Who will fact check the fact checkers? That question reared its head again late last week, as a reporter from Politico attempted to add “context” to health-care-related comments the president made at a political rally in Las Vegas. As with Trump himself, what Politico reporter Dan Diamond omitted said just as much as what he included.
During his speech, the president talked about pre-existing conditions, saying Republicans want to “protect patients with pre-existing conditions:”
"Donald Trump and Republicans will protect patients with pre-existing conditions,” Trump said tonight.
What he didn’t say: The Trump administration and 20 GOP-led states are trying to get rid of the ACA’s protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. pic.twitter.com/JHyDd8cDAA
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 21, 2018
I’ve previously written about the Obamacare lawsuit in question—why I oppose both the lawsuit, and the Justice Department’s intervention in the case, as unwise judicial activism—and Republicans’ poor response on the issue. But note what neither Diamond nor Trump mentioned: That the pre-existing condition “protections” are incredibly costly—the biggest driver of premium increases—and that, when voters are asked whether they would like these provisions “if it caused the cost of your health insurance to go up,” support plummets by roughly 40 percentage points.
If you need any more persuading that the media are carrying liberals’ water on pre-existing conditions, consider that the Kaiser Family Foundation released their health care tracking survey earlier this month. In it, Kaiser asked whether people are worried that “if the Supreme Court overturns the health care law’s protections for people with pre-existing health conditions you will have to pay more for health insurance coverage.”
The survey didn’t mention that all individuals are already paying higher premiums for those “protections” since Obamacare took effect—whether they want to or not, and whether they have a pre-existing condition or not. In fact, the survey implied the opposite. By only citing a scenario that associates premium rises with a Supreme Court ruling striking down the provisions, Kaiser misled respondents into its “preferred” response.
So the propagandists at Kaiser put out an inherently flawed and misleading survey, and what does Politico do? Serve as dutiful stenographers for the liberal cause. First, their newsletter reported the “results” of the survey without peering under the hood at its methodology. (Funny how no one had time to “fact check” the polling questions—as opposed to Trump’s comments.)
Then last week, Politico ran another story on the Republican strategy to “duck and cover” regarding the states’ lawsuit, which might of course have something to do with the tenor of Politico’s “reporting” on pre-existing conditions in the first place.
Next, to Single-Payer Proposals
Following the comments about pre-existing conditions, the president then went on the attack, and Diamond felt the need to respond:
“The Democrat health care plan would force every American onto government-run health care,” Trump adds in lengthy attack.
While Democrats generally support universal coverage, most proposals don’t force Americans onto government care. There’s also no consensus “Democrat plan.” pic.twitter.com/I3nxLKjPgB
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) September 21, 2018
Diamond accurately notes that “there is no consensus ‘Democrat plan.’” As the saying goes, the left hand doesn’t always know what the far-left hand is doing. But Trump also made crystal clear what specific Democratic plan he was describing—the single-payer plan written by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He even quoted the $32 trillion estimated cost of the plan, as per a Mercatus Center study that became the topic of great dispute earlier this summer.
Here’s what Section 102(a) of Sanders’ bill (S. 1804) says about coverage under the single-payer plan: “SEC. 102. UNIVERSAL ENTITLEMENT. (a) IN GENERAL.—Every individual who is a resident of the United States is entitled to benefits for health care services under this Act. The Secretary shall promulgate a rule that provides criteria for determining residency for eligibility purposes under this Act.”
And here’s what Section 107(a) of the bill says about individuals trying to keep their own health coverage, or purchasing other coverage, to “get out” of the single-payer system:
SEC. 107. PROHIBITION AGAINST DUPLICATING COVERAGE.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Beginning on the effective date described in section 106(a), it shall be unlawful for—
(1) a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act; or
(2) an employer to provide benefits for an employee, former employee, or the dependents of an employee or former employee that duplicate the benefits provided under this Act.
In other words, the Sanders bill “would force every American on to government-run health care, and virtually eliminate all private and employer-based health care plans”—exactly as the president claimed.
Rather than give the president credit for making an accurate claim, Diamond’s “fact check” relied on the semantic argument that “most” Democratic health plans “don’t force Americans on to government care.” (I could argue otherwise—that forcing people to buy coverage, as several other liberal plans would do, actually is “government care”—but I digress.)
His “most” wording cleverly attempted to elide the fact that the most prominent Democratic plan—the one endorsed by everyone from Sanders to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and vigorously pursued by the activist left—does exactly what Trump claimed.
I have little doubt that, had the president inflated the Mercatus study’s estimated cost of Sanders’ single-payer plan—for instance, had Trump said it would cost $42 trillion, or $52 trillion, instead of using the $32 trillion number—Diamond (and others) would have instantly “fact checked” the incorrect number. Given that Diamond, and just about everyone else, knew Trump was talking about the single-payer bill, this so-called “fact check”—which discussed everything but the bill Trump referenced—looks both smarmy and pedantic, specifically designed to divert attention from the most prominent Democratic plan put forward, and Trump’s (accurate) claims about it.
Medicare Benefits Not Guaranteed
Ironically, if Diamond really wanted to fact check the president, as opposed to playing political games, he had a wide open opportunity to do so, on at least two levels. In both cases, he whiffed completely.
In the middle of his riff on single-payer health care, President Trump said this: “Robbing from our senior citizens—you know that? It’s going to be one of the great catastrophes ever. The benefits—they paid, for their entire lives—are going to be taken away.” Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Politicians can claim all they want that people “paid into” Medicare to get back their benefits, but it isn’t true. The average senior receives far more in benefits than what he or she paid into the system, and the gap is growing. Medicare’s existing cash crunch makes a compelling case against expanding government-run health care, but it still doesn’t mean that seniors “paid for” all (as opposed merely to some) of the benefits they receive.
Second, as I have previously noted, Sanders’ bill is not “Medicare-for-all.” It’s “Medicare-for-none.” Section 901(a)(1)(A) of the bill would end benefits under the current Medicare program, and Section 701(d) of the bill would liquidate the existing Medicare trust fund. If seniors like the Medicare coverage, including the privately run Medicare Advantage plans, they have now, they would lose it. Period.
To sum up, in this case Politico ignored:
- The cost of the pre-existing condition “protections”—how they raise premiums, and how Obamacare advocates don’t want to mention that fact when talking about them;
- The way that the most prominent Democratic health care bill—the one that President Trump very clearly referred to in his remarks—would abolish private coverage and force hundreds of millions of individuals on to government-run health care;
- Inaccurate claims President Trump made about seniors having “earned” all their Medicare benefits; and
- The fact that Sanders’ bill would actually abolish Medicare for seniors.
And people say the media have an ideological bias in favor of greater government control of health care. Why on earth would they think that?
The initial word “errors” has been swapped with the word “omissions” in the title of this article post-publication, to be more precise about the nature of the errors.