How A CBS Video About An Obamacare Victim Misled Millions- Part 2 (What the “Victim” Revealed in Our Final Interview)

“Woman Battling Kidney Cancer Losing Company Health Plan Due To Obamacare.”

That was the headline on a story that CBS’ Washington Bureau sent to its affiliates last fall.

CBS correspondent Susan McGinnis narrates the piece: “During the 10 years that Debra Fishericks has worked at Atkinson Realty, the company has provided group health insurance with manageable premiums,” McGinnis explains –“until owner Betsy Atkinson learned the policy would be terminated because it doesn’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

“Debra has scoured the website looking for a new policy,” McGinnis adds, referring to, but “so far, she cannot afford the premiums.”

“They just keep going up higher and higher when there is a pre-existing condition,” says Fishericks.

McGinnis wraps up the story: “Debra hopes that eventually she will find a plan that fits her budget so that she can still makes trips to Indiana –to visit her grandson.”

The camera then turns to Fishericks, sitting at her desk, looking at a photo of her grandson.  “If I can’t go to see him—that’s the worst,” she says.  And she begins to cry.

I was astonished: I thought most people understood that, under the Affordable Care Act, insurers can no longer charge a customer more because she suffers from a pre-existing condition.

Later, when I interviewed Fishericks, I realized that she honestly believed she was going to have to pay more for coverage because she had been diagnosed with cancer. Like a great many Americans, she didn’t understand how the ACA would protect her. Given how hard Obamacare’s opponents have worked to obscure the law’s benefits, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised.

But what shocked me is that no one at CBS’s Washington Bureau seemed to realize that what Fishericks had said just wasn’t true: not the correspondent who narrated the story, not the reporter who went down to Virginia Beach and interviewed Fishericks, not the person who edited the video.

Fifty-eight CBS stations aired the piece. Newspapers and bloggers ran with it. Nationwide, millions of Americans were left with the impression that under Obamacare, cancer patients may not be able to afford insurance.

How had this happened?

                              Producers at CBS Hang Up On Me

As I explained in the first part of this post, I began by calling the CBS correspondent, Susan McGinnis, and we exchanged emails. In the end, she conceded that: “the Affordable Care Act does indeed specify, in Section 1201, that . . .   a health plan cannot deny enrollment, or the plan’s benefits, to someone based on that person’s preexisting condition.”

I appreciated the fact that she had looked at the law, but I could not help but wonder: Was this the first time she had heard of this provision?

Meanwhile, she still seemed skeptical as to whether a patient like Fishericks would receive the care she needs. After agreeing that an insurer would have to sell her a policy without jacking up the premium, McGinnis’ e-mail continued:

“However that certainly does not mean a plan has to include coverage for ongoing treatment that a patient started before obtaining coverage in an exchange plan on January 1, 2014.

“Key to understanding this distinction” she added, “is that having ‘health coverage’ is not the same as actually obtaining ‘health care.’”

 If the line sounds familiar it may be because it’s a favorite among the ACA’s ace  fear-mongers. Back in 2012, Romney healthcare adviser Avik Roy headlined a Forbes column: “Why health insurance is not the same as health care.”

In fact, as I explained to McGinnis, under Obamacare cancer treatments and follow-up are an “essential benefit” that insurer’s must cover. In the event that an insurer refused to continue a particular medication or procedure, the ACA strengthens a patient’s right to appeal—and requires a speedy answer, both from the carrier and from an external appeals board. 

That McGinnis had swallowed a conservative talking point surprised me. Had everyone at the Washington Bureau drunk the Republican Kool-Aid? I wanted to talk to more people at CBS.

The first person I reached was a producer at the Washington Bureau who was familiar with the video. But when I brought up the misleading sound bite, the producer, who identified herself as “Heather” was adamant: “She never said that!”

“But it’s there, in the transcript, and I heard it in the video,” I insisted. “How can you deny it?’

(Later, I would find out that when Heather  said “She never said that!” she thought I was claiming that McGinnis, not Fisherwicks, suggested that insurers could charge a customer more if she suffered from a pre-existing condition.)

