Friday, November 1, 2013

Obamacare fact-checking

I love this picture, for several reasons. First, of course, it's a complete lie. Congress is not exempt from Obamacare - never was, never will be. These are just typical Fox 'News' viewers, gullible enough to believe anything.

But they're typical in another way, too. Look at their age. None of these people will be affected by Obamacare in the slightest. Indeed, they're on their own government-run healthcare plan, which they love (if they're like every other senior citizen I've ever met).

I'm not crazy about 'Obamacare,' myself. Well, why would I be wild about a Republican healthcare plan? What's now called 'Obamacare' was developed in a right-wing think tank as the Republican alternative - free-market, capitalistic, insurance company-friendly - to the Clinton healthcare proposals.

But the Clinton attempt at healthcare reform failed to get past Republican obstructionism. And with Republicans opposing everything from Barack Obama - even before President Obama took office - the Democrats decided to go along with the Republican healthcare plan. Surely they'd be able to get some Republicans to agree about adopting their own plan...

Nope. Today's Republicans are too crazy even for that. If the Democrats want it, they're going to oppose it, even if it was their own idea in the first place. I'm not crazy about it, because it's much too conservative for my tastes. But it is a distinct improvement from what we had.

And the absolute hysteria in the GOP about their own health care plan shows you exactly what the Republican Party has become, these days.  So does this:
I happened to turn on the Hannity show on Fox News last Friday evening. “Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck,” Hannity announced, “and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories.” Three married couples were neatly arranged in his studio, the wives seated and the men standing behind them, like game show contestants.

As Hannity called on each of them, the guests recounted their “Obamacare” horror stories: canceled policies, premium hikes, restrictions on the freedom to see a doctor of their choice, financial burdens upon their small businesses and so on. ...

I decided to hit the pavement. I tracked down Hannity’s guests, one by one, and did my own telephone interviews with them.

First I spoke with Paul Cox of Leicester, N.C. He and his wife Michelle had lamented to Hannity that because of Obamacare, they can’t grow their construction business and they have kept their employees below a certain number of hours, so that they are part-timers.

Obamacare has no effect on businesses with 49 employees or less. But in our brief conversation on the phone, Paul revealed that he has only four employees. Why the cutback on his workforce? “Well,” he said, “I haven’t been forced to do so, it’s just that I’ve chosen to do so. I have to deal with increased costs.” What costs? And how, I asked him, is any of it due to Obamacare? There was a long pause, after which he said he’d call me back. He never did. ...

Next I called Allison Denijs. She’d told Hannity that she pays over $13,000 a year in premiums. Like the other guests, she said she had recently gotten a letter from Blue Cross saying that her policy was being terminated and a new, ACA-compliant policy would take its place. She says this shows that Obama lied when he promised Americans that we could keep our existing policies. ...

I tried an experiment and shopped on the exchange for Allison and Kurt. Assuming they don’t smoke and have a household income too high to be eligible for subsidies, I found that they would be able to get a plan for around $7,600, which would include coverage for their uninsured daughter. This would be about a 60 percent reduction from what they would have to pay on the pre-Obamacare market. ...

Finally, I called Robbie and Tina Robison from Franklin, Tenn. Robbie is self-employed as a Christian youth motivational speaker. (You can see his work here.) On Hannity, the couple said that they, too, were recently notified that their Blue Cross policy would be expiring for lack of ACA compliance. They told Hannity that the replacement plans Blue Cross was offering would come with a rate increase of 50 percent or even 75 percent, and that the new offerings would contain all sorts of benefits they don’t need, like maternity care, pediatric care, prenatal care and so forth. Their kids are grown and moved out, so why should they be forced to pay extra for a health plan with superfluous features?

When I spoke to Robbie, he said he and Tina have been paying a little over $800 a month for their plan, about $10,000 a year. And the ACA-compliant policy that will cost 50-75 percent more? They said this information was related to them by their insurance agent.

Had they shopped on the exchange yet, I asked? No, Tina said, nor would they. They oppose Obamacare and want nothing to do with it. Fair enough, but they should know that I found a plan for them for, at most, $3,700 a year, 63 percent less than their current bill. It might cover things that they don’t need, but so does every insurance policy. ...

I don’t doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster; but none of them had even visited the insurance exchange. And some of them appear to have taken actions (Paul Cox, for example) based on a general pessimistic belief about Obamacare. He’s certainly entitled to do so, but Hannity is not entitled to point to Paul’s behavior as an “Obamacare train wreck story” and maintain any credibility that he might have as a journalist.

Of course, Sean Hannity isn't a journalist. Fox 'News' is a Republican propaganda mill designed to scare the gullible - especially the gullible elderly, such as those in the picture above - into voting Republican. (Hannity has one of the oldest audiences in television, even older than the rest of Fox 'News.')

And note that any journalist could fact-check these things. But it's the rare journalist who, like Eric Stern in the article above, actually does.

I wanted to add a couple more things about these Republican claims. Here's Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), testifying before the monkey court in the House of Representatives:

Health insurance companies can cancel plans any time they want. Just because they blame Obamacare, that doesn't make it true. Indeed, it's not true, because existing health insurance plans are grandfathered in. (Just because your insurance company blames a cost increase on Obamacare, that doesn't necessarily make it true, either. Don't be so gullible.)

As Tavenner explains very, very well, 50% of individual plans were canceled in pre-Obamacare days, and costs increased every year. (My own health insurance costs increased by a double-digit percentage every year, up to 45% in a single year. And that's with no pre-existing conditions - indeed, no use of the insurance at all. Before Obamacare.)

Pre-Obamacare, you could miss something in the fine print of your insurance contract, only to discover after you got cancer or some other serious (i.e. expensive) illness that your insurance wouldn't cover it. Or, as soon as you got cancer, your insurance company would drop you like a hot potato.

Unless that actually happened to you, you might have remained blissfully unaware of the problem. But it did happen to many, many people. (Of course, most people get their insurance through group plans at work, and most of the rest are on Medicare or VA healthcare, so they wouldn't have these problems, either - or be affected by Obamacare at all.)

Finally, here's a video clip from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart which features Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, testifying at that same monkey court. I won't embed it here, but I thought it was funny how Republicans are still pushing that lie that federal employees are exempt from Obamacare.

Federal employees - like most people in America - get their health insurance through their employer. Obamacare doesn't affect those people at all. There's no exemption for Congress, there's no exemption for the White House, there's no exemption for the federal government - it's all a lie pushed for partisan political advantage.

This time, in that Daily Show clip, it's Rep. Cory Gardner (R - CO) and Rep. Billy Long (R - MO) pushing that lie. Why isn't Kathleen Sebelius in Obamacare? Because it would be against the law. Sebelius - like most people in America - is already covered by her employer. The law doesn't apply to those people, it doesn't affect those people, and it's not available to those people.

But I see emails passed around all the time with this particular lie and lies just like it. I see pictures of gullible people, like the old folks in the picture above, who've bought those lies. And this is the Republicans' own health care plan they're lying about.

Of course, if it works, if people eventually see through the lies, if Americans actually get to like it - just as they did Social Security and Medicare, despite the right-wing campaigns against those programs - Republicans will undoubtedly try to reclaim it, don't you think?

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