background as a constitutional law lecturer, his irritation with the legal and political wrangling surrounding the landmark health-care law and his view of the court’s role in American society.”
While some in the media, such as The New York Times, have presented biased accounts of the health care law’s drafting, essentially arguing that this case hinges on a “drafting error,” we have long been reporting that the record is clear: these words were intentionally inserted to garner votes. The phrase “Exchange established by the state” appears ten times in the legislative text. So clearly, it wasn’t a drafting error.
As we recently pointed out, then-Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) was cited in a Politico article published months before the so-called Affordable Care Act passed, saying that the current bill was a “dealbreaker.” “The national exchange is unnecessary and I wouldn’t support something that would start us down the road of federal regulation of insurance and a single-payer plan,” said Nelson, who played a key role in passing Obamacare.
In addition, MIT economist Jonathan Gruber was a key architect of Obamacare. He stated that passing Obamacare depended “on the stupidity of the American voter,” and that it was “written in a tortured way” in order to deceive the voters about all the taxes they would have to pay. On the issue of the subsidies being paid only to state exchanges, Gruber said that was “to squeeze the states to do it [to set up exchanges].” When these comments were made public, Gruber and the Obama administration downplayed his role in Obamacare. But The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a batch of previously unreleased emails indicates that his role was much greater than previously acknowledged.
Also, President Obama has lost many cases his Justice Department took all the way to the Supreme Court, with 20 unanimous decisions against the administration by last July.
That means all nine justices, even the most far left among them, wouldn’t see it Obama’s way. But none of that matters to President Obama. To hear him tell it, he is just looking out for the people, and the country—and he always does the right thing, and for the right reasons.
“The president could not simply give out subsidies if the court stripped them away, so the critical decisions about how to respond ‘would sit with Congress and the states,’ said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services,” according to The New York Times.
When asked on June 10 whether there was any health care legislation currently pending in Congress which the President would sign that fixes the subsidies issue, Secretary Burwell also told Congress, “We have not seen anything.”
The Post’s Dana Milbank also disingenuously told his readers after covering that hearing that “The alternative to Obamacare is nothing” because Congress is so divided. But that is another myth, namely that Republicans haven’t offered any alternative to Obamacare. Forbes demolished that myth back in 2013, but it persists, because it is the Democrats’ narrative.
“And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life—lo and behold, it did not happen,” said President Obama on June 9 in Washington, D.C. “None of this came to pass. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.”
Politico covered Obama’s statements under the headline, “Obama makes moral case for preserving his health care law.” In reality, Obama’s speech was a toxic mix of arrogance, misinformation, and outright lies mirroring those often perpetuated by the mainstream media.
President Obama is wrong about Obamacare across the board, and the results show it. An examination of the media coverage shows that many in the media also deliberately omit or underplay key facts in order to mislead the public about the underlying viability of Obamacare.
For example, The Hill’s recently published piece on Obamacare’s early impacts deliberately tilted the scale to create a false picture of Obamacare’s successes.
“The success of the law is the subject of fierce debate between the two parties,” writes Sarah Ferris for The Hill. She asserted that the favorite line of the White House is that Obamacare is “working” while “Republicans” call this legislation an “unmitigated disaster that should be repealed.” By presenting this as a political debate, Ferris conveniently presents herself as non-partisan and neutral—and ready to educate her readers as to facts absent political spin.
Yet the first piece of evidence Ferris provides in favor of Obamacare’s success is that “Nearly 22.8 million people have purchased insurance through ObamaCare, according to a national study by RAND Corp. released earlier this month, with 17 million enrolling in a plan for first time.” President Obama cited similar numbers in his remarks.
The study’s key findings, listed on the RAND Corp. website, show that 9.6 million of those 17 million people counted—more than half—obtained employer-based health insurance, not marketplace insurance. Are we supposed to believe that these millions all gained health insurance from large businesses, and that all of these health insurance gains were remarkably due solely to Obamacare’s recently, and partially, instituted employer mandate?