Before I had a chance to ask any more questions, she announced in a slightly mocking, sing-song voice:  “I’m- Hanging -Up -Now. Good-Bye.”

Frustrated, I decided to call the Washington Bureau Chief. His assistant was friendly, and took a long message.

Less than an hour later, I received a call from the bureau’s Deputy Chief—Ward Sloane.

He did not sound happy.

I explained my concerns about the story. He listened.

When I finished, he replied: “Or so YOU Say.” His tone was caustic.

“Hold on,” I replied. “Can’t we at least agree that under the Affordable Care Act, insurers cannot charge a customer more because he suffers from a pre-existing condition?”

“Is that the way it’s supposed to work?” he asked. “We really don’t know. . .”

He seemed to be saying that we don’t know how Obamacare will play out. (As I will explain in part 3, this has become a common theme in the mainstream media: “Nobody knows. . .” )

“Are you saying that we don’t know what is in the bill?” I asked, “Or that there is no provision which prohibits insurers from jacking up premiums if someone has cancer?  Let me write that down.”

“No you won’t!” Now he was shouting.  “I’m Done!”  He slammed down the phone.

             Who Is Responsible For Explaining the ACA to the Public?

I wanted to know more about Sloane. When I Googled  his name.” I discovered a  2011 “Political Roundtable” where Sloane blames the White House for failing to spell out how the Affordable Care Act would affect the average person.

“To me this is a monumental failure by the Obama administration,”  Sloane declared. “Republicans can say whatever they want about the healthcare bill, whether it’s true or not, and  . . . it will resonate . . .  People are afraid of things that they don’t understand and they don’t know. . . The Republicans are playing to this fear, and they’re doing a masterful job.

On another occasion, Sloane groused that President Obama is “great at soaring rhetoric, but when it comes down to explaining to the American public why this matters to them . . . .” The CBS producer made it clear that the president has fallen short.

Up to a point, I agree with Sloane: Bill Clinton is far better at explaining wonky detail to the public (see this post  and scroll down to this sub-head: “What the President Should Have Said”. )  And  there is no question: Conservatives have done a “masterful job” of taking advantage of the uncertainty about Obamacare. As Nancy Pelosi  suggested shortly before the legislation passed Congress, “the fog of controversy” has left many Americans befuddled as to what reform will mean for them.

But here is my question: why haven’t journalists done a better job of lifting the fog?Perhaps because they, too, have been confused by a blizzard of conservative sound bites designed to foster cynicism, doubt and suspicion

             CBS Takes the Video off Its Server—But the Damage Has Been Done

After Sloane hung up on me, I waited ten minutes, then called the D.C. bureau again.

This time, Heather, the producer who had hung up on me an hour earlier,  answered the phone. To my surprise, she was much friendlier.

She confided that she had just been talking to Ward Sloane, and that CBS would be pulling the story from their website and taking it down from the server that goes to their affiliates.

But the story had aired in November—and then went viral. CBS was closing the barn door.

Heather agreed: ideally that sound-bite would have been eliminated when the story was edited.  “The problem is with the Internet,” she added, “once something gets out there, it is impossible to reel it back in.” But isn’t this all the more reason why journalists should be very careful to check their facts?

She also explained that originally, she thought I said that McGinnis, the CBS correspondent, had made the misleading remark about pre-conditions. “I knew she wouldn’t say that!”

Later, I asked whether CBS was thinking about running a retraction.

“There is no really efficient way to get it out there” she replied. “And the problem is not what Susan (McGinnis) said. It was this other woman’s mis-characterization.”

CBS was still hung up on the notion that their correspondent hadn’t made a mistake. But “this other woman” was their source, and the heroine of their story.

                 My Final Conversation with Debra—the Truth Comes Out

I decided to phone Fishericks one more time. I suspected she would be pleased that CBS was taking the story down. And I had two or three more questions that I wanted to ask her . . .

She was, indeed, glad to hear the news.

But she was still furious with CBS.

“They told me that they would send me a release, and that they would let me know when the story was going to air. They never did.”

I wanted to give CBS a chance to respond, so I emailed McGinnis, who had told me that she was in charge of the project. .

