The Obamacare "horror" story debunkings are coming so fast and furious these days, it seems like it's worth stepping back to survey the whack-a-mole field of lies, exaggerations, and misleading statements. There have been so many of these stories surfacing since the law was implemented January 1 that this compilation probably won't be comprehensive. But it's a pretty good survey of what we've seen so far.
The mother of all of them has to be the saga of Julie Boonstra, the Michigan woman who implies that Obamacare has threatened her ability to keep her doctor (her new Obamacare plan includes her current doctor) and who says that it's just too expensive. She'll have to pay a grand total of $2 more out of pocket—including premiums—than her previous plan. She's saving $6,348 this year on her premium payments. Her out of pocket limit is $6,350. Apparently that $2 was her tipping point.
Boonstra is a drop in the bucket of people willing to be tools of the Kochs and the far Right. For the compendium, head below the fold.
Last week we saw this one, an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Stephen J. Blackwood who says Obamacare took his mother's cancer drugs away because she was forced to change insurers. But there's a whole lot missing in the story, as the LA Times' Michael Hiltzik details. For example, was Blackwood's original insurance plan cancelled because it didn't meet the standards of the law, or did the insurance company use it as an excuse to dump a really expensive patient? That's a question in many of these stories about people "losing" their insurance that hasn't been explored enough. And the ultimate complaint, that the new insurance doesn't cover a cancer drug, isn't the fault of the law, which doesn't control what drugs private insurers cover, but the insurer itself. The Blackwoods are in an admittedly difficult situation, which they've appealed—to the insurance company—but it's not the fault of the law and it's not a new situation. Millions have been in this position before, thanks to the capricious health insurance industry and its profit motive, but without the protections of the law.
Here's one of those Koch brothers-sponsored ads that floated to the surface last week, about Emilie Lamb. She's an Obama voter and has lupus and is mad about her insurance; she says she's been betrayed by Obama. Lamb is a very rare lupus sufferer, whose illness hasn't yet drained her family's savings or made her go bankrupt, and who had pretty good coverage through her state's high-risk pool. Now she has great Obamacare coverage, for which she has to pay more. She picked a platinum plan—an expensive option that was her choice—and complains about the cost. Apparently that cost outweighs, in her mind, the benefit of knowing that if her illness gets much worse she doesn't have to worry about keeping her insurance or potentially going bankrupt to pay for it.
But that's just a drop in the bucket of debunked stories. They start way back last fall with a story CBS News ran about Dianne Barrette, a 57-year-old Florida realtor who was paying $54 a month for a Blue Cross insurance plan that got cancelled. More exploration by Fox News (!!) uncovered the fact that Barrette's cheap, cancelled policy was pretty much worthless, and Barrette herself came away from the story declaring Obamacare a "blessing in disguise." That was after she actually learned about her options on the exchange and found affordable insurance.
Ignorance is anger for many of the people in debunked stories. Like a cluster of them in Texas, that surfaced back in November. An intrepid reporter read a bunch of horror stories in the Fort Worth Star Telegram and did a little digging when the stories just didn't ring true with what she knew about the law. She found out that the people who were profiled were members of the tea party who had either actually found affordable insurance on the exchange, or hadn't bothered to look.
Speaking of not bothering to look, there's "Bette in Spokane," a woman Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers made famous in her response to President Obama's state of the union speech. Bette had contacted McMorris Rodgers to complain that her $552-a-month policy no longer would be offered. Whether McMorris Rodgers or her staff tried to work with Bette and help her navigate the site to find an affordable plan is unclear. But we do know that Bette decided go without coverage at all out of pure political spite: "I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all."
We had Los Angeles real estate agent Deborah Cavallaro, whose story was highlighted by Maria Bartiromo on CNBC because she was losing her old junk insurance and who complained "there's nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act." Turns out, she had a lot of affordable options available, she just hadn't actually shopped for them.
Then there's San Diego business owner Edie Sundby, who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about her plan being cancelled while she's in the middle of cancer treatments, all the fault of Obamacare. Except that UnitedHealth wasn't canceling policies in California because of Obamacare, but because UnitedHealth, her insurer, had so few customers in the individual market, it couldn't compete and was just getting out of that market. As it turns out, Sundby's cancer coverage is actually safeguarded by Obamacare.
We're not done with the Republican activists posing as Obamacare victims, though. We have Donna Marzullo and Helen DePrima in New Hampshire, appearing in AFP ads. Both are very active in the Republican party, and both have extremely vague and unprovable complaints about how Obamacare is hurting them.
Then you've got the exaggerated claims by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) about how much his premiums went up, Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) undocumented claim that he was losing his cancer doctor, and Sen. Rand Paul's (R-KY) bizarre and impossible Medicaid story, claiming his son was forced onto Medicaid against his will.
Add it all up, and you've got a big ol' passel of nothing, except a bunch of stories intended to scare the stuffing out of the people who most benefit from the law, the people with serious, chronic diseases who don't have to worry about keeping their health insurance and being able to afford their care ever again.