To The Daily Sun,
On Tuesday, Oct. 29, frequent letter-writer Steve Earle, challenged ". . . any liberal to give readers an example of a lie told by Fox News." I have no aspirations to liberalism, but if he will accept a response from a fellow writer, I would like to give it a shot.
On Oct. 11, Sean Hannity invited three couples to tell his audience how the Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare) adversely affected their lives. Hannity said, "These are the stories that the media refuses to cover."
The stories the couples told, however, seemed at odds with ACA provisions. Consequently, fact checkers investigated. What follows is from the work of one of them, Eric Stern. He independently interviewed each couple and conducted cost comparison analyses.
Their claims: They said they could not grow their business. They had to keep employees in part-time status and take other steps to reduce ACA-associated costs.
The truth: Their construction business has four employees. The ACA imposes no cost, no insurance requirements (absolutely none) on any business with less than 50 employees. There is one and only one requirement for such a small business. It must notify employees the insurance exchange (healthcare.gov) exists.
Background: The male quit his job (which provided health benefits) a few years ago to start his own business. The couple are now paying $1,100 a month ($13,200 a year) for health insurance. The policy has a $2,500 per person deductible and does not cover one of their two children. The female has a pre-existing condition that would cost another $600 a month to insure. That would bring their total cost to $1,700 a month or $20,400 annually (still with no coverage for the second child).
Their claims: The couple's insurer notified them it will terminate their policy and replaced it with an ACA-compliant policy. The insurer also said it was shrinking its provider network. This might mean the couple would have to change physicians. This shows Obama lied when he said people could keep existing policies and medical providers.
The truths: The couple are correct. Obama assurances regarding continuity of coverage and provider access were not true. The president's apologists can try to sugarcoat that, but lie seems a fair characterization. This is where Hannity left it. Obama and ObamaCare came out looking bad. While it is difficult to make excuses for the president, the impression ACA is also bad is flat out wrong in this case. If the couple had done its homework, it would have found a policy on the health exchange for about $7,600. (This assumes the couple does not smoke and makes too much to qualify for a subsidy.)
This policy offers this family multiple advantages:
— More than a 60 percent reduction in premium costs;
— Coverage for all family members;
— Coverage for the female's preexisting condition; and
— A cap on out-of-pocket expenses. (As noted above, the couple's current policy carries a $2,500 per-person deductible. Under ACA, $2,500 is the maximum deductible for a family. That is a potential savings of $5,000 plus whatever it would cost them to obtain medical services for their uninsured child.)
Background: The male is self-employed. The insurer is swapping the couple's existing plan for an ACA-compliant policy. The premium for their current policy is $800 a month ($9,600 annually).
Their Claims: Their agent told them the replacement policy would cost 50 to 75 percent more. It will contain provisions (e.g., maternity, pediatric and prenatal care) they do not need, but must buy.
The Truths: This couple could buy a comparable policy on the exchange for less than $310 a month ($3,700 a year). The savings would exceed 60 percent. Yes, the policy would cover things they do not need or want. Every policy does.
A few personal observations:
Hannity/Fox exploited the ignorance of people so blinded by their hatred of ObamaCare (and probably Obama), they refused to do even the most rudimentary research into their personal situation. Nonetheless, their flagrant disregard for assessment and fact qualified them to speak with authority to a national audience.
Conservatives, more than liberals, should be outraged. The picture Fox painted is of catastrophe unfolding. Perhaps it is. (The rollout can hardly reassure supporters.) Yet, an unfiltered, unquestioned presentation of ignorance and hatred as evidence strengthens no case.
Specifically in this example:
— We see a family explaining how ACA undermined their business when ACA could not possibly affect that business;
— We see two families complaining about increased cost when even the most rudimentary inquiry would reveal substantial savings — upward of 60 percent in both cases; and
— We see three families not conveying personal stories — as Hannity asserted — but adapting and repeating what they think others have said.
If Mr. Earle does not think this is lying, perhaps he could explain what is.