Thursday, October 31, 2013

Right-Wing Media Pick Up Health Insurance "Cancellation" Story NBC Has Walked Back

THOMAS BISHOP/Media Matters For America:

Right-wing media picked up a misleading NBC News report that claimed President Obama knew millions of Americans would receive "cancellation" letters terminating their health insurance -- a report NBC News later clarified by explaining many of the policies would be "replaced" and not canceled.
In an October 28 NBC News report, senior investigative reporter Lisa Myers claimed that "50 to 75 percent" of individual health insurance consumers "can expect to receive a 'cancellation' letter or the equivalent over the next year" because their existing policies do not meet Affordable Care Act standards. Right-wing media have used similar language to claim "thousands of people across the country receiving cancellation notices from their insurers."  In a New York Post columnNational Review's Rich Lowry claimed "hundreds of thousands of people in states around the country are now receiving notices that their insurance is getting canceled." Fox News' Charles Krauthammer described the issues with the discontinued policies as "almost a parody of the definition of a liberal."
However, on the October 29 edition of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown, host Chuck Todd challenged Myers' description of policy letters sent to insurance consumers as policy replacements, not cancellation. Myers agreed:
TODD: NBC's senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, joins me now. OK, Lisa, so the White House is arguing that somehow what's going on, number one, the letters that people are getting are not cancellation notices, that they're notices to say your policy no longer meets standards, here's a new policy, but for some people it's coming with a premium hike. Is that right? 
MYERS: That's correct. Some of them actually use the word cancellation, others use the word termination or saying it's being replaced. But in both cases what you have are individuals who are not able to keep the policies they had, even if they want to. 
Myers was also forced to concede that insurance companies, not the Obama administration, determine whether an individual's policy would be "grandfathered" in and not changed under ACA.
This information is not new. It was widely reported in 2010 that the Obama administration acknowledged that "40 to 67 percent" of customers would likely not be "grandfathered" in if insurance policies were significantly changed by insurance companies. And as Wonkblog's Sarah Kliff has pointed out, insurance companies are required by law to tell customers whose policies are discontinued about other options the company offers. 

The View Mainstreams Serial Misinformer Betsy McCaughey As A "Health Care Policy Expert"

JUSTIN BERRIER/Media Matters For America:

ABC's The View hosted Betsy McCaughey to attack the Affordable Care Act (ACA), praising her as a "health care policy expert" and ignoring her history of misinformation, including inventing the persistent lie that the health care law contains "death panels."
On the October 29 edition of The View, co-host Barbara Walters introduced a segment with McCaughey by calling her a "health care policy expert" and asking if health care consumers "were not told the truth by the Obama administration," saying, "they are about to lose their current medical plans and they don't know what they are getting instead." The View provided no background about McCaughey aside from naming her as the author of a book opposing the ACA.
McCaughey, who is by no means a "health care policy expert," has no credibility to comment on the ACA. In 2009, during the legislative debate over the bills that would later become the ACA, McCaughey distorted language in the House version of the bill to claim that it would "absolutely require -- that every five years, people in Medicare have a required counseling session that will tell them how to end their life sooner, how to decline nutrition, how to decline being hydrated, how to go in to hospice care." McCaughey's misinformation was echoed throughout the right-wing media, leading to the lie that the ACA contains "death panels" that will judge whether patients are deserving of life-preserving care.
McCaughey's history of health care misinformation doesn't end at death panels. In fact, during her appearance on The View, she solicited a question about senior care in order to push another of her debunked health care claims: that the ACA cuts benefits for Medicare patients. McCaughey has long pushed this false claim, consistently ignoring the fact that the ACA explicitly stipulates that guaranteed Medicare benefits will not be affected.
McCaughey also used her View appearance to claim that health care consumers who cannot afford plans will be required to purchase one anyway. As the Kaiser Family Foundation pointed out in 2010, however, the law provides automatic exemptions for "those for whom the lowest cost plan option exceeds 8% of an individual's income, and those with incomes below the tax filing threshold (in 2009 the threshold for taxpayers under age 65 was $9,350 for singles and $18,700 for couples)." 
Despite The View's presentation of McCaughey as a health care policy expert, she has originated or pushed numerous false or misleading health care claims, including:
  • The law would turn doctors into "government agents" who are required to ask "intrusive" questions about patients' sexual history.
  • The ACA is a plot to create a "beholden" Democratic majority.
  • Section 1311 of the health care law "empowers the federal government to dictate how doctors treat privately insured patients." 
  • The health care law will limit preventive care.
  • A provision in the House bill would have replaced physicians with physician assistants in overseeing hospice care.
  • The Senate bill would have forced "Americans into low-budget plans."
  • Provisions in the economic recovery law authorized a "new bureaucracy" to "monitor treatments" and restrict doctor discretion.
  • Repeal of the health care law would reduce the deficit.
  • The Obama administration engaged in "favoritism" when granting temporary waivers for some provisions of the law.

