Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Heritage Foundation 'Updates' Incorrect Obamascare Story That Fox News Parroted


This post has been submitted for publication at Mediaite, but is being published here first:

On Monday night's The Kelly File, Fox News' Trace Gallagher delivered a report on yet another Obamascare horror story that didn't quite check out, and which was based entirely on reporting from The Heritage Foundation blog. Since publication of a fact-check on that story, Heritage has "updated" their story several times to address the points raised in that critique, acknowledging some problems in their original report. That's to their credit, even if they couldn't bring themselves to call them corrections, but their updated post still doesn't check out.

 The Fox News report focused on the sacrifices that the family of Northern Californian Kate Joy will have to make in order to afford health insurance under Obamacare, which includes things like extra mortgage payments, manicures, and dinners out. “They live in northern California, and help support their 19- and 21-year-old sons who work part-time and go to college,” Gallagher reported. “Here’s the deal. Under the old plan they paid $499 a month. Of course it was cancelled, because it doesn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. Look at the number. $1,252 per month.”

 According to that Heritage post, the Joys “live off her husband’s retirement salary,” and that “the family does not qualify for any subsidies.” She told Heritage that the $750 increase was on-fifth of her husband's salary, which is $45,120 a year. According to Covered California, a family of four adults from Sonora, CA, at that income level, qualifies for subsidies that would make an Anthem Blue Cross Bronze plan available for $4 per month. That’s not a typo. Four bucks. For $172 /mo., such a family could get an enhanced Silver plan from Anthem with a $1,000 family deductible, $16,000 less than the Joys’ old plan. $507, what the Joys were paying before, gets an Anthem Gold plan with no deductible at all.

 This is where the "updates" come in, and I don't scare-quote that word just to be a jerk. Heritage's reporting was, at best, sloppy and incomplete, but they were also given incorrect information by their source, incorrect information that seems to be the result of honest confusion. They still should have checked, but in a series of tweets, they seem genuinely interested in sorting it out. Here are those updates:
UPDATE: Following publication of this story, Mediaite asserted on November 26 that Kate Joy’s family is eligible for subsidies that would make a Bronze 60 plan available at $4 per month. That is incorrect. 
Even though she has chosen not to disclose her husband’s retirement salary, Joy did confirm that it is higher than the $58,899 cut off for subsidies under Covered California. The Anthem option that is closest to the family’s current plan is $1,252 per month — money that Joy reiterated will cause unwanted cuts in other areas of the family budget: 
"As I tried to point out and I don’t think it came across, we are in a position to make discretionary spending cuts and we are truly blessed, but we still have a monthly budget and no one, I don’t care their income level, should have to deal with increases like we are seeing with Obamacare."
UPDATE II: In a series of tweets, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher challenged Heritage’s update to this story. It appears that a poorly worded sentence on our part is causing confusion about whether Kate Joy’s family qualifies for a subsidy. 
The sentence originally read: “The 150 percent premium increase amounts to one-fifth of her husband’s retirement salary, and she said that they don’t want to devote that much money to health care.” 
In his story, Christopher was basing his calculations on the $753 per month increase in the family’s premium. Over the course of a year, that increase totals $9,036. That’s how Christopher calculated the $45,120 salary he included in his story. 
However, in a subsequent email exchange with Kate Joy, she explained the total cost of the premium—not the increase alone—amounts to one-fifth of the salary. She declined to reveal the actual salary, but told us it is more than $58,899 cutoff for a subsidy. Joy got the subsidy number by using the Covered California calculator. 
She acknowledged that a family of four could qualify for a Bronze 60 plan at $4 per month, as Christopher explained. Joy’s family, however, isn’t eligible because of her husband’s income. 
What does this mean for the Joy family? Kate can purchase the Bronze 60 plan for $1,136 per month from Covered California. Instead, she’s decided to stick with Anthem, at a cost of $1,252 per month, because the Bronze 60 plan has higher out-of-pocket costs in the event of a major medical event. In our earlier update, we inadvertently used the $1,136 figure instead of the $1,252 monthly cost. We regret the error.
As I explained to Heritage's Robert Bluey on Twitter, Joy's revised claim, that their income is five times the total premium amount, still only adds up to about $75,000, well within the cutoff for federal assistance. The cutoff figure that Kate Joy got from the Covered California calculator is for cost-sharing subsidies; the cutoff for premium assistance is $94,200. According to Covered California, based on a $75,000 a year income for a family of four, a PPO Bronze costs $171 /mo. after premium assistance.

