Execitiove Editor of Accuracy In Media
The Times’ Biased Fact Check of GOP Critique of Obamacare
Roger Aronoff — March 4, 2016
Once again The New York Times is peddling its own false narrative about Obamacare’s success, this time aimed at the Republican candidates. But while Margot Sanger-Katz claims to fact check Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), it is her own reporting that needs an additional check. After all, why didn’t Sanger-Katz include statements from Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in her Obamacare fact check? Neither the Times nor The Washington Post seems eager to print anything that might undermine the Democratic candidates on this issue.
Criticizing Trump for having said that insurers are making a fortune through Obamacare, Sanger-Katz writes that “The most visible part of Obamacare—the new individual insurance markets in every state—have not proved profitable for many insurers.” However, she writes, “other parts of the insurance business have flourished under Obamacare, particularly private plans sold to states for residents covered by Medicaid.”
In other words, the money to be made is in government-provided insurance. Or perhaps in fraud. The Government Accountability Office reported in February that in 2014 it had submitted 12 fraudulent applications over the phone or through Healthcare.gov—yet only one of those fraudulent applications was caught by the Obama administration. “The fictitious enrollees maintained subsidized coverage throughout 2014, even though GAO sent fictitious documents, or no documents, to resolve application inconsistencies,” the GAO reports. It estimates that by April 2015 the Center for Medicaid Services had not resolved “inconsistencies” for 431,000 applications made in 2014, amounting to $1.7 billion in potential fraud.
In an attempt to sell Obamacare, President Obama famously promised voters that employer-based insurance premiums would drop by $2,500 per family. Investor’s Business Daily’s John Merline reported last September that instead of a $2,500 decrease, these employer-based premiums increased by nearly double that number between 2008 and 2015. However, the pace of premium increases had slowed since 2006. On top of that, deductibles have gone through the roof, meaning that many of those insured by Obamacare policies won’t benefit from their coverage since they are unlikely to spend enough in a year to reach their deductible, unless they have a major illness or accident in the family.
“Slightly less higher premiums aren’t what President Obama promised Americans when he ran for office touting his medical overhaul,” wrote Merline. “He specifically said his plan would cut premiums.”
“The truth is that the current trend started in 2006, long before Obama took office, and longer still before Obamacare took effect,” Merline wrote. The slower pace was due to “health savings account-type plans,” he argues.
It is true that insurers are losing vast amounts of money. “In North Carolina, Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers Obamacare plans to all of the state’s 100 counties,”reports Matt Vespa for Townhall. “In the first year alone, five percent of their ACA customers consumed $830 million in health care costs; they only collected $75 million in premiums. That’s with the subsidy.”
“On top of that, virtually every remaining Obamacare exchange is teetering on total catastrophe.”
The fact that the exchanges are doing so poorly is just another reason why Obamacare should be repealed. As we have reported, Obamacare has resulted in skyrocketing premiums and poorer care for its enrollees. It has been a boondoggle for the American people. Yet Sanger-Katz’s critique of the GOP candidates skirted the question of premium hikes on consumers, focusing instead on the income of insurers. It should be noted, however, that some of Obamacare’s co-ops have been allowed to conduct fuzzy math with their tax returns.
“Though 21 of 23 co-ops lost money in 2014, most listed net gains on their 990 forms filed with the IRS,” writes Elizabeth Harrington for The Washington Free Beacon. One CEO of a New York co-op, Health Republic Insurance of New York, received over $400,000 annually. That co-op “is being investigated by the state for ‘substantial under-reporting’ of its finances and may be investigated by the FBI,” reports Harrington.
Then there is the illegal transfer of public funds to bail out Obamacare insurers. “On Feb. 12, the administration announced that the money will be handed out to insurers—a whopping $7.7 billion this year alone,” writes Betsy McCaughey. “But it’s not just expensive: That huge handout to the insurance industry is also illegal.”
“The law states a fixed share [of annual fees] ‘shall be deposited into the general fund of the Treasury of the United States and may not be used’ to offset insurance companies’ losses,” she writes.
While reporters are quick to claim that Republican candidates have no plan to replace Obamacare, they often seem to forget that Obamacare as implemented doesn’t match the law that was passed. The Galen Institute reports that, as of January, there have been 70 changes to the Obamacare law, including 24 of which were passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. And that doesn’t include the more than 20,000 pages of regulations that the Obama administration has unilaterally added to the law with little or no congressional input.
“The president has illegally delayed the employer mandate repeatedly,” writes McCaughey. “He’s handing out free Obamacare plans to illegal immigrants. Statutory deadlines are routinely ignored, and funds are slyly shifted from one program to another—the law be damned.”
Sanger-Katz also reported that there is only weak evidence that Obamacare is a jobs killer, citing job growth as strong overall. However, as we have reported, citing job growth or declining unemployment is a shell game as the labor force participation rate remains abysmally low. Currently, the labor force participation rate is comparable to 1978.
The mainstream media remain uninterested in asking the Democratic candidates about the many failures of Obamacare. By focusing on the misstatements made by just the GOP, the Times missed an opportunity to question Mrs. Clinton about new revelations that she was aware early on that Obamacare could not control costs.
On October 10, 2009, Neera Tanden emailed Mrs. Clinton and told her that “the dirty little secret is that we don’t have a lot of good evidence on what works—in a way that Congress has any appetite to do.”
“I mean, cost controls, as we all know, is attacked as rationing. So everyone likes to discuss this, including the Administration, but then on the other hand, says they won’t touch benefits,” Tanden continued. According to the Free Beacon, Tanden is a former Clinton operative who was working at the time for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Tanden now heads the liberal Center for American Progress.
The fact that Hillary Clinton knew in 2009 that cost controls under Obamacare could involve rationing should have been a blockbuster revelation and a problem for her campaign. Instead the news media are delighted to focus instead on divisions within the Republican Party, and on Mitt Romney’s attempts to undermine Trump. As we recently reported, the media’s advice to abandon Trump is far from altruistic. It is part of the mainstream media’s double standard designed to undermine conservatives and promote a left-wing agenda at any cost, while burnishing President Obama’s legacy.