Diagnosing Obamacare myths

President Obama Calls Out The Media For Grossly Misleading Coverage of The ACA

By: Jason Easley/
President Obama called out the media today for misleading the American people with inaccurate stories about people having their health insurance canceled due to the ACA.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Because of the tax credits that we’re offering and the competition between insurers, most people are going to be able to get better, comprehensive health care plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected. You’re going to get a better deal.
Now, there’s a fraction of Americans with higher incomes who will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and protections like the patient’s bill of rights, and that will actually save them from financial ruin if they get sick. But nobody is losing their right to health care coverage. And no insurance company will ever be able to deny you coverage or drop you as a customer altogether. Those days are over, and that’s the truth. That is the truth. (Cheers, applause.)
 So for people without health insurance, they’re finally going to be able to get it. For the vast majority of people who have health insurance that works, you can keep it. For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal. So anyone peddling the notion that insurers are canceling peoples’ plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier and stronger benefits and stronger protections while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and that many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper — if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least. (Applause.)
It is one thing for Republicans to be grossly misleading people about the law. They oppose the ACA and have been trying to destroy it for nearly four years, but what the media is guilty of is ignorance and laziness. The mainstream media has decided that they are going to be against the ACA. They think that is where a majority of the American people are, so that is how they are going to cover the story.
The truth is that the media likes things simple and dumb. They can understand website broken. They can understand people losing their coverage, but they never bother to look deeper and ask why some people are seeing their policies get canceled. The answer is that these policies were crap coverage, but the media can’t be bothered to mention that part in their stories.
The big secret about the mainstream media is that many of them have no idea what they are talking about. They haven’t read the ACA. The media doesn’t understand the issues. This is why they are so drawn to whatever the Republican Party puts out there. Republicans have perfected the art of giving the media the ready made easy story, but the most galling thing about the media coverage is that much of it is missing out on the really big story.
While the media focuses on website glitches and Republicans who are complaining because their junk health insurance got canceled, what they aren’t talking about is that the ACA is going to be good for a whole lot of people. There will be no bigger life changer than access to affordable health care for tens of millions of Americans.
It isn’t just the Republican Party who is set to be on the wrong side of the history of the ACA. Because of their indifference to facts, the media’s performance during this time will be poorly remembered too. President Obama and the White House are going to have to keep up the fight, because the misleading media stories are going to keep coming.

Thanks, Obama! Deficit Shrinks to Lowest Level in Five Years!

by: Liam O'Conner/Americans Against the Tea Party

In a recent FOX News appearance, House Minority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-VA), said that more than anything else American lawmakers needed to focus on America’s “growing” deficit. Since I am almost certain the host had no intention of informing him of the facts, it falls on me to tell Mr. Cantor that the deficit is, in fact, shrinking!
According to a report from the AP wire service:

“For the first time in five years, the U.S. government has run a budget deficit below $1 trillion.

The government says the deficit for the 2013 budget year totaled $680.3 billion, down from $1.09 trillion in 2012. That’s the smallest imbalance since 2008, when the government ran a $458.6 billion deficit.”

Republicans and members of the Tea Party frequently try to portray the President Obama as an out-of-control liberal who is ratcheting up America’s deficit with reckless spending.  The cold hard truth, however, is that the president has managed to expand healthcare coverage to millions of Americans without breaking the bank.