 Ideological differences aside, this is confusing stuff, and even the best mainstream reporters have failed to thoroughly check these stories out. What's important is that everyone get the right information, and get health insurance if they can. Heritage has offered to help Mrs. Joy get in touch with me so we can sort this whole thing out. Whatever you want to call it, a correction, an update, or a clarification, Fox News should follow Heritage's lead, and give its viewers the correct story.

Here's the post after it was edited, and then still not published, by Mediaite:

Heritage Foundation Updates Incorrect Obamascare Story

On Monday night's The Kelly File, Fox News' Trace Gallagher delivered a report on yet another Obamascare horror story that didn't quite check out, and which was based entirely on reporting from The Heritage Foundation blog. Since publication of a fact-check on that story, Heritage has updated their story several times to address the points raised in that critique, acknowledging some problems in their original report. That's to their credit, even if they couldn't bring themselves to call them corrections, but their updated post still doesn't check out.

The Fox News report focused on the sacrifices that the family of Northern Californian Kate Joy will have to make in order to afford health insurance under Obamacare, which includes things like extra mortgage payments, manicures, and dinners out. “They live in northern California, and help support their 19- and 21-year-old sons who work part-time and go to college,” Gallagher reported. “Here’s the deal. Under the old plan they paid $499 a month. Of course it was cancelled, because it doesn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. Look at the number. $1,252 per month.”

According to that Heritage post, the Joys “live off her husband’s retirement salary,” and that “the family does not qualify for any subsidies.”

She told Heritage that the $750 increase was on-fifth of her husband's salary, which is $45,120 a year. According to Covered California, a family of four adults from Sonora, CA, at that income level, qualifies for subsidies that would make an Anthem Blue Cross Bronze plan available for $4 per month. That’s not a typo. Four bucks. For $172 /mo., such a family could get an enhanced Silver plan from Anthem with a $1,000 family deductible, $16,000 less than the Joys’ old plan. $507, what the Joys were paying before, gets an Anthem Gold plan with no deductible at all.

Heritage's reporting was, at best, sloppy and incomplete, but they were also given incorrect information by their source, incorrect information that seems to be the result of honest confusion. They still should have checked, but in a series of tweets, they seem genuinely interested in sorting it out. Here are those updates:


UPDATE: Following publication of this story, Mediaite asserted on November 26 that Kate Joy’s family is eligible for subsidies that would make a Bronze 60 plan available at $4 per month. That is incorrect.

Even though she has chosen not to disclose her husband’s retirement salary, Joy did confirm that it is higher than the $58,899 cut off for subsidies under Covered California.

The Anthem option that is closest to the family’s current plan is $1,252 per month — money that Joy reiterated will cause unwanted cuts in other areas of the family budget:

As I tried to point out and I don’t think it came across, we are in a position to make discretionary spending cuts and we are truly blessed, but we still have a monthly budget and no one, I don’t care their income level, should have to deal with increases like we are seeing with Obamacare.

UPDATE II: In a series of tweets, Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher challenged Heritage’s update to this story. It appears that a poorly worded sentence on our part is causing confusion about whether Kate Joy’s family qualifies for a subsidy.

The sentence originally read: “The 150 percent premium increase amounts to one-fifth of her husband’s retirement salary, and she said that they don’t want to devote that much money to health care.”

In his story, Christopher was basing his calculations on the $753 per month increase in the family’s premium. Over the course of a year, that increase totals $9,036. That’s how Christopher calculated the $45,120 salary he included in his story.

However, in a subsequent email exchange with Kate Joy, she explained the total cost of the premium—not the increase alone—amounts to one-fifth of the salary. She declined to reveal the actual salary, but told us it is more than $58,899 cutoff for a subsidy.

Joy got the subsidy number by using the Covered California calculator. She acknowledged that a family of four could qualify for a Bronze 60 plan at $4 per month, as Christopher explained. Joy’s family, however, isn’t eligible because of her husband’s income.

What does this mean for the Joy family? Kate can purchase the Bronze 60 plan for $1,136 per month from Covered California. Instead, she’s decided to stick with Anthem, at a cost of $1,252 per month, because the Bronze 60 plan has higher out-of-pocket costs in the event of a major medical event.

In our earlier update, we inadvertently used the $1,136 figure instead of the $1,252 monthly cost. We regret the error.


