February 28, 2014

Linda DeRight wants us all to know she's been terribly, horribly wronged by having to give up a policy with lifetime and annual limits that she paid less money for per month. She's one of those ACA victims we hear so much about.

Because so many of those victims have been proven to be Republican activists, Tea Party cohorts, or associated with right wing organizations, I was curious. Did we have an actual victim for once, or is this just another one of the Big Lies Fox News pounds home day after day after day?

DeRight doesn't appear to have any direct ties to any right wing organizations, she doesn't have a Republican giving record, and she's the president of a charity that raises money to make sure kids don't go without medical treatment at Seattle Children's Hospital. Her brother is active in the Republican party and describes himself as an 'agitator,' but that doesn't necessarily mean she's one, too. She's turned up in the news before, first during the Reagan-Mondale debates and again over a diversity controversy at her kids' school in 2007. (That particular school, by the way, is the alma mater of Bill Gates III.)

Her husband is a lawyer and commissioner for the Seattle Mariners. Hmmm.

So what is her specific story? She's been telling it for a long time, but it's vague and difficult to discern exactly what harm she's suffered. That hasn't stopped her from telling her tale of woe to Michelle Malkin first, then to Heritage Action, then to Cavuto last November, and now a reappearance with Cavuto. The bare bones: She liked her policy and couldn't keep it. The insurer cancelled it.

Here's where it starts:


From there, it spread like wildfire. Google her. You'll see what I mean.

Let's start with some facts. If she really had the policy she claims she had for 25 years, it would have been grandfathered, even with the crummy provisions. It's also likely it would have been expensive. However, in this case, the insurer opted to terminate that plan, an option insurers have always had. That's not new, it's not unusual, and it was true before the ACA.

I was also unable to locate any company known as Regency of Washington State. The closest match I could find was Regence Blue Shield, which was under heavy fire for jacking premiums in Oregon by as much as 30 percent.

DeRight is 59 years old and says her new policy is $1,000 per month for her husband and herself. I checked Regence's 2014 rates as posted by the Washington Insurance Commissioner and that rate seems about right for two non-smoking 59-year-olds ($509.41 each) purchasing a Bronze HSA plan.

Before Obamacare was ever a gleam in the eye of Democrats, premiums for two 59-year olds were higher than that for decent coverage. In the sample transition chart I found, they compare the new Bronze plan to an existing plan called EvolveCore. I don't know if these are the specific plans, but the rates for the old plan fall into line with her claim that they went up by about 63 percent.

Assuming DeRight and her husband transitioned from the old plan to the new Bronze, here's what their 63 percent premium increase bought them, at a minimum:

  • Under the old plan, there was a $2 million annual maximum. Under her new plan, there is no annual maximum, nor is there a lifetime maximum.
  • Under her old plan, no prescription drugs were covered. Under the new plan, they are covered subject to deductibles and copayments.
  • Maximum annual family out-of-pocket drops from $22,500 to $12,500.

During the segment, Ms. DeRight is indignant about her fellow Obamacare complainer, Julie Boonstra, and says she's really glad she hasn't had a cancer diagnosis.

I'm really glad she hasn't either, but if she did, that $2 million maximum under her old policy could be history fast, and the cost for chemotherapy would be astronomical. None of it would be covered, nor would the medications she would need for her condition. One could easily imagine a nightmare scenario where, under the old policy, this family was wiped out by the unlimited costs of prescription medications and cancer treatments in excess of the annual maximum.

Nevertheless, Regence Blue Shield has not been stellar in their behavior with regard to the Affordable Care Act. They certainly made it their business to make the transition as difficult and punitive as possible. Their market conduct is under investigation, and their CEO stepped down late last year.

The real lie here is the one insurers told their clients about how much they should want to keep their old plan. It's clear just from the three changes highlighted above that this family is getting much more security for their premium dollar, which may be why this money quote from Ms. DeRight isn't really a Freudian slip:

My lie isn't true and I read this woman's story and it doesn't sound like her lie is true.

The real tragedy here is Ms. DeRight's lack of understanding about risk and risk management, and her reliance on a self-serving insurance company to tell her what she should "like." She may not be overtly fronting for a right-wing organization, but she certainly seems happy enough to receive the attention and take a bullet for those who are.

By the way, Fox News admitted they front for right-wing special interest groups when they put these stories on.

Sort of puts the lie to Megyn Kelly's poutrage on Wednesday.

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