By allowing some of the Bush-era tax cuts to expire, which in turn increased government revenue, and by reducing government spending, President Obama has overseen the fastest reduction in the deficit since the Second World War. The deficit is now $400 billion lower than last year, and $800 billion lower than since President Obama was sworn into office.

Michigan Senate Passes Law to Rig the Courts to Protect Snyder

Amy Kerr Hardin/Democracy Tree
The Michigan Senate has fast-tracked a bill introduced just days ago by Sen. Rick Jones (R-24) that could insulate the state government from culpability over misdeeds under Gov. Snyder.SB-652 passed in the Senate today under “immediate passage”and “immediate effect”. The bill moves on to the House for approval.
What this bill does is strip Ingham County Circuit Court of its position as court of authority in all claims above $1000 against the state of Michigan, including Gov. Snyder. The proposed law would instead have the Michigan Supreme Court appoint four judges from the Court of Appeals to hear these cases.
Ingham County leans Democratic, and so does its judiciary. Gongwer News Service explains the political ramifications thus:
The Court of Appeals has several judges from both the Democratic and Republican spheres, but the Supreme Court, which would make the appointments, has a 5-2 majority of justices nominated by the Republican Party. Maybe the Supreme Court would decide to appoint, say, two appeals judges named to the bench by a Democratic governor and two by a Republican governor, but that would be a surprise.
One must only wonder — what’s the rush? Is there something they’re not telling us?

12-year-old ‘suffragette’ fires back at NC gov. for voter suppression: ‘I am not a prop!’

By David Edwards/Raw Story
A 12-year-old North Carolina girl fired back at Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday (R-NC) after he called her a “prop” because she had accused him of voter suppression for signing a voter ID law that stripped pre-registration rights for young people.
Earlier this year, Madison Kimrey gained attention for protesting outside the Governor’s Executive Mansion in opposition to the sweeping new law that requires a government ID to vote, cuts the number of early voting days and takes away the right of pre-registration for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds.
The governor’s staff had seemed to mock Kimrey at the time by offering her cake through the mansion gate.
In an August interview, McCrory explained that he would not be meeting with the 12-year-old girl and said that the controversy had been manufactured.
“This is one of the girls that came to our gate and actually asked for food from some of my people,” the governor insisted. “She said she was hungry and we went out gave her food – gave her some cake, and they made it a big political thing. This is very liberal groups using children as props to push a very far-left agenda.”
Speaking to a group of “Moral Monday” protesters in Burlington this week, Kimrey made it clear that she was not a “prop.”
“The elimination of pre-registration was one of the first parts of the new 56-page voting law to go into effect,” Kimrey told the crowd. “Ask yourselves, young people, why? Why do they want to take away our ability to pre-register so quickly?”
“I wanted to meet with our governor to discuss pre-registration but he called my request to meet with him ridiculous and called me a prop for liberal groups,” she continued. “This is not leadership. The young people of North Carolina deserve better.”
“I am not a prop! I am part of the new generation of suffragettes and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.”
Watch this video from Story of America, uploaded on Oct. 29, 2013.

Blackburn and Pallone spar over Obamacare and ‘scam’ insurance policies

By Arturo Garcia/Raw Story

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) accused congressional colleague Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) on Wednesday of being “insulting” toward Americans in the continuing debate over the effects of the Affordable Care Act on individual health care buyers.
“To be so insulting to people to say, ‘The insurance you’ve had is a scam,’” Blackburn said in a joint interview with CNN host Piers Morgan, arguing that President Barack Obama was wrong to assure individual buyers that their plans would be grandfathered into the law.
Pallone countered that the cuts were being caused by insurance companies cutting their customers, rather than raising their plans to meet the new standards required by the law.
“If insurance companies want to continue to offer lousy plans that don’t have good coverage and cost a lot of money to the taxpayer or to the insured, they can,” Pallone told Blackburn and Morgan.
“What percentage of people who want to keep their plan or their doctor, as per the president’s promise, are actually gonna be able to do that?” Morgan asked.
“About 90 percent,” Pallone replied, before Morgan interjected by citing an NBC News report stating that 40 to 60 percent of insurance buyers would be forced out of their plans. However, Pallone clarified that that issue affects buyers in the individual marketplace.
Reports like NBC’s have been criticized by Moyers & Company and the Los Angeles Times,among others, for ignoring the limitations of many of the original plans and the savings many subjects could get through government subsidies.
“So why didn’t the president just say that?” Morgan demanded. “Why didn’t he just say, instead of making this bold promise to sell his plan, why didn’t he just say that? Why didn’t he just be honest.”
“We have to look at this from a practical point of view,” Pallone said in response. “We want people to be insured, and have a good insurance policy.”
“What about telling the American people the truth?” Morgan repeated.
“We’re offering a good insurance policy at an affordable price,” Pallone continued. “If Marsha says I want to keep some lousy plan that’s a scam, well, the insurance company isn’t gonna sell it anymore, because nobody’s gonna buy it. And that’s the bottom line.”