As I explained to Heritage's Robert Bluey on Twitter, Joy's revised claim, that their income is five times the total premium amount, still only adds up to about $75,000, well within the cutoff for federal assistance. The cutoff figure that Kate Joy got from the Covered California calculator is for cost-sharing subsidies; the cutoff for premium assistance is $94,200. According to Covered California, based on a $75,000 a year income for a family of four, a PPO Bronze costs $171 /mo. after premium assistance.

Ideological differences aside, this is confusing stuff, and even the best mainstream reporters have failed to thoroughly check these stories out. What's important is that everyone get the right information, and get health insurance if they can. Heritage has offered to help Mrs. Joy get in touch with me so we can sort this whole thing out.

Original Version: Fox Lifts Bogus Obamascare Story from Heritage Foundation Without Sourcing

This post was edited, several hours after publication by Mediaite, without my input or knowledge. This is the post as it was originally written and published, minus the annoying font colors that Blogger changed for no good reason: Fixed the formatting:
Even as CNN greatly improves its reporting on Obamacare, Fox News continues the mainstream media trend of bogus reporting on supposed Obamacare horror stories that don’t pan out. On Monday night’s The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly featured a report by Trace Gallagher that told the sad story of a family that might have to cut down on manicures and such, in order to afford their Obamacare plan, and while the story predictably doesn’t add up, it has the added twist of being lifted from The Heritage Foundation’s blog, without attribution.

 Gallagher’s report focused on Kate Joy, a California woman who, “despite her name, is not happy” about Obamacare. She and her husband “have an extensive Christmas list, and have checked it more than twice,” Gallagher reveals. “It’s a list of what they plan to give up to pay for the new healthcare plan.”

Obamacare burn! Nicely done.

“They live in northern California, and help support their 19- and 21-year-old sons who work part-time and go to college,” he continues. “Here’s the deal. Under the old plan they paid $499 a month. Of course it was cancelled, because it doesn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act. Look at the number. $1,252 per month.”

This would be a good place for Gallagher to explain why the old plan didn’t qualify under the Affordable Care Act, but he doesn’t. The viewer, then, is free to assume that the old plan only covered non-complicated doctors’ visits on alternating Tuesdays.

“That’s actually more than my monthly mortgage on my home,” Joy says in an interview clip. “You can imagine that you have to start thinking about, you know, where is the extra money coming from to pay for the policy.”

“To make up for the increase, the Joys are cutting money they normally add to the mortgage every month,” Gallagher explains. “They are cutting the home phone, instead using cell phones. Charitable donations go down, along with the anniversary fund, and teeth cleanings will be just once a year. Add to that manicures, magazines and movies, and they should have the extra $750 they need. Despite her name, Kate Joy isn’t happy.”

“Fewer haircuts, not eating out as much, not going to the movies. That affects small businesses in our community,” Joy says.

On the latter point, people paying more under Obamacare are extreme outliers, so the millions more people who will be paying less ought to be able to pick up the slack for manicurists and dinners at The Olive Garden.

Stay tuned, though, because Kate Joy’s nails may yet be saved. “Remember, California rejected President Obama’s plan to extend those individual policies,” Gallagher reminds viewers, “so the Joys’ reality begins in 36 days.”

(Watch Video Here)

At face value, most people would probably agree that one set of marginally gnarlier nails is a fair price to pay so that millions of other people can no longer be denied health insurance, but it doesn’t even have to be that way.

Newshounds‘ Ellen Brodsky thought something sounded familiar, and smelled a little funky, about Gallagher’s reporting. She pointed out that the report is an almost rote regurgitation of a Heritage Foundation blog post, and that something had to be wrong.

The Heritage post makes the claim that the Joys don’t qualify for subsidies, a subject which Gallagher ignores: If this family is struggling to get by to the point that they have to give up dental treatments (as both reports stated), it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t qualify for any subsidies. Considering that the Kelly File has come up with many of Fox’s even more numerous bogus ObamaCare victims, there’s good reason to be skeptical.
It’s also suspect that Gallagher didn’t discuss it. After all, it’s a major component of the Affordable Care Act. 

According to that Heritage post, the Joys “live off her husband’s retirement salary,” which, according to what Kate Joy told them, is $45,120.00 a year, and that “the family does not qualify for any subsidies.”