So while Ferris wrote that 22.8 million people “purchased insurance through Obamacare,” that is not the same as the number of people who gained insurance as a result of it. Of those gaining coverage, only 4.1 million enrolled in the Obamacare marketplaces, according to RAND’s findings, and 6.5 million enrolled in Medicaid.
Medicaid enrollees do not “purchase” their insurance—they receive it from the government.
As we recently noted, The New York Times omitted any voices favoring the current litigation before the Supreme Court—litigation which would end federal Obamacare subsidies and gut the law. Ferris, writing for The Hill, conveniently fails to mention this debate at all.
The Times’ June 17 article on plaintiff David King emphasizes his political views and raises questions about his standing in the case.
A Washington Post article mentioned the plaintiffs’ perspective while describing how 6.4 million Americans could lose billions from the government if these payments stop.
The rest of the Post’s article was dedicated to covering the damage to America that removing these payments would cause, while citing administration-provided data, and blatantly signaling which side of the debate the Post is on.
While the media and President Obama refer to greater health care access under Obamacare, that claim has already been disproved. The Heritage Foundation found last year that most increases in Obamacare’s enrollment resulted from the Medicaid expansion, not enrollments in the marketplace, and that a significant number of persons now on the exchanges had “already had coverage through an individual-market or employer-group plan.” In other words, many people were replacing one type of insurance for another.
And that new policy is likely costing them significantly more, with a much higher deductible.
“Still, [Clare Krusing], from the health insurers trade group [America’s Health Insurance Plans], argues that it’s almost impossible to make a blanket statement that ObamaCare is driving up premiums across the board,” wrote Ferris. “If you want to understand the premium story, you have to look at factors and local dynamics,” asserted Krusing for the article.
The Heritage Foundation reports this year that premium costs on the exchanges have increased more than 10 percent in one third of states for a 27-year-old, who would presumably be healthier than an older American. In Alaska, premiums went up 28 percent for this age group.
Clearly, some conclusions can be made at this point about the overall effects of Obamacare.
Yet candidate Barack Obama repeatedly promised in 2007 and 2008 that he would sign into a law health care that would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.” Now, President Obama hedges with the unprovable claim that premiums are below what health care “would have been had trends over the decade before” Obamacare passed.
In other words, he can’t even say that health care costs have gone down—because they haven’t.
Politifact considers that promise completely broken, as well, of course, the oft-repeated line that Politifact made “Lie of the Year” in 2013: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Period.”
The media’s obsession with access to health care, and not health care outcomes, deliberately throws sand in the eyes of the public. It is a distraction from real issues such as whether a person can see his or her doctor, and pay for treatment.
As we have repeatedly reported, the true measures of Obamacare’s “success” are what this legislation has done to harm the economy, and whether American citizens can receive care—and, of course, whether it encourages individual responsibility and decreases government waste. Obamacare is bad for the American economy because it discourages labor, its enrollees are not receiving adequate care, and the subsidies provided to its enrollees already amount to more than $10 billion, while failing to enable enrollees to cover their health care costs.
But the complicit media smile, nod, and ignore all this as they desperately try to save Obama’s left-wing agenda.
Ferris does mention the deductible crisis—at the end, where it’s less likely to be read—after she discusses premiums, access, the value of subsidies, and the Medicaid expansion. For the mainstream media, all mention of Obamacare’s chronic problems must be reported last, so that these revelations can be more easily ignored or forgotten.
The Affordable Care Act has never been affordable, and its human costs keep rising. So do the costs to taxpayers. The Post reported last month that “nearly half of the 17 insurance marketplaces” established as alternatives to Healthcare.gov are “struggling financially,” and in Hawaii it will take at least $28 million to make its exchange self-sustaining by 2022.
While the Supreme Court may soon decide whether the Obama administration can continue to distribute federal Obamacare subsidies, it is clear that news outlets will do anything to sway public and the Justices’ opinions as to the viability of this law. By becoming the news, President Obama is providing the media with another excuse to champion Obamacare against the weight of the evidence.