She replied: “I know of no release.  Our story was honestly found, honestly reported, and honestly aired.”

Debra was not impressed: “CBS is not looking very good right now. But,” she added,  “There is accountability.  Thank you for being steadfast.”

I thanked her–and thanked her  for taking my calls.

I also explained that I had finally reached her boss, Betsy Atkinson, and she had said that she thought Debra had finally found coverage. Was this true?

“I will be buying a new policy, early this year, before our insurance runs out,” Fishericks replied, “but I won’t be buying Obamacare.”

“Are you aware that you might get a generous tax credit from the government if you purchase a policy on the Exchange?” I asked.  (Her boss had told me that Fishericks earned less than $45,000, and so I assumed that she would qualify.

“Not interested,” she replied smoothly, adding that she didn’t want to deal with “the red tape.”

I wanted to help. “But most people who earn under $45,000 are very happy to have the government’s help. Are you sure you can afford the premium?”

“I can manage it. I may go on my husband’s plan. Though there is also an Anthem plan that I like and can afford.”

This was the first I had heard for a husband who had health benefits at work. Had that come up in her CBS interview?  If so, why did CBS portray her as someone who couldn’t afford insurance?

At this point I also realized that their combined salaries might well mean that she would not be eligible for a government subsidy after all.

What was clear was that she wasn’t worried about the cost.  So much for that heart-wrenching moment at the end of the video when the CBS narrator suggests that unless she finds a plan that “fits her budget,” in the future Debra might  not be able to afford a trip to visit her grandson.

Now, I asked her a question that I had been waiting to ask: “Debra, is your cancer in remission?”

I had been reluctant to ask this. For cancer patients, the whole issue of remission and recurrence is terrifying.

But both in the video and on the phone, Debra did not look or sound like someone fighting kidney cancer. And I knew that she was working full-time . . .

Still, I wasn’t ready for her reply:

“I don’t have cancer. I had a cancerous mass in my right kidney, but it was removed.”

“When?” I asked.

“In 2009.”

The CBS headline, “Woman Battling Kidney Cancer Losing Company Health Plan Due To Obamacare” didn’t  just exaggerate her plight. It was flat-out wrong.

This is what she meant, in our first interview, when she said they had “gotten the story all wrong.”

Presumably, CBS was looking for a poster child for Obamacare
“horror stories.”

But when a reporter went down to Virginia Beach to interview Debra couldn’t she see that Fishericks really didn’t look or act like someone struggling to stay alive? (Symptoms of kidney cancer include: pain in the side that won’t go away, weight loss, fever, and exhaustion.)

Should the reporter have known the signs of kidney cancer? No, absolutely not. But she might have asked Debra how she was doing. (Perhaps she did; I don’t know. CBS wouldn’t give me her name.)

Debra was still angry: “They wanted to “glorify’ the cancer angle—I don’t know why.  I would Never play the cancer sympathy card.

She sounded so adamant, I asked: Why?

Again, I wasn’t ready for her answer.

Her three-year-old grandson has a malignant brain tumor.

“That’s why I was crying at the end of the video,” Debra confided.  She spoke softly: “I was looking at his picture and thinking—not about me, but about him.”

No wonder she was so furious: She felt used.

CBS had used her and abused in a way that no professional journalist should ever treat a source.  And in the end they blamed her for the error in their video.

Debra has not pretended to be a healthcare expert. She simply told the reporter what she thought to be true.  And they ran with it.

                     CBS Is Just One of Many Major Media Outlets

But the problem is not confined to CBS.

 In part 3 of this post I will ask: “Why Do So Many Reporters know so little about the Affordable Care Act?”

Is not just that they haven’t read the 2,000-plus pages of legislation—that I understand. Most journalists don’t have time to wade through the bill.

But when one of Obamacare’s detractors makes a statement about the Affordable Care Act, few reporters fact-check it.

For example:  No doubt you have heard the charge that Obamcare will turn us into a nation of part-timers:  The ACA’s opponents point out that the law  insists that small businesses with 50 to 99 full-time employees (averaging 30 hours a week) must start insuring workers by 2016. Those with 100 or more are required to begin offering insurance in 2015.