But according to Covered California, both of those things cannot be true. A family of four adults from Sonora, CA, at that income level, qualifies for subsidies that would make an Anthem Blue Cross Bronze plan available for $4 per month. That’s not a typo. Four bucks. For $172 /mo., such a family could get an enhanced Silver plan from Anthem with a $1,000 family deductible, $16,000 less than the Joys’ old plan. $507, what the Joys were paying before, gets an Anthem Gold plan with no deductible at all. Heritage and Gallagher also fail to acknowledge the fact that without Obamacare, the Joys wouldn’t even have the option of covering their adult children.

Gallagher doesn’t credit Heritage for this story, but for Heritage, credit isn’t the point; slagging Obamacare with stories like this is the point. Given a choice, I’d much rather Gallagher and his staff had bothered to check Heritage‘s reporting than disclosed them as the source. It would also be nice if Kelly’s team would exercise some editorial judgment in the Obamacare stories she puts on the air.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Unedited version: Maddow Slams ‘Conservative Media Criticism Website’ Mediaite’s Coverage of Gettysburg Address Scandlet


This is the unedited version of this post, which was published at Mediaite.

As Mediaite's Andrew Kirell reported yesterday, the conservative media spun up its outrage warp drive over President Obama's supposed omission of the words "under God" from his recitation of the Gettysburg Address, only to later learn that the President had been asked to read a first draft of the speech that did not contain the phrase. It was with some delight, then, that I noted Mediaite fave Rachel Maddow cited our reporting on Tuesday night's episode of The Rachel Maddow Show.

 Rachel began the segment in trademark fashion, building a foundation of context for the story by ticking off several other deranged right-wing outrages from earlier in Barack Obama's presidency. This is one of the reasons people hang in until 9 pm to see TRMS, because even when she's covering a story you've already seen 18 times that day, Rachel Maddow will sweeten the pot with old video clips and history lessons, or in this case, histrionics lessons. She touched on a few perennial favorites, like the evergreen vacation outrage, but missed my personal favorites, the teleprompter story, the trips to Israel kerfuffle, and uppity King Obama's use of a food taster.

 Then, she went around the horn describing how various right-wing media outlets fairly convulsed with outrage over the President's "omission" of the phrase "under God," and Mediaite's writeup appeared onscreen. What a proud moment...(record-scratch noise).

 "The conservative media criticism website Mediaite covered it under the guise of covering the outrage about it," Maddow said.

video


 Wait, what? By "conservative media criticism website," does she mean a website that constantly criticizes the conservative media? Either interpretation is unfair, since this site has always featured writers with a diverse set of viewpoints, so while you can argue over where the balance tilts at any given time, or take issue with the merits of those varying points of view, we have always been defined by that diversity of views. When we're not a "conservative media criticism website," we're "primarily left-wing," to hear Bill O'Reilly tell it.

 On the issue of the merits, the accusation that Mediaite covered the Gettysburg kerfuffle under the "guise" of covering the outrage about it would be fair if we had suddenly, just for Barack Obama's recitation of the speech, created a whole new category of reporting on outrage just for the occasion. It's actually kind of our wheelhouse. It's only fair to note that, in covering the outrage, Andrew Kirell noted the following:
TheBlaze has reported extensively in the past on the controversy surrounding whether Lincoln actually said the words “under God” in his original speech. Lincoln’s original draft did not include the words “under God” and so, perhaps, Obama was reading from that iteration? We’ll likely soon find out.
If anything, the websites that ran with this story probably should have waited to find out, but they didn't. What we did do was provide that bit of context, and update our story immediately, crediting Media Matters for pointing out that the President was reading from the earliest draft of the Gettysburg Address, which did not include the words "under God," and that he was asked to do so by documentarian Ken Burns.

 It would have been even nicer if we had tracked down that notation on Burns' "Learn the Address" website, but as much as I hate to be the one to point this out (not really; nothing would please me more than to have the wingnut media further clown itself by shrieking about a "coverup"), it probably wasn't there when this ridiculous narrative got rolling. It's not in the Google cache version of the page from November 15, which means it was added some time after that. It also apparently wasn't there when CBS News' Major Garrett, as fastidious a reporter as there is, asked Jay Carney about it at Tuesday's White House briefing, long after we published our piece.

Aside from failing to turn up something that probably wasn't there when he began writing the post, Andrew Kirell got the story right.

 (h/t stand-up comic and Mediaite reader Andy Kindler)