Watch the discussion, as aired Wednesday on CNN, below.

How 2016 Could Be An Even Bigger Democratic Blowout Than 2008

BY RUY TEIXEIRA/Think Progress
It’s widely acknowledged that the Democrats have a heavy lift going into the 2014 election, despite the continued decline in Republican Party favorability brought on by the shutdown, their extreme rhetoric and their single-minded devotion to undermining effective governance. However, regardless of the outcome in 2014, it seems likely that the GOP will be increasingly burdened by warfare between its totally intransigent Tea Party faction and “establishment”, business-oriented Republicans in and around Washington.
That’s a recipe for increased unpopularity going into the 2016 Presidential cycle. But a new poll suggests it might be more significant than that: an opportunity for the Democrats to make historic, devastating inroads into the Republican base.
How bad could 2016 be for Republicans? Pretty bad. Start with the likelihoodthat minorities, who voted 80 percent for Obama, will increase by 2 points to 30 percent of voters. Add to that the continued growth of heavily Democratic Millennial generation voters within the electorate, whose numbers will increase by about 4 million a year. By the 2016 election, Millennials should be about 36 percent of eligible voters and roughly a third of actual voters. That’s quite a tail wind for whomever the Democratic nominee may be.
But what about white voters? That’s where Obama was weakest, especially among white working class voters, whom he lost by 25 points. Won’t those kind of margins prevent a truly crushing defeat for the GOP in 2016?
Not necessarily.
The increasingly extreme and factionalized Republican party is suffering image erosion across the board, including among white voters. It’s also scaring white seniors and white working class voters, in particular, with its aggressive calls for cutting entitlements. This will likely lead a considerable number of white voters who backed Romney in 2012 to consider switching sides in 2016.
Will the Democrats be able to take advantage of this opening? We can’t say for sure, but consider that Hillary Clinton, the most likely nominee at this point, has a track record of appealing to white working class voters and in early pollshas been cutting Obama’s deficit among whites nationally and in key states. That raises the possibility that Democrats could make progress in 2016 toward a decades-long aspiration: a Bobby Kennedy-style coalition that unites minorities, young people, and educated liberals with working class whites.
That progress would not have to be large-scale to create a lop-sided loss for the GOP. If Hillary Clinton simply matched Obama’s modest performance among working class whites (an 18 point deficit) that, combined with expected levels of demographic change, would be enough for her to exceed Obama’s overall victory margin in 2008. And if Clinton could match Obama’s 2008 performance among college-educated white women (a 5 point advantage), for whom her candidacy should have special appeal, she would triumph by 10 points, a huge gap in Presidential elections and the largest margin since Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984.
One reaction to this scenario might be: college-educated white women, sure, but how can a Democrat, even Hillary Clinton, reach a white working class split from the increasingly diverse Democratic party by ethnic and class divisions? As it turns out, most of the white working class is much more open-minded than many think.
Take a look at the results from a new survey by CAP and PolicyLink on Americans’ reactions to rising diversity. The poll found that, by and large, positive sentiments about opportunities from rising diversity tended to outweigh negative concerns about rising diversity — even among working class whites.
As the table below shows, Americans overall expressed majority agreement with six of eight statements about these opportunities, though there was considerable demographic variation in level of agreement. But despite this variation, it is nevertheless striking that white working class (non-college) respondents also agreed with every one of those six statements:
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the white working class agreed that “Americans will learn more from one another and be enriched by exposure to many different cultures.” The same number agreed that “Aabigger, more diverse workforce will lead to more economic growth.” 62 percent agreed that “diverse workplaces and schools will help make American businesses more innovative and competitive.” 58 percent agreed that “people will become more accepting of their differences and more willing to find common ground.” 57 percent agreed that “with more diverse people working and living together, discrimination will decrease.” Finally, 52 percent agreed that “the entry of new people into the American workforce will increase our tax base and help support our retiree population”.
This does not sound like a demographic whose future lies with the lily-white Tea Party. The point becomes especially clear when you look at younger whites; white working class Millennials are significantly more open to rising diversity than the white working class as a whole. For example, 75 percent of white working class Millennials think Americans will be enriched by exposure to many cultures and 73 percent believe a bigger, more diverse workforce will lead to more economic growth.
These data indicate that there is real potential for a breakthrough among the white working class in 2016. Whether Hillary Clinton (or any other Democrat) can realize that potential remains to be seen. But if they can do so, the GOP could suffer an historic defeat.

