Favorite

Media misses full health insurance story 

So here's my advice: if you're somebody who's smoking hot about the Big Lie of the Affordable Care Act — you know, how President Obama told everybody that if they liked their current health insurance policy they could keep it — do yourself a favor. Avoid the county fair midway.

Because if you go, you're apt to encounter a quick-handed scoundrel running a shell game, and that boy will take your money. Doubtless Obama should have said almost everybody could keep their current plan, or that 95 percent could, but he apparently found that too, um, subtle for the campaign trail.

So now old Mitt "47-percent" Romney gets to call him a liar.

But while your attention's fixed on the president's "mendacity" and "paternalism," to quote one characteristically overwrought scribe, America's beloved health insurance industry is demonstrating exactly why we needed reform all along. Certain companies are taking advantage of the political confusion to sell people in the "individual market" far more expensive plans than they need and blame "Obamacare."

As usual, the nation's esteemed political media have gone along for the ride. CBS News, rapidly morphing into Fox News-lite, presented the heartbreaking tale of one Diane Barrette, a 56 year-old Floridian who got a letter from her insurance company cancelling her $54 a month policy and offering a replacement for $591 a month — a lot of money to her.

CBS correspondent Jan Crawford, deemed smart enough to cover the U.S. Supreme Court, took Barrette's story at face value. The idea that health insurance worth having could be purchased at a monthly cost of less than a steak dinner apparently failed to arouse her reporter's curiosity.

Poor Barrette choked up telling CBS her story, leading to several appearances on Fox News itself.

Had CBS done elementary due diligence, they'd have learned why Ms. Barrette's plan was so cheap. Reporters who did learned that among other shortcomings, it didn't cover hospitalization. In reality, she had no health insurance at all. A serious accident or illness might have bankrupted her — precisely the kind of rip-off the Affordable Care Act makes illegal.

Also, Barrette was taking the insurance company's word about the cost of a replacement policy. Writing for BillMoyers.com, Joshua Holland ran her numbers through Kaiser Permanente's subsidy calculator. With assistance from Obamacare, she can have a real policy covering preventive care and hospitalization for an out-of-pocket cost of $97 monthly, or a more generous "Silver" level plan for $209.

Now she calls it "a blessing in disguise."

In short, CBS News couldn't have gotten the story more backward had they tried. For its part, NBC News featured Los Angeles real estate agent Deborah Cavallaro whose similar experience led her to conclude "there's nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act."

However, LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik found that Cavallaro had simply failed to consult Covered California, the state's health plan exchange. When he did so, he quickly found that "better plans than she has now are available for her to purchase today, some of them for less money."

No doubt some among the 3 to 5 percent of Americans whose individual health care policies have been cancelled are experiencing genuine sticker shock. However, nobody should take his insurance company's word at face value without double-checking — a task admittedly made harder by healthcare.gov's website meltdown.

See, when you read a story about a couple like Dean and Mary Lou Griffin of Chadd's Ford, Penn., who told the Associated Press they'd expected to be able to keep the policy they bought three years ago, what reporters aren't asking is where they'd gotten that idea.

From President Obama? Possibly.

More likely, however, from an insurance broker. See, all providers have known about new coverage standards ever since the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010. Since then some have clearly been "churning" the market, offering low-risk, healthy customers bargain policies they knew perfectly well would no longer pass muster come January 1, 2014.

So now come the inevitable cancellation letters, and guess what? If they were lucky — and health-wise the Griffins have been fortunate — here comes the bad news. "We're buying insurance that we will never use and can't possibly ever benefit from," Dean Griffin complains. "We're basically passing on a benefit to other people who are not otherwise able to buy basic insurance."

Two thoughts: one, don't get cocky, you never know.

Two, boo-hoo-hoo. You can afford it.

Meanwhile, Dylan Scott at talkingpointsmemo.com has documented companies sending "misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into...more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces." Authorities in four states have disciplined Humana affiliates for exactly that.

It's a classic bait and switch: luring customers with unsustainably low rates, and then blaming the White House for their chicanery.

That's basically why we needed Obamacare to begin with.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Blaming Obama

    A couple of months ago, on May 10, President Trump invited two Russian diplomats into the White House to celebrate his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Not again

    This just in: Nothing boosts circulation or enhances ratings like a sex scandal.
    • Jan 14, 2016
  • Never wrong

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

  • 'Cemetery angel' Ruth Coker Burks featured in new short film

    Ruth Coker Burks, the AIDS caregiver and activist memorably profiled by David Koon as the cemetery angel in Arkansas Times in 2015, is now the subject of a short film made by actress Rose McGowan.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
  • Not Whitewater

    Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.
    • Jul 27, 2017
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • No one in charge

    The American president has long been described with the honorific "Leader of the Free World." No more.
    • Jul 13, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Narrow opening for Arkansas Democrats

    "Somebody in this room — it's time to go big or go home." At the Democratic Party of Arkansas's Clinton Dinner last weekend, Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana used his platform as keynote speaker to embolden a candidate to step up to run for governor against incumbent Republican Governor Hutchinson.
  • Head-shaking

    Another edition of so-much-bad-news-so-little space.
  • Not Whitewater

    Just think: If Democrats had turned out 78,000 more votes in three states in November, people could be reveling today in the prospect of impeaching and convicting President Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump, as some Republican lawmakers had promised to try to do if she won.
  • Buyer remorse

    Out here in flyover country, you can't hardly go by the feed store without running into a reporter doing one of those Wisdom of the Heartland stories.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Narrow opening for Arkansas Democrats

    • golfer71909 has been in mari-largo heat way to long

    • on July 27, 2017
  • Re: Narrow opening for Arkansas Democrats

    • Unfortunately, these days there are no right kind of Democrats. They have all devolved into…

    • on July 27, 2017
  • Re: Another Jesus

    • I always enjoy reading your articles Autumn. You keep being the caring person you are…

    • on July 26, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation