Politics & Policy

The War on Julie Boonstra

Julie Boonstra (Fox News)
. . . and other Obamacare cancer victims.

Michigan is a crucial piece on the 2014 U.S. Senate chessboard, and Republicans have a good shot at gaining retiring Democrat Carl Levin’s open seat, given Democratic nominee Gary Peters’s unpopular House vote for the Affordable Care Act. Yet Peters has hope. The president’s unilateral delays in Obamacare mandates have eased planned layoffs by local governments and businesses. Moderate GOP governor Rick Snyder supports the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. And the state’s liberal news media have largely ignored the estimated 225,000-plus canceled individual policies and the job losses at medical-device maker Stryker.

But Julie Boonstra won’t be ignored. So she must be destroyed.

The Dexter, Mich., leukemia victim lost her coverage last fall and now stars in a devastating ad fingering Obamacare — and Peters — for her resulting distress. In an extraordinary media counterstrike, Boonstra, a schoolteacher, has come under assault from Democrats and their media allies decrying her as a liar and an ignoramus for failing to embrace her new, Obamacare-approved plan.

As with outspoken female Obamacare cancer victims in other states, the intent is to intimidate critics from coming forward. Senator Harry Reid’s outrageous Senate-floor claim that all Obamacare horror stories “are untrue” is the mantra of the Democrats’ scorched-earth campaign to elect Peters and preserve a Democratic Senate.

Boonstra’s ad, backed by Americans for Prosperity, says her policy was “canceled because of Obamacare” and that she fears her “out-of-pocket costs are so high they are unaffordable.” Health-care experts like the Manhattan Institute’s Yevgeniy Feyman say Boonstra “has legitimate concerns.”

“It comes down to uncertainty,” Feyman says. “Cancer treatment is a very personal decision. Her new treatment may not take into account out-of-pocket costs. If her drugs are off the formulary, then [an ACA-mandated cost cap on out-of-pocket drug costs] doesn’t apply.”

“If I do not receive my medication, I will die,” worries Boonstra, who was invited to the State of the Union address as the guest of Representative Tim Walberg (R., Mich.). “I believed the president when he said I could keep my health-insurance plan. I feel lied to. Congressman Peters, your decision to vote for Obamacare jeopardized my health.”

Peters and the media have come out swinging, claiming Boonstra is a right-wing Koch-brothers tool (the Kochs donate to AFP). Like their fellow Democrats in office, newsrooms have long been sympathetic to universal health care.

“No doubt that was a difficult experience,” patronized Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler before knocking Boonstra’s lack of enthusiasm for a lower-premium, higher-out-of-pocket-cost Blue Cross plan that Democrats insist is more affordable.

Michigan’s media piled on. The Detroit Free Press trumpeted Kessler’s claim that Boonstra was a liar deserving “two Pinocchios.” “A Dexter woman’s claims in a political ad criticizing U.S. Rep. Gary Peters don’t add up,” echoed MLive.com (a consortium of Booth newspapers in the state), faulting Boonstra’s math skills.

These organizations have ignored the details of Boonstra’s plan — instead using numbers from Blue Cross (an advocate for Obamacare) numbers to attack her. Through AFP spokesman Scott Hagerstrom, Boonstra communicated her concerns with her new plan.

Uncertainty dogs her — especially having been lied to once by the president. Where her canceled plan’s premiums once covered all her costs, she now must plan for out-of-pocket expenses. Those expenses are capped but will double to $10,200 if she goes out of her network — a not-uncommon need for cancer patients, whose treatment often changes — for a doctor or tests. Of her five cancer drugs, she has already discovered that one (Loratadine) is not covered. Detroit News columnist Dan Calabrese also unearthed the fact that glaucoma and “long-term care and nursing care are not covered.”

“She has been bedridden, had to sell her house, give up her teaching career,” says Hagerstrom. “She liked her insurance and now has to relive the uncertainty of five years ago.”

Rather than meeting with his constituent to hear her concerns, Peters tried to intimidate local news stations into pulling the ad, effectively silencing Boonstra. “Failure to prevent the airing of ‘false and misleading advertising’ can be cause for the loss of a station’s license,” wrote Peters through his legal counsel. Subtle as a club.

Peters’s threats received little Michigan media attention. Neither did Boonstra’s failed attempt to contact Peters. Michigan media ha internalized Reid’s mantra.

But Boonstra has not backed down. The leukemia victim wrote a letter this week to the Detroit News explaining the complexities of her situation.

“[My critics] choose to ignore the problems inherent with high out-of-pocket limits and prescriptions that aren’t covered for a person like me,” wrote Boonstra. “My new plan could mean wildly fluctuating and front-loaded costs in the first few months of the year. I chose my old plan — the one that Obamacare canceled — specifically so I could budget for the same monthly costs with certainty.”

The Boonstra attacks are not an isolated event. Cancer victim Edie Sundby was attacked by California Democrats and the Los Angeles Times when she wrote an op-ed critical of Obamacare in the Wall Street Journal. Democrats and their Spokane Review parrots thrashed Bette Grenier when she too dared question the ACA. And cancer victim Catherine Blackwood. And so on.

How many patients will be intimidated by such tactics? How many will persevere like Boonstra? It’s only March. Democrats are just getting warmed up.

— Henry Payne is an editorial cartoonist and the auto critic for the Detroit News.


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