Small businesses are the engine of job growth, conservatives argue. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act they will hire fewer full-time workers. Even worse, many will cut current employees hours to 29 or less.

True or False?

“Google” makes it easy to check.  Type in “Obamacare” and “small business” and “full-time” and Google  will take you to “” There, you will discover that “Small businesses with 50-99 full-time equivalent employees will need to start insuring workers by 2016. Those with a 100 or more will need to start providing health benefits in 2015.”

Any reporter who possesses just a smidgen of curiosity is bound to wonder: “What are full-time equivalent employees?”

The Fact Sheer explains: “In simple terms FTE or “full-time equivalent” equals (the total number of full-time employees) plus (the combined number of Part-time employee hours divided by 30).

In other words, when the government count “full-time employees,” it doesn’t just count heads, it counts hours. If a business has 50 full-time employees working 30 hours a week, and cuts 10 back to 15 hours, it will have only 40 full-time employees. But it will have to hire more part-timers

Let’s say a small company hires 20 new part-time workers, each putting in 15 hours a week. Combined, they will be working 300 hours. Divide 300 by 30 and you have 10 “full time equivalents.” Add 10 to the  40 remaining full-time workers and the company  now has 50 “full-time or full-time equivalent employees.”

The business won’t have to insure the 20 part-timers, but it will have to insure the 40 who work full-time, or pay the penalty. And it will have to train 20 new employees. Hardly a brilliant business plan.

A reporter who knows how to Goggle could figure this out in less than 10 minutes.But too many journalists just focus on “the news”—what a conservative said today, what the White House Press Secretary said in reply—without comparing the pols’ and pundits’ claims to the legislation passed in 2010. It’s there in black & white, waiting for fact-checkers.

In final section of this post, I’ll discuss other reasons why so many news outlets wind up spreading misinformation, and what “knowledge-based journalism” would mean.








24 thoughts on “How A CBS Video About An Obamacare Victim Misled Millions- Part 2 (What the “Victim” Revealed in Our Final Interview)

  1. Having just finished writing a book on Obamacare, this story really resonates. But I’m not convinced it’s just about lazy journalism as much as it’s about giving vent to their own biases. It’ probably a combination of both – but it does their readers a disservice.

    Thanks for your thorough pursuit of the truth of the matter.

    • John —

      Yes, I’m afraid it’s not just about lazy journalism.

      It’s about “corporate journalism”– like medicine , journalism, has gone corporate. I became a journalist in the early 80s, and things were very different.
      I worked for mainstream media: Time Inc., the New York Times, Dow Jones. . .
      Today, I could not write what I write on this blog at most mainstream media outlets. (Ezra Klein managed to create his own fiefdom at the Washington Post, and did a great job of truth-telling. But even he is leaving for the blogosphere where he will have complete independence.)

      Also, journalists working at mainstream media outlets all have pretty good health insurance. The Affordable Care Act is not helping them–and I’m afraid that some worry that it will hurt them.

      I’d be interested in seeing your book. If you e-mail me (see contact Maggie) I will send you my address and perhaps your publisher could send it to me.

    • Run–

      Yes–even my jaw dropped during that final interview with Fisherwicks.

      And CBS– this was the network of Murrow & Cronkite. I will always remember when Walter Cronkite decided to show the “body bags” of dead young men returning from Vietnam on the
      evening news.

      He stuck his neck way out–telling the truth about Vietnam.

      And then there was 60 minutes on Sunday nights.
      The last truly investigative news show on TV. (It still does good work, but the producer and his best reporters are long gone.)
      It was a different age of journalism.

      I’ll be writing more about this in part 3 of this post.

  2. Krugman had a nice update op ed on quite a few of these stories and the underlying data. I forwarded the link to a number of friends anti ACA. Next a WSJ article by Stephen Blackwood listed the horrors of his mother who has a rare incurable carcinoma presently controlled by chemotherapy. The allegation is that Obamacare denied coverage. It is so hard to establish where things went wrong, but my theory is agents selling insurance from absolute for profit companies have no interest in searching out appropriate insurances.
    Where does one go to find the hard data. The stories are wrenching or as the author noted a part of a Procrustean life.

