Fox News’ “Obama to Soldiers: Pay Up” Debunked

The Washington Free Beacon’s misleading article Obama to Soldiers: Pay Up has been granted an audience at Fox News.

The article claims: “The Obama administration on Friday threatened to veto a defense appropriations bill in part because it does not include higher health care fees for members of the military.”

The phrase “in part” seems important to bear in mind since there are 19 other objections and concerns in the official policy statement. And as if to deceive readers into believing all soldiers will be paying higher healthcare fees, the article fails to clarify which members of the military will be affected: largely working age retirees who can bear the additional costs, not active duty service members. (The above image is the same one accompanying the story.)

Military retiree pay is rather substantial—comparable to the median personal income of working Americans. And while retirees’ insurance costs may be raised, their compensation is also being raised. Additionally, the number of veterans in the U.S. is declining, so it makes sense to allocate less money for fewer people. (See image 1)

TRICARE describes the 2013 budget as “generous.” Their own links report minimal fee increases. Out-of-pocket expenses are expected to rise 3% on average. Compare that to the 5.8% increase in out-of-pocket costs and 8.2% increase in payroll deductions for the healthcare of U.S. citizens according to the 2012 Milliman Medical Index.

Free prescription coverage from military treatment facilities will continue. Enrollment fees will be based on a tiered system, ensuring that those receiving less compensation will see the smallest cost increases. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs stated that “changes for the most part are a result of the increasing cost of healthcare nationally.” That is, the budget cut is not the primary reason for TRICARE’s rising fees.

Increasing nationwide healthcare costs are primarily caused by increasing privatization of medical providers. For-profit medicine incurs greater administrative overhead and lesser quality of care.

Furthermore, the Beacon’s article omits the fact that TRICARE is one of many healthcare programs available to retired veterans. Besides the obvious private insurance option, all military retirees are eligible for healthcare from the Veterans Health Administration, and they’re as eligible as any citizen for Medicaid and Medicare. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also contains provisions for expanded veteran healthcare coverage.

Why would the Free Beacon ignore every practical detail regarding the TRICARE budget cut? Perhaps because the facts don’t fit their agenda.

From the editor-in-chief’s article, Combat Journalism:

“The Washington Free Beacon is here to enter the arena of combat journalism. Our talented staff will add to the chorus of enterprising conservative reporters, publishing original stories, seeking out scoops, and focusing on the myriad connections between money and power in the progressive movement and Obama’s Washington. Our research and war room divisions will supplement that reporting with context, additional materials, and breaking video. At the Beacon, you will find the other half of the story, the half that the elite media have taken such pains to ignore: the inside deals, cronyism cloaked in the public interest, and far-out nostrums of contemporary progressivism and the Democratic Party. At the Beacon, all friends of freedom will find an alternative to the hackneyed spin, routine misstatements, paranoid hyperbole, and insipid folderol of Democratic officials and the liberal gasbags on MSNBC and talk radio. At the Beacon, we follow only one commandment: Do unto them.”

Clearly, Matthew Continetti’s priority is bashing what he perceives to be “the elitist left,” not committing to honest journalism. His polarized view of news media only serves to further divide people into an us-vs-them mentality, evidenced by his claim that the Beacon reports “the other half of the story”—as if there are only ever two sides to a story.

Reality isn’t black and white. Sometimes there are several sides to a story. Sometimes there’s only one: the truth. The Beacon gave permission to Fox News to publish Obama to Soldiers: Pay Up. Which “half” of the story is that elite media behemoth reporting, I wonder?

Even the right-leaning Conor Friedersdorf wrote a scathing review of the Free Beacon’s deceptive journalism, in case Contenetti’s antagonistic and conceited mission statement wasn’t alarming enough.

Odd that the Beacon condemns these cuts when TRICARE is paid for almost entirely with taxes. Given their conservative ideology, one would think they’d be stridently opposed to government spending. You can have small government, or you can have the world’s most expensive military. You can’t have both.

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