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 healthcare.gov, 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?