Wild rumors, such as the one claiming Obamacare premiums will start at $20,000 a year for a family of five, are much jucier than the truth.
About a week ago, Investor Daily’s website published a “Fact-Check” post that illustrates how misinformation spreads.
In the post, Jed Graham explains that when the IRS published a final rule about penalties under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it included a few hypotheticals. For example, the IRS wrote, “The annual national average bronze plan premium for a family of 5 (2 adults, 3 children) is $20,000′ in 2016.”
The $20,000 figure was just an example, Graham explains. “The IRS always uses hypothetical numerical examples in its regulations to illustrate how the rules will work in practice and this was no different.”
Nevertheless, before long, the “conservative news site CNSNews.com began to blare out this shocking headline: ‘IRS: Cheapest Obama Care Plan Will Be $20,000 Per Family.’”
From there, “the ‘fact’ got picked up by countless media outlets and pundits” Graham reports, “most of them on the right,” including:
•On the left, even Naked Capitalism (a well-researched blog,) reported the news bulletin from CNSNews.com.
This is the problem: Once a faux-fact gets out there, even reporters who have no axe to grind continue to repeat it. If you see the number often enough, you assume it must be true.
How could a reporter tell that $20,000 wasn’t an IRS estimate?
It should have been clear that this was a hypothetical, Graham points out, if you just looked at other hypotheticals in the IRS ruling. “For example: ‘the annual national average bronze plan premium for a family of 4 (1 adult, 3 children) is $18,000.’
“Both examples can’t be true,” he observes, “unless an adult’s premium is $2,000 and a child’s is $5,333.”