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An Obamacare “Horror Story” That Just Isn’t True: How Did This Happen? Part 2
Posted on January 11, 2014, by Maggie Mahar
For months, health reform’s opponents have been trumpeting tales of Obamacare’s innocent victims - Americans who lost their insurance because it doesn’t comply with the ACA’s regulations, and now have to shell out more than they can afford – or go without coverage.
Trouble is, many of those stories just aren’t true.
Below I posted about a Fort Worth Star Telegram article that leads with the tale of Whitney Johnson, a 26-year-old new mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). Her insurer just cancelled her policy, and according to Johnson, new insurance would cost her over $1,000 a month.
That claim stopped me in my tracks. Under the ACA, no 26-year-old could be charged $1,000 monthly – even if she has MS.
Obamacare prohibits insurers from charging more because a customer suffers from a pre-existing condition. This rule applies to all new policies, whether they are sold inside or outside the exchanges.
At that point, I knew that something was wrong.
When I checked the exchange – plugging in Johnson’s county and her age – I soon found a Blue Choice Gold PPO plan priced at $332 monthly (just $7 more than she had been paying for the plan that was cancelled). Co-pays to see a primary care doctor would run just $10 ($50 to visit a specialist) and she would not have to pay down the $1,500 deductible before the insurance kicked in.
My radar went up: Recently, I have been reading more and more reports regarding “fake Obamacare victims.”
Now I couldn’t help but wonder: Who are these folks in the Start-Telegram story? The paper profiled four people who supposedly had been hurt by Obamacare. When I Googled their names I soon discovered that three (including Johnson) wereTea Party members.
The paper describes them as among Obamacare’s “losers,” but the truth is that they didn’t want to be winners. Two hadn’t even attempted to check prices in the exchanges.
Meanwhile, it appeared no one at the Star-Telegram even attempted to run a background check on the sources, or fact-check their stories. I couldn’t help but wonder: “Why?”
The answer will surprise you.
Johnson finds affordable insurance …
When I tried to phone the reporter, she didn’t return multiple calls. Finally, I reached an editor at the paper. He told me that both Yamil Berard, the reporter, and her editor were out of the office. I expressed my concern that inaccuracies in the story would discourage readers who were thinking about signing up in the exchanges. He suggested that I sounded like an “advocate” for Obamacare.
To my surprise, two hours later he called me back.
He had just received an internal email, he told me, which revealed that Whitney Johnson had found affordable insurance for $350 a month – just $25 more than the premium on her cancelled policy, and roughly what I thought she would pay in the exchange.
I asked the editor if he could send me a copy of the e-mail. “No,” he replied “It’s an internal memo.”
Would the paper publish a follow-up, acknowledging that Johnson would not have to pay $1,000 for coverage?
“I’m not sure what we’ll do with it.” He sounded cautious. The Star-Telegram Doesn’t Tell Its Readers
To this day – more than a month after the story appeared – the Star-Telegram still hasn’t published a follow-up, explaining that under Obamacare, no 20-something – including Johnson – will be charged $1,000 a month.
I then contacted Johnson, who confirmed that she had found a $350 Blue plan outside of the exchange. Based on the details she provided, I managed to locate it. (The premium is actually $347.92 a month.)
It turns out to be very similar to the exchange policy I had found. The premium is higher, but the deductible ($1,000 instead of $1,500) and co-pays for medications ($10/50/100 vs. $35/75/150) would be slightly lower. The provider network would be the same (Blue Choice).
The exchange plan offers a stronger safety net, and for someone with MS this could be important: If her husband’s income drops, or he loses health benefits at work, they would immediately be available for a subsidy. Because her new policy is not on the exchange, they would have to wait until open enrollment in November 2014 to sign up for a 2015 plan with subsidies.
I Talk to the Story’s Editor–and the Reporter
Next, I spoke to Steve Kaskovich, the editor who assigned the story to Berard. He explained that he had asked the reporter to write a piece about people whose policies were cancelled, and as a result were “caught in the quagmire.”
I originally wrote this post for www.healthinsurance.org, an independent website (not connected to the insurance industry)where I, Wendell Potter, Hal Pollack, LInda Bertghold and Louise Norris all blog.
