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Monday, November 11, 2013

Bill O'Reilly vs. The Obamacare Navigators

Last night (November 11, 2013) on the O'Reilly factor, Bill O'Reilly uses the hidden "investigations" from Project Veritas ran by James O'Keefe.  In the report, it is shown that the Obamacare navigators encourage a "client" to not file all of their income because the "client" did not report the extra income from cleaning houses, cutting friends' hair, etc.  Another navigator told a "client" to not report his tobacco use.  However, there are several problems with O'Reilly's claim that there was fraud in the first instance and deceit in the second case.

First, O'Reilly did not mention that Project Veritas was ran by O'Keefe.  Why?  Because O'Keefe has been arrested and charged with a felony for entering a federal building under false pretenses.  O'Keefe pleaded down to a misdemeanor.  Furthermore, O'Reilly has been known to not disclose O'Keefe's tendency to be scammed himself and editing videos.  O'Reilly is complaining about fraud and deceit by using a "report" from someone who used fraud and deceit and subsequently arrested.  Therefore, by not revealing this information to give a complete picture of the story and not being, at least skeptical, that O'Keefe's operation may have edited out navigators that were doing their job correctly, O'Reilly used O'Keefe's video and concluded that two people not doing their job properly is showing corruption of the entire Obamacare system.  Therefore,  O'Reilly himself is using deceit to hammer the Obamacare navigators as a whole.  This does not vindicate what these two navigators did, but it is a lack of journalistic ethics and standards on O'Reilly's part to not report on O'Keefe's troubled past and lying.

After O'Reilly finished his 'Talking Points Memo', Juan Williams and Katharine Ham were on to discuss the videos.  Williams went on to state that what the navigators did was wrong, but this is not a sign of fraud.  Rather it was a small sample and it is something that needs to be dealt with by the contractor and possibly fixed by legislation:
Well I just think that's an outrage, Bill. But again you know it seems to me like we've got a hater's ball going on here. I think everybody is just like oh, let's -- let's find anything we can splice back on Obamacare.
And now these folks have come up with some people. I guess they are independents or whatever. They don't necessarily work for the government. They work for the contractor. But there is no evidence of any widespread fraud here.
Senator Rubio has introduced a bill, though I must tell you in the Senate that would say you can't hire felons, you can't hire people who are convicts. You know, Kathleen Sebelius at HHS has said it's possible. It's not a federal requirement. The states can have the requirement.
So I think that everybody is on board. We don't want any corruption. But so far there is no corruption. All we have is everybody who doesn't like it who really wants to subvert Obamacare, jumping on anything they can find.
Thus, O'Reilly is taking an instance at one navigator center without investigating how often it is occurring and determining if this is a situation that is commonplace at most centers in the country.  The reason why O'Reilly called this one instance corruption, which corresponds to corruption of the entire system was, "I don't know if we have time to go to every single, you know, navigator deal that they have, but...".  It makes one wonder why he can, later on in the segment, call poor people lazy, but he refuses to take the time and effort to do a proper investigation.  But, as Williams said, the objective was not to to give an objective analysis, but rather to smear the entire law.  Furthermore, using O'Reilly's method one can suggest that the professionalism at a particular Kentucky navigator center can be extrapolated and be an example of every center in the country.  The lack of evidence and failure to conduct an adequate investigation into the matter tends to be O'Reilly's technique in debates to avoid giving his audience the complete picture.  This was seen in O'Reilly's debate with Jon Stewart when O'Reilly claimed that, under Obama's presidency, disabled people magically increased although he failed to show that fraud was taking place.

Secondly, it must also be noted that although the two navigators were in the wrong it is not entirely clear that their wrongdoings would have any detrimental effect to Obamacare.  As mentioned above the first woman in the video told the "client" to not file certain earnings.  These earnings included cutting hair and cleaning houses. The navigator told the "client", "You are supposed to file a percentage of it... Don't get yourself in trouble by declaring it now."  Now, the navigator was factually incorrect to state that you have to file the income as a percentage.  Therefore, she obviously did not know what the law actually was.  The entire income is taxable, not just a percentage.  But how would the "client" be able to declare the income how on past 1040 or 1040-E forms since it was just a cash transaction without a W2?  Furthermore, even babysitting is considered taxable income.  If O'Reilly is so concerned about minimal cash income (since it was not elaborated how much the "client" made), then he should demand that the IRS audit every 13 year old girl in the country to find out if they scamming the system.  Assuming that the "client" made $2000 in cutting hair and cleaning houses for "extra cash" (although it is unlikely that he made this much money and considered it "extra cash") the difference of taxes owed is only $200!  Obviously, the navigator should be disciplined, but to claim that it was fraud is a stretch since, as I said, not declaring income from babysitting would also be declared a fraud despite the fact that someone can babysit at any age.  So, legally, a 10 year old can babysit and must fill out a 1040-E form.  Therefore, technically the navigator gave the "client" bad advice, but as a practical matter the income would not have changed the "client's" overall income of $15,000 and change the amount of subsidies he would have received.  It is important to note here that, since this was in Texas, the "client" would not have be eligible for Medicaid because Rick Perry refused to expand the program.  Without the Obamacare the Federal Poverty Level for the 48 contiguous states and Washington DC is $11,490.  If Perry accepted the Medicaid expansion, the extra income may have pushed the "client" over the threshold, which is $15,415.  Therefore, the fraud would not have changed the status of the "clients" Medicaid eligibility and, when looking at filing taxes, it is nothing more than a 13 year old doing the same thing.  Furthermore, O'Reilly apparently believes that it is OK for millionaires and billionaires to take advantage of a system as long as it is legal despite the fact that the loophole that is legal costs the country more money while as the poor person "lying" costs the country less than a few hundred dollars.

So "fraud" is a stretch and is nothing but a way to report negatively on the Obamacare   Furthermore, you have conservative states pushing for nullification of the Obamacare, including Speaker Boehner, which is defying federal law and O'Reilly has not bothered to rant against this.  Conservative group Generation Opportunity, a Koch funded entity, is encouraging young people to opt out of the Obamacare  which would be lead to a fine under a penalty of law.  Again, nothing from O'Reilly.  Although, it would be interesting to see O'Reilly's reaction to this conservative group when on Saturday November 9, 2013 there was an "Opt Out" gathering during the Miami University football game where all the college kids were drinking, but O'Reilly has argued that tailgating promotes unruly behavior.

The second navigator, again, was wrong to tell the "client" to lie, but it is not clear that if he did not check the box that he did not use tobacco that he was actually lying under the law.  The "client" asks the navigator, " said something if you smoke or something like that.  I don't really smoke.  I may..."  The navigation interrupts him and replies, "You lie because your premiums will be higher."  However, O'Reilly failed to do some research on this issue.  First, for the 2014 enrollment period it does not matter if you check the box if you smoke or not because their is a glitch in the system that will not process the surcharge and charge higher premiums for those who smoke.  The increase in premiums for tobacco use will not take effect until 2015.  Secondly, what counts as an "occasional smoker" is not clear cut.  Back in February Sarah Kliff noted that the regulations of tobacco use has not been fleshed out yet.  As the law was implemented the regulation was set as "as using an average of four or more times per week in the past six months, excluding religious or ceremonial use."  The "client" did not specify how much he smoked and the navigator certainly did not know the law because the "client" said 'occasionally'.

One last note.  The "investigation" only shows two navigators, in training, encouraging this behavior.  When Juan Williams pointed this out O'Reilly simply stated that there isn't enough time to investigate every navigator.  However, any study that investigates fraud has to have an adequate sample size to be considered widespread fraud.  This is no different when O'Reilly claimed that under Obama's presidency disabled people magically increased although he failed to show that fraud was taking place.  From a personal experience, I was denied disability despite having a brain tumor.  Also, when I signed up for Obamacare over the phone the navigator made a mistake on my income.  This past week I received a phone call from the oversight department asking me to clarify what my income is.  Thus, I had to justify my income.  Furthermore, as mentioned my Kliff and the Chicago Sun-Times individuals can be convicted of fraud if they lie about smoking more than the specified amount since doctors can determine if individuals more often due to certain illnesses and tests performed.  During this show O'Reilly claimed that people are poor because they are addicts, unintelligent, or lazy.  What is O'Reilly's excuse for not researching these areas more thoroughly?

The answer to the above question may be answered as being nothing but a conservative argument for why voting laws should require more rigorous hoops for citizens to jump through despite the fact that 7 people out of 3 million people commit fraud.  This must also be why people at Fox News during the 2012 Presidential election were shocked that Romney lost and could not accept the results.  Fox News was rooting for Romney so they extrapolated this information and concluded that the country also voted for Romney.

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