  3. Richard Scott–

    I just read the Blackwood story.

    First, the enrolling agent definitely lied to her. You Do NOT have to buy a policy in order to find out what is in the formulary.

    Secondly, if find it difficult to believe that Blackwood, a college president, didn’t pick up the phone himself, call the insurer and find out what was in its formulary. (I assume he was in contact with his mother at this stressful time and knew what was going on.)

    I also am shocked that he didn’t search the Virginia Exchange for her and make the needed calls to insurers.
    (They had plenty of time: her old plan wouldn’t expire until Jan 1 at the earliest.) He pretends that Obamacare forced them to find new insurance immediately. (If memory serves insurers had to give 2 months notice that a plan was going to be cancelled—maybe 3 months. Many cancellation notices went out in October.) He just has to wait until the Virginia Exchange was up & working smoothly.

    As I have written in the past–everyone should go to the Exchange navigators for advice– not insurance brokers. Navigators will not benefit by steering you to a particular insurer. Some brokers are great, but other have long relationships with particular carriers who pay them good commissions. They want to keep those relationships going.

    I am sure that there are Exchange plans out there that would cover this drug.
    In addition, there are Exchange plans out there that cap total out of pocket spending (including drugs) at $3,000. $4,000, $5,000.

    Finally, under the Affordable Care Act she has the right to appeal the insurer’s decision. (See part 1 of this post where I discuss this in some detail

    If the case is urgent , the carrier has to reply in 72 hours. She then has the right to appeal to an external appeals board–and again their response has to be swift.
    The Affordable Care Act greatly strengthens a patient’s appeal rights. And before the ACA passed, patients won
    more than half of the time! Now, they are even more likely to win.

    Blackwood should know this, and should be helping her pursue the appeal.
    He seems far more interested in bashing Obama than in
    helping his mother.
    I wonder why . . .
    I’m going to check out the Virginia Exchange, check out
    Blackwood, and then call him.
    To find the hard data regarding these stories,, go to the exchange and look at the plans. (On anyone can do this. You don’t need to enroll. You just need to insert a zip code from the particular state and say you want to look at plans.
    Then when you get to the plans, click on “details”
    In particular, look at gold plans where you will find some that cap total out of pocket spending (including drugs) at low levels. You also want a low deductible. )

    Finally, another “wrenching” story you may have read is about out the young woman with Lupus. She says she has systemic Lupus. (A dreadful disease that attacks your organs and can prove fatal). She also says that she now has to work two jobs to pay for her insurance.
    It is unlikely that someone suffering from systemic Lupus would be able to work two jobs. . . .

    Many readers have e-mailed me about their situations. I have yet to hear from someone for whom I couldn’t find good appropriate insurance in their Exchange. (The only exceptions– people who live in a state that has refused to expand Medicaid, and so fall between the cracks: they don’t qualify for Medicaid in their state and they don’t qualify for the Exchange. This is not Congress’ fault–when legislators passed the ACA they had no way of guessing that the Supreme Court would rule that states didn’t have to expand Medicaid)
    Otherwise, there here is such a wide variety of offerings in the Exchanges, that everyone can find something that suits their needs. And the vast majority of people who don’t have good employer-based insurance qualify for subsidies.
    Some of the people telling these wrenching stories are not deliberately lying–they are just misinformed, and not very good at using computers. But I have yet to find a story which shows that, because of Obamacare, someone is no longer able to get the care they need.
    I hope to write about the Blackwood case. Thank you for calling my attention to the story.

      • Now Sen Wicker has discussed how bad Obamacare is in reference to Mrs. Blackwood

        Ralston College It has been entered into the Congressional Record:…/pdf/CREC-2014-02-24-pt1-PgS988.pdf…
        19 hours ago

        I attempted to find pres B on the Ralston college Facebook page. Sounds like a college I would enjoy, its sponsors like Bloom excellent and concept of reading and discussing books a lost art.

        • Richard Scott D.O.

          I know Harold Bloom very well. (He was my mentor in college and in grad school.)

          AS a literary critic, he is brilliant. When it comes to politics he could easily be taken in
          by ultra conservatives.

