Fox News admitted on Tuesday that a conservative-led lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act would raise health care premiums for millions of Americans. But then in its on-screen chyron, the network sought to attribute the increases not to the litigants involved in the case, but to President Obama, potentially confusing viewers.
“Could legal challenges to taxpayer subsidies put Obamacare in a death spiral?” Fox host Bill Hemmer asked, pointing to “a new study funded by the Department of Health and Human Services saying the health care law may be damaged beyond repair if you take the subsidies away, if they’re eliminated.”
Ongoing lawsuits are challenging the legality of providing subsidies through health insurance marketplaces in states that refused to set up their own exchanges. If those legal challenges succeed, the analysis that Hemmer is referencing — which comes from the RAND Corporation — did in fact conclude that premiums in those states could increase by as much as 43.3 percent. RAND’s researchers found that if federal subsidies to federally-run exchanges are ruled to be illegal, millions of people would have to pay more for coverage and could leave the risk pool, leading to a death spiral in which only the sickest people remain insured. Enrollment would fall by 68 percent and 11.3 million Americans could become uninsured.
Hemmer and Fox contributor Byron York huffed and puffed about the dangers of such a ruling, calling it “colossal” — despite the fact that the suits have been filed by conservatives, are supported by Republican lawmakers, and have been reported on favorably by the network in the past. The National Review has called the lawsuits and “ingenious” way to halt Obamacare. Fox, celebrated the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against the administration on July 22 by pronouncing, “one by one they’re getting chipped away so it’s starting to collapse.”
And although the price increases are a direct result of a negative ruling, Fox News ran the story under the chyron “sticker shock again for some Obamacare enrollees as premiums set to rise,” implying that the law’s backers would be responsible.
So far, an appellate court in Virginia has ruled that the subsidies were legal, but a three-judge panel on the D.C. circuit disagreed. The full D.C. court is expected to reverse that decision, however, eliminating the circuit split and reducing the possibility that the Supreme Court will take up the matter. Another ruling against the law is still working its way through the legal system.
The administration contends that even though the law does not explicitly state that federally-run exchanges are to offer subsidies for coverage, the intent of its framers — as well as its other provisions about achieving “near-universal coverage” and financial security from medical bankruptcy — strongly imply that such credits must be made available.