Key Democrat Warns GOP: Lift Your Blockade On Three Key Judges Or The Nuclear Option Is Coming

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the senior-most member of the Senate, has a warning for his Republican colleagues — either they back off their efforts to maintain Republican control over a powerful federal court, or they could lose their ability to filibuster judicial nominees forever. Currently, most Senate Republicans plan to filibuster all three of President Obama’s nominees to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, often citing misleading statistics to claim that no more judges are needed on this, the second most powerful court in the country. If these filibusters succeed, it will maintain GOP dominance over a court that blocked environmental regulations which would prevent tens of thousands of deaths and that at one point threatened to shut down nearly all federal legal protections for unionized workers.
On Tuesday, however, Leahy warned that if these three nominees are successfully filibustered “I think that the pressure on changing the rules would be almost insurmountable.” Last July, Senate Democrats came within a hair of pulling the trigger on the so-called “nuclear opinion,” a procedural maneuver that allows the Senate’s rules to be changed with just a simple majority vote, though they backed off after Republicans stopped blocking confirmations to seven top government jobs.
Leahy’s warning to his GOP colleagues is particularly significant because more senior Democrats have historically been more reluctant to support filibuster reform than the more junior members of the Democratic caucus. Now, however, the most senior member of the caucus is threatening reform relatively early in the fight to confirm the three D.C. Circuit nominees.

At Stand Your Ground Hearing, Ted Cruz Argues Florida Law Helps African-Americans

With Trayvon Martin’s mother sitting just across from him, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) claimed that Stand Your Ground is beneficial for African-Americans. At the Tuesday Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Cruz claimed, “In Florida, the data show that African-American defendants have availed themselves of the Stand Your Ground law more frequently than Anglo defendants.” Indirectly citing a Daily Caller story that said black defendants were successful in 55 percent of fatal cases compared to 53 percent of whites, Cruz said this “isn’t about inflaming racial tensions though some might try to use it to do that.”
Shortly after Cruz described Stand Your Ground as protecting innocent victims from violent aggressors, Sybrina Fulton and Lucia McBath, the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, delivered emotional testimony about their murdered children.
GOP witness John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, also argued Cruz’s point at length. “Poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas are not only the most likely victims of crime, they are also the ones who benefit the most from Stand Your Ground laws,” he said according to prepared testimony. Later, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he found Lott’s argument “compelling,” and that he did not see how the law “has a racial injustice about it.”
This is an oversimplified, if not misleading, portrayal of the racial disparity in Stand Your Ground. It looks only at the rate of successful Florida claims based on the shooter’s race, which indeed is slightly higher for black shooters than white shooters.
By no means does this mean blacks “benefit” under the law.
A report from the Congressional Research Service on inter-racial shootings nationwide shows disparity at work. Without looking specifically at Stand Your Ground, CRS found a clear racial disparity in shootings that were ruled to be justified, as well as an increase in cases of justifiable white-on-black homicides after states began enacting the ALEC model legislation in 2005. According tothe report, white-on-black shootings were considered justified far more often than black-on-white shootings.
The same data that Florida Cruz cited also shows that killers are far more likely to go free when their victims are black. In those cases with black or Hispanic victims, the killings were found justified by the Stand Your Ground law 78 percent of the time, compared to 56 percent in cases with white victims. The racial disparity among victims has also been confirmed by other studies, like the Urban Institute’s finding that in Stand Your Ground states, white-on-black homicides are 354 percent more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white homicides.