          Here is what we know about the Blackwood case:
          1) her medication is available in generic form, and her new (Obamacare) insurer covers it.
          (something her son forgot to mention that in his Op-ed)
          2) her insurer will also cover the brand-name version of her prescription, though she needs prior authorization. (Probably they want her to try the generic first, but if her doctor says the generic isn’t as good they’ll cover the brand name version.
          3) her husband is an M.D. When I Googled him it seems that his practice is doing very, very well.
          4) the website for his practice says that it takes “NO MEDICAID IN ANY FORM”
          It also says he takes NO NEW MEDICARE Patients
          5) He & Mrs. Blackwood have ten children
          6) They are deeply religious
          7) Wouldn’t you think that a doctor and his wife would know that you don’t have to buy a policy in order to find out what is covered in the formulary?
          8) Wouldn’t you think they would be capable of navigating the Exchange?
          9) Wouldn’t you think that one of the ten (grown) children would have helped them?
          10) Ralston college doesn’t yet exist —Blackwood began raising funds for it a few years ago.
          It’s not built or open to students.
          11) The story does not pass “the smell test”
          12) I would write about it but other reporters have already begun to deconstruct it.

          • Richard Scott, D.O.

            One more interesting fact about the Blackwood case.

            Mrs. Blackwood (who has cancer) lives in Virginia Beach, Virgina— the
            same place where Debra Fishericks lives. Coincidence?

            I never was able to find out how the D.C. bureau of CBS found out about Fishericks, or who told them she had cancer.

            Perhaps the same person who encouraged Blackwood to write an Op-ed for the WSJ–and had the connections to get the WSJ to look at it?

  4. The last piece on part-time employees can be a big one. Last year one of our grandchildren went to work at Applebee’s and the place had cut everybody on the property back to thirty hours or less except for a few key people. The reason, he was told, was to keep from paying “benefits” and it was blamed on the new health care law.

    I looked at the employee handbook and couldn’t find that in print, but I’m no longer shocked at anything I hear goes on in the food business. My guess is that there is wholesale ignorance all over the business world about that “part time employee” business, I suspect partly because the FTE concept is unique to service-type jobs more than production work.

    There has always been a lot of irrational thinking about “overtime” as well as part-time work. Lots of otherwise intelligent managers and supervisors actually believe that overtime is horrendously costly. They fail to realize that the real cost is *half* of regular time, because the underlying hourly wage would presumably be paid anyway. In the scheme of scheduling, it’s sometimes more economical to plan a little overtime than to add another person to a shift.

    I’ve noticed that assisted living facilities now have evolved to a base rate per month which is then increased with a surcharge depending on how many additional hours might be needed for an individual resident’s care. For example Level I can be for the most self-reliant who only need laundry once a week and basic housekeeping. Level II might be for shower assistance and incontinence care, Level III adds more hours of attention and Level IV is memory care and Alzheimer’s. Different places have different profiles, but that appears to be the emerging price model. It all goes back to basic business arithmetic in the form of FTE hours. And you’re right, the language of the bill clearly says “full time EQUIVALENT.”

    I’d love to see some of this stuff busting wide open about election time. It’s really low-hanging fruit for any good investigative TV journalist.

    • John–

      Applebee’s didn’t “have to” cut everyone back. It decided to.
      It could have raised prices on a few popular items by pennies. These chains make good profits.
      Cutting people to part-time is a dumb business decision. It means you then need more part-time workers to
      cover the shifts. Who is going to train these people–the angry employees who have had their hours cut back?

      When employee morale goes down the tube, service suffers.

      Wal-Mart tried layoffs and cutting hours in response to Obamacare. Customers began to complain. Shelves were not getting
      re-stocked quickly enough, etc. Wal-Mart ultimately reversed the decision.

      Finally,business owners who blame lay-offs and cut-backs on Obamacare are simply people who don’t like health care reform (and hate Obama). But they will hurt their businesses.

      In NYC, customers have been talking about boycotting Applebee’s.

