From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:
Obamacare’s Success Stories: Now Classified on a Need-to-Know Basis
Our old friend Byron York notes that the White House has suddenly clammed up about the people who are brought on stage next to the president, cited as examples of Americans who are helped by Obamacare:
Obama never said who those people were, and, unlike other events, the White House did not release their names or biographies. A spokesman later said the White House would not provide the information. A pool report called the group “19 individuals whom the White House said benefited from health care reform.” Beyond that, their connection to Obamacare remains unknown.
Obama’s speech mentioned three specific people he said have been helped by various provisions of Obamacare: a California woman undergoing treatment for leukemia and lymphoma who no longer worries about exceeding the lifetime cap on insurance benefits; a North Carolina doctor who said more of his patients will take advantage of preventive care under Obamacare; and an Ohio woman whose 23 year-old daughter has cancer requiring highly expensive drug treatments that are covered by the parents’ health plan because of Obamacare. “That’s what this law means to millions of Americans,” Obama said.
If any of those people was with Obama on stage, the president didn’t say. It’s also worth noting that of the four examples cited during the event, two were young people whose medical treatment was covered by the up-till-age-26 provision of Obamacare, one was a woman who benefited from the abolition of lifetime caps, and one was a doctor who advocates more preventive care. None had purchased affordable coverage through HealthCare.gov.
You have to figure the new no-names, no-details policy is in response to these sorts of comments from one of the past “success stories” cited by the White House:
“It was a huge disappointment, and especially since I had, you know, my story had been shared by the president,” she said. “I felt like, you know, I just felt really embarrassed that, you know, he had quoted my story and then come to find that the Washington health plan finder, the website here in our state, had grossly miscalculated or they’re having a problem figuring their tax credits. And so at least for right now, I don’t — I’m not going to be getting insurance,” she said.
Or this one:
When Anthem told Clark premiums for her eight employees would go up 39 percent in 2014, she checked out the plans available through the Small Business Health Options Program, where companies with fewer than 50 employees can shop for group coverage. Those plans were less expensive, but would still increase Clark’s premiums by 14 percent.
Clark then compared the price of individual policies available at Healthcare.gov to what she currently offers. She figured she could save 13 percent, or about $15,000, by discontinuing her group plan. She told her employees to pick a policy offered on the marketplace, and she’ll increase their pay to cover half the cost of the premiums.
Way back in 1999, I covered the floor of the U.S. House for Congressional Quarterly, when there was a big fight about allowing people to sue their HMOs. (Yeah, back then, some people really thought the way to improve health care was to add more lawsuits.) That debate in Congress was an endless succession of anecdotes about Little Timmy with cancer, and how suing his HMO would save him, while the opposition cited little Bobby with leukemia, and suing his HMO would doom him. It was a really insufferable, exploitative, shallow, misleading, and un-illiuminating debate. My guess is that we’ll get a rerun of dueling anecdotes of heartbreaking medical troubles all through 2014.