Domestic Violence Survivor Explains Why Guns Don’t Actually Protect Women: ‘I Was Shot With My Own Gun’

Domestic violence survivors are traveling to Capitol Hill this week to make sure that firearms don’t end up in the hands of abusers. Working in conjunction with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, they’re encouraging lawmakers to support comprehensive background checks, a lobbying effort that’s timed to coincide with the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Gender-based violence and gun policies have become particularly entwinedlately. Over the past several months, proponents for looser gun laws have argued that women need easy access to guns to protect themselves against abusers and rapists. According to some of the conservatives who oppose gun control, additional regulations on concealed weapons and assault rifles aren’t compatible with feminism. On Tuesday, that line of reasoning made yet another appearance at a Senate hearing about Stand Your Ground laws, as a conservative policy analyst from the Cato Institute suggested that feminists support the policy that allowed George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager.
Christy Salters Martin, a domestic violence survivor who was stabbed and shotby her husband after she attempted to leave him, has a very different perspective on the issue.
“Having a gun isn’t enough,” Christy explained in an interview with ThinkProgress. “Women who fear for their life don’t need a gun — they need to go to their local police department, they need to go a family member, they need to go to the domestic violence shelter in their area where they have some type of protection.”
Christy and her estranged husband both owned guns and both had concealed carry permits. Christy also had a very successful career in professional boxing. That didn’t stop her husband from shooting her.
“I was shot with my own gun. Just putting a weapon in the woman’s hand is not going to reduce the number of fatalities or gunshot victims that we have,” Christy pointed out. “Too many times, their male counterpart or spouse will be able to overpower them and take that gun away.”
The evidence backs up Christy’s point. Abusers who have access to a gun aremore than seven times more likely to kill their partners. By some estimations, the presence of a gun in domestic violence situations — no matter who technically owns it — increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent. In 2011, 44 percent of the women in this country who were killed with guns were murdered by a current or former intimate partner.
“These things are going to continue to happen until Congress steps up and changes these laws,” Christy told ThinkProgress. “And in order for them to act, it’s going to take people like me, survivors, to stand up and say: Be more aware of the gun laws.”
Thanks to current loopholes in federal law, some domestic abusers are still able to get their hands on guns. That’s what Christy and her fellow survivors want to change. They’re holding a press conference on Wednesday to urge Congress to pass stronger background check measures, saying that will help save women’s lives. Indeed, in states already require background checks for all gun sales, 38 percent fewer women are killed by intimate partners.
Immediately after the Sandy Hook massacre, support for universal background checks soared. An estimated 90 percent of American voters supported the policy in the lead-up to a Senate vote on the issue in April; nonetheless, the Senate ended up killing the bill. But Christy is still hopeful.
“It’s just going to take more people getting up there and talking about their personal experiences,” she said, pointing out that more stories from victims of intimate partner violence need to be elevated. “If it’s not happening in your house or within your family, you’re not thinking about it.”
Aside from raising awareness about gun violence prevention, Christy and her fellow survivors are also doing their part to help destigmatize the issues surrounding domestic abuse. Even though intimate partner violence is incredibly widespread in the United States, most people still don’t feel comfortable talking about it. One recent survey found that 64 percent of Americans agree that talking more about these issues would make it easier for them to feel comfortable stepping in and trying to help someone in the midst of an abusive relationship.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Halloween Friday: Ghostbusters theme music video

The Myth Of The $634 Million Obamacare Website

 ERIC BOEHLERT/Media Matters For America:

