Wednesday, March 08, 2017

What Does Fail Mean? This Ad Fails In Every Way

This ad was in the Wednesday, March 8, 2017 Alaska Dispatch News and it's full of misinformation and manipulation of the facts.  (Not sure how to link an ad so that non-subscribers can see it in the paper, but it's on page A-5)

The headline claims Obamacare has failed.  But ask the 10 million or so people who now have coverage because of Obamacare whether it failed.  It's only failed in conservative ideology whose proponents failed to block the Affordable Care Act, and failed to repeal it.   Obamacare isn't perfect, but I would argue that most of the problems are there because the Republicans, in their fervor to repeal it, refused to work with Democrats to make improvements.  What they feared, came true.  Americans don't want to lose their health insurance.

But let's look at the ad.  Here are three key claims:
  • "Premiums are skyrocketing"
  • "Our choices are limited"
  • "Alaskans are losing coverage"

Premiums are skyrocketing

Note the quote "Skyrocketing premiums as high as 40%."   I checked the Alaska Dispatch October 30, 2016.  I could not find this article in that day's edition. (Here's the link, but you have to be a subscriber to see the archive.

But using the words in the claim, I did find this article from 2011, before Obamacare went into effect.

"HEALTH CARE: 9 percent rise far outpaces wages, inflation.
WASHINGTON After modest increases last year, the cost of job-based health insurance for families and individuals has jumped sharply this year, even though insurers are paying less in benefi ts as cash-strapped American workers opt for less medical care.
For the estimated 150 million workers with employer-sponsored coverage, the average cost of family health insurance jumped 9 percent this year to $15,073, while the price of individual coverage rose 8 percent to $5,429.
What is clear, however, is that family coverage premiums have climbed 113 percent since 2001, compared with a 34 percent rise in workers’ wages and a 27 percent increase in inflation over the period.
Employers still absorb the bulk of insurance costs. They pay an average of 72 percent, nearly
$11,000, toward the cost of family coverage. Workers pay about 28 percent, an average of $4,129. For single coverage, workers pay about 18 percent, or $921, in premiums, while employers pay the rest, about $4,508." [Emphasis added]

 The citation mentions the Alaska Dispatch News September 28, 2016. (I think you have to be a subscriber to see the link.)  But if you look at that edition of the ADN, there's nothing there about this.  If you look harder, there's an opinion piece by Dermot Cole published  June 20,2015 and updated Sept. 28) but it's actually titled:
"17,000 Alaskans face risk of losing health insurance subsidies" (emphasis added)
It's not "lost coverage"  it's "risk of losing."

And it's not losing insurance, but subsidies. Here's the beginning of the article: (this link should work)
"17,000 Alaskans face risk of losing health insurance subsidies
 Author: Dermot Cole   Updated: September 28, 2016   Published June 20, 2015
Robin Barker, a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Bethel, struggled with chronic illnesses for years that kept her from working. Her only option for health insurance cost nearly $800 a month for a policy that came with a $15,000 deductible. Prescriptions alone set her back $12,000 a year."
Why were these subsidies at risk?  Because, according to this Washington Post article:
"The challenge to the health-care law was brought by the same conservative legal strategists who three years ago fell one vote short of convincing the court that the law was unconstitutional. The latest challenge was about how the law is to be carried out."
If we could figure out who "One Nation" (the funders of this ad) is, we might find that the people who fought to get rid of the subsidies all the way to the Supreme Court were funded by the same people who now use that failed court challenge as though they had won.

A few days after this article was published in June 2015 the US Supreme Court ruled to keep the subsidies 6-3.  (Only Scalia, Thomas, and Alito opposed.)  So, in fact they didn't lose those subsidies and the quote is made up to warp people's understanding of ACA.

They are misleading readers further by saying people would lose coverage, when in fact it was a subsidy to buy the coverage, which, in fact, they didn't lose.

Limited choices with only one insurer in the marketplace

This link does take us to the New York Times story cited, which  does mostly say that five states, and parts of other states, are likely to have just one insurer in 2017.  But this article was published a month or so before the final decisions were to be made, so it's not clear how things ended up.  "Many" turns out to be in the article:
"17 percent of Americans eligible for an Affordable Care Act plan may have only one insurer to choose next year. "
Why would 17% of Americans have only one choice?  Paul Krugman argued
". . .  it would be quite easy to fix the system. It seems clear that subsidies for purchasing insurance, and in some cases for insurers themselves, should be somewhat bigger — an affordable proposition given that the program so far has come in under budget... There should also be a reinforced effort to ensure that healthy Americans buy insurance, as the law requires, rather than them waiting until they get sick. Such measures would go a long way toward getting things back on track."
He goes on to argue that if there were a public insurance option, the problem would also be solved, but that insurance companies opposed that strongly.  But if insurance companies say they can't afford to offer insurance, he goes on, then a public option should be available to provide the competition that a market needs to keep rates lowers.

And finally, this third headline - limited choice - ignores the fact that before Obamacare, many more Americans had NO choice of health insurance.  For them, one choice probably seems better than no choice.

And given that Republicans made repealing Obamacare their top priority, it's clear they wanted it to fail in order to fulfill their own prophecies.  Sure, Obamacare is not perfect, but millions of Americans now have health insurance who didn't before.

The ad tells you to call Lisa Murkowski's office and "thank [her] for fighting to repeal and replace Obamacare."  I'd suggest that you call and ask her who put out this ad in her name and that you do not support the repeal of Obamacare until there is a replacement that's at least as good (covers the same number of Americans and has the same affordability levels) as Obamacare.  The number they listed is 907 271 3735.  I got right through.  It only takes a minute to do.  It's more important for Alaskans to do this, so share the number and this post with other Alaskans.

And who is One Nation?  Not sure who funds them.  But their website (you can google it) sounds much more reasonable than our president, but basically wants to stop Obamacare and get public funds to private schools among other things.

Finally, there's the question of the ADN's responsibility to monitor 'alternative facts' in paid ads in their paper.  Especially when the ADN itself is wrongly cited.  I don't think they should ban such ads, but they should alert readers that the citations are wrong and the claims are, at best, misleading.  I know that's not part of traditional journalism, but in this time of a president who lives in an alternative reality and lies regularly, traditional journalists are learning new ways to get readers closer to the truth.

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