Nearly two-dozen pundits blitzed five Sunday news shows to dissect and criticize the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care law, highlighting pitiful enrollment statistics and discussing whether you really can keep the health care plan you like.
Karl Rove on Fox News Sunday, Peggy Noonan on This Week and Bill Kristol on Meet the Press took turns attacking the health care law, while former White House advisers Ezekiel Emanuel, Van Jones and David Axelrod did their best to defend it.
But were their assertions correct?
PunditFact, a new fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times, launched on Sunday, aiming to sort out the truth for you.
Like PolitiFact, PunditFact will rate statements based on the Truth-O-Meter. What’s different is PunditFact will solely focus on pundits and members of the media on radio, television and in newspapers and online.
We define a pundit as someone who offers analysis or opinions on the news, particularly politics and public policy. One can engage in punditry by writing, blogging or appearing on radio or TV. A pundit is not an elected official, not a declared candidate nor anyone in an official capacity with a political party, campaign or government.
As for the Sunday news shows, some pundits performed better than others.
The liveliest debate came on Fox News Sunday between Emanuel, a former health care adviser to President Barack Obama, and James Capretta, a conservative health policy expert.
The two jostled for 15 minutes, talking over each other and host Chris Wallace. The debate got so heated that Wallace quipped, “Maybe I’ll stop calling you gentlemen.”
In the middle of it all, Emanuel doubled down on an assertion that the White House isn’t to blame for the millions of people who will or could see their health insurance policies canceled.
“The insurance companies are making that choice, not the president,” he said. “The law does not require that.”
The fact is, Emanuel’s explanation hinges on a technicality. It is up to insurers how they comply with the law, which mandates that policyholders be covered for 10 “essential health benefits,” except for plans that are grandfathered in. But there’s little doubt the new law is influencing their changes in coverage. In fact, the law specifically was designed to eventually do away with insurance that doesn’t meet minimum coverage standards.
Later on the show, senator-turned-commentator Scott Brown, a Republican from Massachusetts, repeated a basic and oft-repeated criticism of the health care law — that it raises taxes and cuts Medicare.
On the taxes question, he is correct: The law includes new taxes on households making more than $250,000 a year, a tax on manufacturers and importers of certain medical devices, and a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services, among other things.
But Brown went too far in saying the law cuts Medicare. Rather, the law shrinks the rate at which Medicare was expected to expand in the future. On balance, we rate Brown’s claim Mostly True.
Talk about the health care law dominated all of the shows. On CBS’ Face the Nation, CBS legal correspondent Jan Crawford unleashed a startling — and largely correct — statistic: that only six people were able to sign up for health care through the federal insurance marketplace on the day healthcare.gov launched Oct. 1.