When he announced hearings this week into the troubled launch and implementation of President Obama's health care reform, Rep. David Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, demanded to know why "after spending over $600 million" the online health care exchange portal,, doesn't work properly.
In light of the site's systemic failures, that bulging nine-figure price tag ($634 million, to be exact) has produced endless guffaws within the conservative media, where the figure has been adopted as evidence of a policy debacle.  
"Who pays $634 million and has three years and screws it up that bad?" asked Fox News' Sean Hannity on October 18. Added Rush Limbaugh: "That website, by the way, the original projected cost: $93 million. The end cost: $643 million.  I kid you not."
Wow, $550 million in cost overruns for since 2010 when the health care reform law was passed?
That's false.
The life of the $600 million figure appears to be the latest example of how misinformation is fermented within the right-wing media and then adopted as quasi-policy by the Republican Party. After all, Rep. Camp is holding a hearing specifically to determine why the government's $600 million health care website doesn't work, even though the site didn't cost $600 million.
The eye-popping $634 million figure was first trumpeted in a piece by Andrew Couts at Digital Trends on October 8. It pointed out that the Montreal-based company awarded the contract to build, CGI Federal, had received $634 million in government contracts related to health care. (Digital Trends lateramended the article and lowered the figure to "more than $500 million" that was allegedly spent "to build the digital equivalent of a rock.")
Stunned by the bloated figure, Couts noted "Twitter, created in 2006, managed to get by with only $360.17 million in total funding until a $400 million boost in 2011. Instagram ginned up just $57.5 million in funding before Facebook bought it for (a staggering) $1 billion last year."
Conservative commentators loved the report and quickly referred to it as fact.
"As for cash, it appears that HHS spent over $600 million for the online system -- more than it took to get Facebook started," wrote John Sununu in a Boston Globe column, while the Washington Times reported, "The administration hasn't said how much these efforts will cost; estimates indicate the website already has cost taxpayers more than $600 million."
Even ABC News pushed the report, noting "The administration has not provided a final cost of the website, although some estimates place it between $500 million to $600 million."
But the accounting employed by Digital Trends raised some eyebrows even within the conservative media. National Review Online contributor Greg Pollowitz tweeted that the CGI contracts Digital Trends pointed to included work that the firm had done for the U.S. government years before health care reform was actually passed into law.
Glenn Beck's site, The Blaze, also debunked the number. "While the federal website to signup for Obamacare was riddled with errors and had a rocky rollout, it didn't cost $634 million to build," wrote Liz Klimas. Citing an official inside GCI, The Blaze reported the $634 figure "includes all of the company's contracts for a Health and Human Services Department program over the last seven years."
Independently, the Sunlight Foundation estimated it cost $70 million to build the much-maligned website, not $634 million. (Officially, CGI was awarded a $93 million contract for the job.)
And today in his Fact Checker column in the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler looked at the question of the cost and concluded, "A conservative figure would be $70 million. A more modest figure would be $125 million to $150 million." Kessler noted that the cost for the entire health care project beyond the website would be "at least $350 million."  
Despite those red flags, the bloated figure has been widely embraced as factual within the conservative press. 
As for the Twitter and Instragram comparisons, they don't make much sense in terms of what those hugely popular and relatively simple social media sites do (swap updates and photos) as compared to what is supposed to do. Noted Kurt Eichenwald at Vanity Fair regarding  "The site is one of the most complicated Web-based undertakings ever envisioned not only by the federal government but possibly by any Internet product provider."
Meanwhile, the $600 million misinformation has created some odd contradictions within the conservative media, where it is still regularly touted. For instance, on October 9, a report posted on referred to as the "$93M ObamaCare website."  Yet day after day, Fox hosts such as HannityDana Perino, and Andrea Tantaros ridicule the "$600 million" the government allegedly spent to build its health care exchange website.
And then there's Blaze news anchor Amy Holmes who appeared on CNN on October 21 to discuss the health care controversy. She  said that "the website got over $600 million to be able to be set up." Strange, right? On October 10, The Blaze debunked the "rumor" that cost $600 million to build. Then eleven days later The Blaze's Holmes told a CNN audience that cost $600 million to build.
Sifting through the vast range of cost estimates for, the Washington Post's Kessler suggested, "readers should be wary of many cost estimates uttered by lawmakers." That also holds true for estimates uttered by conservative commentators.