Why does the media continue to insist on promoting the conservative meme that “Obamacare is a disaster”? Today Bloomberg ran a story headlined “Health-Care Law Support Hits New Low, Poll Shows
The piece begins: “Support for President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law has reached its nadir, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released today. The survey shows 62 percent of Americans opposing the law, the highest total since CNN began polling on the issue in March 2010. Just 35 percent favored it. The health-care law has been plagued by a faulty website, hindering efforts to log in and buy insurance, and by the revelation that millions of Americans could not keep their health insurance as Obama originally promised.”
It would be more accurate to say: “Support has been plagued by a faulty website—and a media determined to bury the good news while exaggerating the bad news.”
The very next sentence of the Bloomberg piece illustrates what I’m talking about: “Of those opposing the law, 15 percent said the legislation didn’t go far enough.” (If you actually look at the poll, you will find that pollsters were more explicit: 15% said the law was “not liberal enough.) Bloomberg continues: ““Another 43 percent said the measure was too liberal based on Republican proposals such as the health-care measure championed by then-Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.”
Here is a more accurate, cleaerer lead: “50 percent of those polled either like the law (35% ) or think that it isn’t liberal enough (15%).”
It also is worth noting that the percent of people who think the ACA isn’t liberal enough is rising: in May 11% said the law wasn’t sufficiently progressive; last month 14% voiced that complaint. In other words, as more people learn about the details of Obamacare, more think that it’s too conservative.)
That’s quite different from the lead the reporter chose: “The survey shows 62 percent of Americans oppose the law.” Most readers would assume that means 62% are opposed to reform, when in fact 50% either support reform or would have liked a more progressive bill.
A balanced story would emphasize that the country remains deeply divided about the overhaul of our health care system. That should have been the headline: “Half of all Americans Support Legislation Sixteen percent thought they would be “better off” while 40% said they expected to be about the same.”Designed to Make U.S. Healthcare Better, More Equitable, and More Affordable.”
I would then explain: “Many in that group would have liked a more radical solution: a single-payer system. The most recent CNN/ ORC International polls shows that the other half object to government intervention in our healthcare system. Some believe the government will make things worse, and that they will be among the losers. Forty-two percent of those polled said they believed they would be worse off under the new system.
It is worth noting that the law draws the greatest support from people 18-34 (38 %) and 51-64 (41%.) Somehow most in the media are ignoring the fact that so many young Americans favor the law—perhaps because that would contradict assertions that 20-somethings and 30-somethings won’t be signing up for insurance.
No surprise, better educated Americans support the law, while those with less education are far more likely to be suspicious. This supports the notion that people who have read more about the law, and understand some of the details are looking forward to reform. Others won’t be enthusiastic until the law takes effect—and actually begins to help them.
How the Media Has Covered the Cancellations
Here is another example of the media feasting on bad news. In recent weeks newspapers have been filled with tales of hard-working Americans who report that their inexpensive coverage has been cancelled because it doesn’t meet Obamacare’s requirements. As a result, they are forced to shop in the Exchanges—and, there, we are told, “millions” will have to pay far more for insurance. Some will have to go without insuran
This is yet another example of how newspaper editors and television producers have swallowed the lies that reform’s opponents have been circulating—without asking many questions.
The truth is that the policies that are disappearing did not provide the consumer protection that most Americans want and need. Some policies don’t cover “essential benefits,” including hospital care, prescription drugs and maternity benefits. Other policies cap how much an insurer will pay out in a given year. Still others call for out-of-pocket payments that could easily bankrupt a middle-class family.
Nevertheless the media jumped on the cancellations as another example of the “Obamacare trainwreck”—exaggerating how many would be hurt, while totally ignoring how many will find far better insurance—at a lower price—in the Exchanges.
Last week, the White House responded to the media firestorm over “policies cancelled” by announcing that Americans who have lost their low-cost insurance because it doesn’t meet Obamacare’s standards will be exempted, for one year, from the mandate that all Americans carry medical insurance. Under the new rule, people who have received cancellation notices can purchase the Catastrophic Plans that were originally designed for Americans under the age of 30—or they can decline to purchase insurance altogether. “
How did the media respond? “Obama Repeals Obamacare” the Wall Street Journal declared.”
Just How Many People Will Decide to Opt Out of Obamacare?
The administration reports that 500,000 Americans will be affected by the change in the rules. But Reuters has reported that “some experts estimate that up to five million Americans have had their plans cancelled. The Washington Post’s Ed Rogers claims that “millions of Americans” will go without insurance and, as a result, he gloats: “Obamacare just isn’t happening.”
We shouldn’t be surprised by the hyperbole. Ever since the story of cancelled policies broke, media reports have verged on hysteria.
Try Googling “cancelled policies” and “Obamacare.” More than 84 million headlines will pop up, some claiming that “because of Obamacare” as many as “100 million Americans” are losing the inexpensive coverage that they had purchased in the individual market, and will not be able to afford the insurance offered in the Obamacare Exchanges. This is flat-out not true. (Thanks to Ezra Klein for making this very clear.)
Facts vs. Fiction
Here are the facts about the policies that are disappearing: Just 0.6% of all Americans under the age of 65 are losing the insurance that they purchased in the individual market, and will have to shell out more for coverage next year because the plans they purchased don’t live up to the ACA’s regulations for “affordable patient protection.” But some will be perfectly happy to lay out more for better coverage. In an eye-opening study, Families USA notes: “Many would prefer new coverage options, even without subsidies. A recent survey shows that 45 percent of people in the individual market describe their insurance as ‘fair or poor,’ compared to 18 percent who have another form of coverage—including Medicaid.”
Families USA does the math. First their researchers explain that only 5.3% of all Americans (15.2 million) are covered by policies they bought in the individual market. And not all of them received cancellation notices.
Secondly, among those who did get the dreaded letter, 71% of families will qualify for government subsidies that will help them buy much better coverage for less than they are paying now. The average tax credit will be worth $5,548.
What would you do: take the $5,548, or say, “No thanks, I’d rather let my family go without insurance”?
Granted, twenty-nine percent of those who are losing their policies earn too much to be eligible for a subsidy. But an estimated 15% to 30% of Americans who are insured in the individual market suffer from pre-existing conditions. Make no mistake: these are folks who want coverage. That is why they braved a Wild West market where carriers regularly overcharged, refused to pay claims, jacked up premiums, spent 30% of those premiums on marketing, advertising, executive salaries and other “administrative costs” –and cancelled policies on a routine basis.
Finally, what the media ignores is that many would have lost their insurance even if Obamacare did not exist. Family USA reports that in the past, just 35% of the individual market’s customers managed to hold onto their coverage for a year. Typically, the carrier hiked premiums–and the customer dropped the coverage–or the company scrubbed the policy. Thus, in any given year, the majority of policy-holders were not able to “keep the insurance that they (supposedly) liked.”
Those who attack President Obama for “lying to them” have swallowed the much bigger lies that the media has been feeding to all of us. Roughly two-thirds of those cancelled policies would have disappeared by the end of this year—even if Obamacare had never passed Congress.
The Bottom Line
Taking all of the facts into account, here is my back-of-the-envelope estimate: Somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million Americans might decide not to replace their cancelled policies. My guess is that, at most, another 500,000 will choose catastrophic insurance instead.
Why so few? I have written a post for Health Resources (www.healthinsurance.org) explaining the reasoning behind my numbers.
You will find it here –Just scroll down to “The Bottom Line”