October 19, 2013

Ashley Dionne, a recent guest on Mike Huckabee's show, claimed that her insurance premiums would jump from $75 per month to $319 per month for her family. She proclaimed the act to be the "Unaffordable Care Act" and went even further, claiming her future and that of her children had been 'raped.'

Unfortunately, someone forgot to mention to Ashley that her premiums were offset with subsidies, so she would really pay $223 per YEAR as well as receiving assistance with copayments. Oops.

Last Friday Sean Hannity hosted a special on how the Affordable Care Act is hurting Americans. It's a claim we hear every day from Ted Cruz on down to your average right wing Twitter troll. Every time I hear it, I wonder how it is even possible that so many are in so much pain over a law that opens up the health insurance market to everyone.

Evidently I'm not the only one with those questions. Eric Stern, a former aide to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and one of the key people involved in Montana's exchange, took a hard look at the "regular people" claiming they were harmed by Obamacare.

Stern called the people who appeared on Hannity's show to get more detail on their stories. Surprise! It seems there was more to every single one.

The small business owner who claimed his business wasn't growing and he was limiting employees' hours? Yeah, not so much.

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.

That was before they got to the part where if Mr. Cox chose to cover his employees, he could receive up to a dollar-for-dollar reduction to his taxes for up to 50 percent of the employee cost of insurance.

The family with the daughter with no insurance due to a pre-existing condition is the one that really made my blood boil:

Allison’s husband left his job a few years ago, one with benefits at a big company, to start his own business. Since then they’ve been buying insurance on the open market, and are now paying around $1,100 a month for a policy with a $2,500 deductible per family member, with hefty annual premium hikes. One of their two children is not covered under the policy. She has a preexisting condition that would require purchasing additional coverage for $800 a month, which would bring the family’s grand total to $19,000 a year.

I asked Allison if she’d shopped on the exchange, to see what a plan might cost under the new law. She said she hadn’t done so because she’d heard the website was not working. Would she try it out when it’s up and running? Perhaps, she said. She told me she has long opposed Obamacare, and that the president should have focused on tort reform as a solution to bringing down the price of healthcare.

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.

But that didn't convince Allison and Kurt they might want to reconsider their opposition. Instead, they found other reasons for complaining.

Stern also interviewed a couple who hated Obamacare no matter what money they might save, which Stern found to be a significant number.

Media Matters has more:

Stern's investigation casts doubt on Fox's use of anecdotal evidence, especially from supposed victims of the ACA who have smeared the law without demonstrating an actual premium increase or causal link between the ACA and their misfortune. The October 3 edition of Fox's Special Report relayed the story of Tom Gialanellain a segment that blamed the ACA for skyrocketing premiums. In fact, Gialanella did not mention that his premiums had increased, and a letter briefly shown onscreen simply stated that his premiums could increase if he opted to drop his employer coverage and purchase insurance through the exchange.

On October 18, Fox & Friends hosted two small business owners, Larry and Debbie Underkoffler, whoexpressed confusion about the costs of enrolling their employees in Obamacare versus opting out of coverage. Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck stoked fears that the law would force small businesses to shift to part-time labor even as the couple said they could feasibly cover their employees under "a reasonable plan."

In all of these cases, any pain they're experiencing is self-inflicted. The stubborn need to oppose something even when it goes against their own self-interest is a uniquely conservative and bewildering phenomenon. Fox News' exploitation of their own choices for ratings and demagogue points is predictable and disgusting.

Overall, the conclusion has to be that it's not the ACA inflicting pain, it's the lies conservatives have sold as truth causing pain. Anyone with even a small crack in an otherwise closed mind will discover that the ACA is far less painful than what they've been spoon-fed by Murdoch's minions.

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