Media Conflicted on Health of Obamacare
October 27, 2014
When the infamously liberal New York Times runs an article critical of Obamacare, Americans should sit up and take notice. In an October 18 article, “Unable to Meet the Deductible or the Doctor,” Amy Goodnough and Robert Pear outline how U.S. citizens purchasing Obamacare may be cutting corners on their own health because they can’t pay the exorbitant deductibles mandated by their insurance policies. Yet in Rhonda Abrams’ world, the health care law has been a huge success for the self-employed. Abrams is a USA Today columnist; she has written in support of increases in the minimum wage, as well.
Obamacare has been, and continues to be, sold with grand promises. “Overwhelmingly, for the American people, this is a liberation,” Nancy Pelosi told CNN’s Candy Crowley last year. “This is life—healthy life—liberty, the freedom to pursue your happiness, which could be follow your passion for good rather than…be constrained by your policy.”
“Administration officials and those who study small businesses say not enough time has passed to assemble data on the number of businesses started or saved because of Obamacare, but experts say the law has been a help, not a hindrance,” wrote Abrams earlier this month. In other words, the data’s not in, but let’s write an article about how the system is working anyway.
“Has the new law worked? For many, the answer is a resounding yes,” she writes, recounting stories of now self-employed persons who couldn’t afford health insurance on their own prior to Obamacare, and were stuck previously in full-time jobs working for others. “The Legers now pay $360 a month on Vermont’s health-insurance exchange because they qualify for subsidies,” she writes.
The Legers are pursuing the American dream at taxpayers’ expense, just as Pelosi repeatedly proposed. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that employers with low-wage workers are exploring options such as outright enrolling their employees in Medicaid—further increasing the taxpayer burden.
The liberal news media is literally wishing Obamacare successes into existence. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, ever a fan of the health care law, even wrote about a “life cycle” for Obamacare because premiums are predicted to go down slightly in 2015. That may save taxpayers some dollars in the short run, but will those paying for care actually call in on their benefits?
And are premiums actually going down? Townhall reports this month that North Carolina’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, is going to hike ratesfor individual Obamacare policies by an average of 13 to 19 percent for 2015. Krugman relied upon Kaiser Family Foundation data about next year’s premiums, a September survey that only accounted for 15 of the 50 states at the time and did not include North Carolina.
Lastly, does Obamacare, in fact, enhance consumer freedom?
The disturbing report from Goodnough and Pear suggests that the promises of Obamacare are overhyped because of the high deductibles associated with such plans. (I have already discussed the limitations of the narrow networks often used by such plans, which amount to no care under Obamacare). Here, Obamacare customers are actually opting to not use their own health care—and rationing it down—because of high costs.
The “average deductible for a bronze plan on the exchange—the least expensive coverage—was $5,081 for an individual and $10,386 for a family,” according to these reporters. “Silver plans, which were the most popular option this year, had average deductibles of $2,907 for an individual and $6,078 for a family.” Goodnough and Pear also write that these subsidies are restricted to people with incomes ranging from 100 percent to 250 percent of the poverty level, provided that they choose a silver plan.
Let’s do the math. If you’re an individual, that means that in order to qualify for subsidies you must earn between $11,670 and $29,175 annually, according to the 2014 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. If a subsidized, impoverished person purchases a silver plan with a deductible of $2,907, then that person is, on average, expected to pay between 10% and 25% of his or her income on health care before the deductible is satisfied—without considering the premium. But it is quite unrealistic to expect people at that income level to spend a quarter of their income on health care.
Pear wrote earlier this year that “Subsidies, in the form of tax credits, are a crucial element of the Affordable Care Act. Without them, insurance would be unaffordable to millions of Americans.”
But the subsidies, I have argued, create “a new entitlement upon which members of the populace have artificially been made dependent,” and which “is defended in the guise of helping the helpless.” And besides, the courts are still deciding whether or not federal subsidies can be paid to people in the 36 states that have not created state-run exchanges to implement Obamacare. If not, as the plain language of the law states, Obamacare could altogether implode.
“Insurers must cover certain preventive services, like immunizations, cholesterol checks and screening for breast and colon cancer, at no cost to the consumer if the provider is in their network,” report Goodnough and Pear. “But for other services and items, like prescription drugs, marketplace customers often have to meet their deductible before insurance starts to help.”
Is the solution to mandate more coverage of services usually contained under the deductible, or have the government subsidize Obamacare customers’ deductibles as well? Don’t be surprised if members of the mainstream media push for the government to subsidize these costs as an additional step toward socialized medicine. Krugman said recently to Chris Hayes on MSNBC that “If you're going to say okay, we're going to take away your health insurance and replace it with Medicare for all. You know, people wouldn't have believed it. It wouldn't have passed Congress. You had to get something that was incremental…”
Patricia Wanderlich, whose story Goodnough and Pear tell, has had a brain hemorrhage and has a “smaller aneurysm that needs monitoring.” She’s opting to not get a brain scan this year because of high costs and is putting off preventive care as much as possible, they report.
“While high-deductible plans cover most of the costs of severe illnesses and lengthy hospital stays, protecting against catastrophic debt, those plans may compel people to forgo routine care that could prevent bigger, longer-term health issues, according to experts and research,” they write.
Perhaps Abrams’ small business owners haven’t gotten sick yet. She’s certainly not telling the complete story to her readers. As for Wanderlich, the Times reports that she’s going to opt for a narrower network next year. Let’s hope that she doesn’t end up in an “ultra narrow” network.
This article was originally published at Accuracy in Media.
Bethany Stotts is a freelance writer, and former staff writer for Accuracy in Academia. She blogs at http://bethanystotts.wordpress.com. This article is an exclusive appearing at Accuracy in Media.