May 5, 2017

New York Magazine, Other Outlets Push False Claim That Rape Is a Pre-Existing Condition in AHCA

Early Thursday morning, New York Magazine published an online item which claimed that “rape is a pre-existing condition” under the healthcare bill which has passed in the House. As Reason.com noted, “None of this is true. Like, not even a little bit.” That appears not to be the point, though. The point of engaging in such irresponsibility appears to have been to get it out there so that at least some people never learn about the “correction” end up believing the original false claims. In other words, it’s shamelessly produced fake news.

The original URL of the magazine’s story, as found at the related Reason.com post criticizing it, was:

http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/05/under-new-healthcare-bill-rape-is-a-pre-existing-condition.html

The magazine has since essentially bulldozed Sarah Spellings’ original column. Attempting to cover its tracks, it has given the revised version a completely new URL (http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/05/new-healthcare-bill-ahca-sexual-assault.html), to which all attempts to access the original are redirected.

The original post could still be found via Google webcache at 6:45 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday.

Since that cache often changes or becomes inaccessible longer-term, it’s useful right now to compare the original and replacement versions side-by-side to see how utterly wrong the original entry was (click here or on the graphic below to see a larger-sized comparison in a separate window or tab; presented in full because of the items’ brevity, and for fair use and discussion purposes):

NYmagOrigAndRevisedAHCApreexisting050417

Note how the original virtually dripped with contempt for President Trump and his daughter Ivanka.

The side-by-side comparison clearly shows that an appropriate treatment of the original would have been to have Spellings retract it, admit that she was wrong about almost everything in it, and issue an abject, unconditional apology. Despite how its members incessantly lecture others about being honest, that almost never happens in the establishment press.

Although she didn’t address the correction at the time of his critique, likely because it had not yet appeared, Reason.com’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown also effectively nuked the tiny amount of supposed substance which remained in Spellings’ replacement post (links are in original; bolds are mine):

No, the AHCA Doesn’t Make Rape a Preexisting Condition

Geezus, people.

The latest less-than-truthful meme about Republicans’ Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the U.S. House on Thursday, is that it makes rape a “preexisting condition” for health-insurance purposes. According to a host of women’s publications and an army of outraged tweeters, sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors could soon be forced to disclose their attacks to insurance companies, which could subsequently deny them health-insurance coverage because of it.

None of this is true. Like, not even a little bit. And the fact it’s not just being shared by shady social-media activists and their unwitting dupes but by ostensibly-legitimate media outlets is another sad indictment of press standards these days.

Nothing in the new Republican health care bill specifically addresses sexual assault or domestic violence whatsoever. What it does say is that states can apply for waivers that will allow insurance companies, under certain limited circumstances, to charge higher premiums to people based on their personal medical histories—that’s it.

… for a while, in the 1980s, it was apparently not unheard of for health insurance companies to deny coverage to domestic abuse victims.

By 2009, however, all but eight U.S. states had passed laws directly prohibiting the practice, and as of July 2014, all but six states had.* Even if Obamacare is replaced by the AHCA tomorrow, insurers in 44 states will still be barred by law from considering domestic and sexual abuse a preexisting condition.

Effectively refuting what little substance theoretically remained in Spellings’ replacement post, Brown noted the following:

Doesn’t that mean there’s a possibility that those other six states could choose to apply for waivers, and then insurance companies within them could perhaps choose to charge higher premiums for abuse victims? Yes. They also could choose to charge higher premiums for prior victims of car accidents and ingrown toenails. It doesn’t mean they will.

Politifact investigation in 2009 could turn up no evidence that such practices were happening in the then-eight states that would allow it.

… the (health insurance) industry willingly follows the guidance in this area set out by the National Association of Insurance Companies, which advises against coverage discrimination for abuse and assault victims.

Brown’s media-related bottom line:

If Democrats and progressives would just stick to actual details of the AHCA, they would still have plenty of material to make Republicans look bad (and the same goes for traffic-thirsty bloggers). But once again, that’s not enough for them. In their zeal to portray Donald Trump and the current GOP as worse than Nazis, the actual details of the bill don’t matter—and if that terrifies a ton of sexual-assault survivors and terrorizes American women in the process, so be it.

In other words, there’s every reason to be believe that the underlying motivation behind New York Magazine’s breathtakingly irresponsible piece was to promote what it should have recognized — or perhaps even knew — was fake news from the very outset. The fact that it wouldn’t formally retract and renounce Spellings’ original submission, instead pretending that was utterly wrong was “corrected,” supports that belief.

Many left-wing blogs have taken the false bait, as have other supposedly more reputable outlets. One of them is CNN, which still has a woefully weak item from Thursday by Jen Christensen giving life to the incredibly remote possibility that “Rape and domestic violence could be pre-existing conditions.” Christensen uncritically relayed the story of a woman who had difficulty obtaining insurance 15 years ago, but eventually found coverage.

One could devote an entire post to critiquing Christensen’s work, but this one sentence will give readers an idea of how weak it is:

Some states have banned that practice (of treating sexual assault and domestic violence as pre-existing conditions), but not all.”

44 out of 50 is “some”?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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