To read the rest of this post click here / and “Scroll down to Editor: Find People Caught In a Quagmire.” There you will discover what the editor had to say. When I finally talked to the reporter, the truth came out. You can also hear me talking about the Star-Telegram piece –and problems with the way the media has been covering health care reform on NPR’s “Eye on the Media”.
Obamacare “Horror Stories”–Who Are These People? How Many of These Stories Are True? Part 1
Posted on January 4, 2014, by Maggie Mahar
No doubt you have seen or read stories about innocent Americans who have become casualties of Obamacare. The law that was supposed to help middle-class families is now asking them to pay unreasonable premiums and sky-high deductibles. In many cases, they had perfectly good coverage that has been cancelled because it didn’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) “standards.”
Trouble is, some of these anecdotes just aren’t true. When an unbiased reporter begins to make some phone calls, they start to fall apart.
Nevertheless, these tales of Americans harmed by Obamacare are being promoted by various conservative groups–including the Republican National Committee. An internal RNC memo provides advice on how to collect stories of “victims” and feed them to the press.
Knowing this, when I read the horror stories, I can’t help but wonder: have the folks who are quoted checked prices on their Exchange? Do they know whether they are eligible for government subsidies? How many didn’t even try to find out because they just don’t like the ACA? Who are these people who step forward to identify themselves victims of the trainwreck called Obmacare? Where did they come from? How did the reporters who wrote the stories find them?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are journalists fact checking their tales? How many are just writing down whatever their sources tell them?
"A Young Mother Suffering From MS Searches For Insurance"
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a story that ran in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on November 26. The lead is compelling:
“Whitney Johnson, an Arlington 26-year-old with multiple sclerosis, can’t afford to go without health insurance. Her life depends on it.
She gave birth to her first child Sept. 2 after undergoing a series of rigorous steroid treatments, surgeries and a plasma exchange that saved her life. She pays $325 a month for an individual insurance plan – a drop in the bucket compared with the cost of her plasma protein replacement therapy, which runs $40,000 a pop. She undergoes treatment every five weeks.
But now, with the Affordable Care Act in full swing, Johnson’s insurance is under threat.. . .
Recently, the story explains, Johnson’s insurer sent her a letter saying that because her policy “does not comply with Obamacare” it will be cancelled Jan. 1, 2014. Initially she hoped that she might shift to her husband’s employer-based health plan For $325 a month, it covers him and their son. But it turns out that if Whitney were added the policy, their premium would triple.
Meanwhile, she “has been unable to access the federal health exchange website” the newspaper reports, “which has been hampered by technical problems.”
In a video talking about her experience, Johnson claims that when she began “trying to shop around ‘ outside the Exchange, “the rates went from $1,000 to $1,800 a month for not even close to the coverage that my previous insurance had offered me.”
This is when I knew that there was something very wrong with Johnson’s story.
"$1000 a Month To Insure a 26-Year- Old ???"
Anyone who knows anything about Obamacare would realize that under the ACA, no 26-year-old would be asked to pay $12,000 a year – even if she had MS. Obamacare does not let insurers charge more because a customer suffers from a pre-existing condition. This rule applies to all new policies, whether they are sold inside or outside the exchanges.
And Johnson is just 26. In most exchanges, 20-somethings pay far less than older Americans. I was certain that that she could get a much better deal. It didn’t take me long to find one.
Posted in "horror stories" and Obamacare, "Tea Party, fact-checking, Obamacare and "fake stories", Obamacare and unafffordable premiums, Obamacare's victims, policies cancelled, Uncategorized, Whitney Johnson | Tagged cancelled policies, deductibles, Ft. Worth STar Telegram, Health Insurance. Resource Center, Healthinsurance.org, Obamacare and horror stories, Obamacare's victims, premiums, unaffordable, Whitney Johnson | GOP lies
The Media’s One-Sided Coverage of Obamacare
Posted on December 23, 2013 | by Maggie Mahar
- See more at: http://www.healthbeatblog.com/#sthash.o0UXi41x.dpuf