  5. John–

    You are right–it is low-hanging fruit for any good investigative journalist.
    Unfortunately, I can think of only 2 good investigative TV journalists– Rachel Maddow and O’Donnell

    As I will point out in my next post, these days, there are only only 5 or 6 really good investigative journalists in mainstream print media. There are many more in the Blogosphere (see my Blogroll on HealthBeat.)

    As for companies firing full-time workers:
    A few large food-service and retail chains may hire fewer full-time workers and more part-time workers but they represent far less than 1% of U.S. workers,.
    And because their workers earn so little (even when full-time) those workers will be eligible for large subsidies in Exchanges, where they will be better off.


  6. You’re right. But in the meantime people who need the money, living payday to payday, are being coldly cut short by ignorant employers. And in the case of Georgia, where I live, there are no subsidies forthcoming because this is one of the states that opted not to expand Medicaid. That is a huge and damaging problem. That SCOTUS decision was a serious body blow to ACA.

  7. Kidney cancer is largely asymptomatic. The majority of patients will appear normal and healthy until the disease has reached an advanced stage. Voluntary health organizations report an extraordinary number of people who, due to the ACA, can no longer receive adequate treatment for their renal cancers. This, sadly, is the actual situation. I know, because I work with people who are struggling with this disease. The CBS story may be incorrect, but the ACA isn’t helping people with rare cancers–that is certain.

    • Bill–

      You are mistaken. Cancer treatment is considered an “essential benefit” and must be covered.
      And if you read both posts you know that under the ACA a patient has two routes to appealing a carrier’s decision not to cover a particular treatment. The decision must be made swiftly and if the treatment is medically necessary,
      the patient will win.
      Insurers also must cover patients in clinical trials.

      You may be talking about patients who want treatments that are not effective.
      For example: chemotherapy:
      “While useful to treat most types of cancer, kidney cancer is often resistant to chemotherapy. Researchers continue to study new drugs and new combinations of drugs. For some patients, the combination of gemcitabine (Gemzar) and fluorouracil (5-FU, Adrucil) or capecitabine (Xeloda) will temporarily shrink a tumor. It is important to remember that urothelial carcinoma (also called transitional cell carcinoma) and Wilms tumor are much more likely to be successfully treated with chemothe.” Radiation also is usually not recommended. See

      Furthermore, we have discovered that many patients are better off just being monitored (“watchful waiting”) rather than undergoing surgery. Those who undergo surgery are more likely to die. Aggressive treatment is not always the best answer.

      But researchers are exploring new treatments. This is why it is so important that the ACA says that insurers must cover patients in clinical trials.

      Finally, regarding the symptoms. It depends on what stage of renal cancer you are talking about. Fisherwicks was diagnosed sometimes before 2011. If she had not had surgery, by 2014 the cancer would have progressed.
      Here is what the Mayo Clinic says about symptoms:
      Kidney cancer rarely causes signs or symptoms in its early stages. In the later stages, kidney cancer signs and symptoms may include:

      Blood in your urine, which may appear pink, red or cola colored
      Back pain just below the ribs that doesn’t go away
      Weight loss
      Intermittent fever

  8. John–

    People in Georgia who earn somewhere between $11,490 and $45, 960 are eligible for subsidies.
    The problem is that those who earn less than $11,490, but too much to qualify for Georgia’s stingy Medicaid program, fall between the cracks.
    I don’t blame the Supreme Court so much as I blame
    the politicians in Georgia–and the folks who elected them.
    The Supreme Court left it up to them, and it seems that Georgians don’t care about their poor.
    But eventually I think the pressure from hospitals, nursing homes and others who will benefit financially if Georgia expands Medicaid will overcome the opposition.
    Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the people who need help right now.
    Finally the number of employers who are cutting hours to part-time–and the number of employees who are affected-is relatively small.
    Conservatives have tried to pretend that Obamacare is costing us many full-time jobs, but that just isn’t true.
    The recent CBO report shows that many people are choosing to go part-time–or retire early–because they no longer have to hold into a job they hate in order to have health insurance.

  9. Pingback: Health Wonk Review: Mud Season Edition | Wright on Health

  10. Pingback: Traditional news media must be made irrelevant by bloggers

    • Traditional news–

      What you say is true “Fact-checking” after the story is published or airs does not begin to undo the damage.