Concerning those horror tales: On Monday, Kevin Drum asked a fairly good question:
Why have we heard so many stories about people getting screwed by Obamacare? More precisely, why have we heard so many bogus stories of this type?
Drum’s question was inspired by a 1500-word piece in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.
In that piece, Michael Hiltzik wrote about Rita Rizzo, age 60, who owns a management consulting firm for nonprofit groups with her husband, Lou Vincent, 64.
Vincent suffers from several medical conditions. For that reason, he hadn’t been able to get insurance for the last ten years.
Through Obamacare, Rizzo and Vincent got a policy. In this passage, Hiltzik compares their good news story, which hasn’t been publicized, with one of the bogus bad news stories which got big play last year:
HILTZIK (3/23/14): In December, Rizzo signed up for Obamacare. She now has a policy that covers her and Vincent together, including all his meds and lab work, for $379 a month, with a $2,000 family deductible.Cavallaro’s horror story was bogus, but it good a lot of play. Good news stories—stories like Rizzo’s—have been widely ignored.
"I feel like I died and went to insurance heaven," she says.
But you haven't heard Rizzo's story unless you tuned in to NBC Nightly News on New Year's Day or scanned a piece by Politico about a week later. In the meantime, the airwaves and news columns have been filled to overflowing with horrific tales from consumers blaming Obamacare for huge premium increases, lost access to doctors and technical frustrations—many of these concerns false or the product of misunderstanding or unfamiliarity with the law.
While Rizzo was working her way to thousands of dollars in annual savings, for example, Southern California Realtor Deborah Cavallaro was making the rounds of NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CBS, Fox and public radio's Marketplace program, talking about how her premium was about to rise some 65% because of the "Unaffordable" Care Act. What her viewers and listeners didn't learn was that she hadn't checked the rates on California's insurance exchange, where (as we determined for her) she would have found a replacement policy for less than she'd been paying.
Hiltzik lays this out in some detail in last Sunday’s piece. On Monday, Drum posed this perfectly sensible question to his readers:
DRUM (3/24/14): So why do we hear so much about folks like Cavallero, and Bette from Spokane, and the infamous Julie Boonstra? Good question. More to the point, with Obamacare's website problems largely solved, and with the initial signup period coming to a close with a relatively high participation rate, will we start hearing these [good news] stories soon? Especially in swing states where the horror stories are getting so much play? Click the link [to Hiltzik’s report] for some speculation.Why have we heard so many of those bogus horror stories? For today, we’ll only say this:
We think part of the answer can be found in Hiltzik’s report—right in the passage we’ve posted. Beyond that, we think part of the answer can be found in Drum’s perfectly sensible post.
In part, we’ll even blame the problem on the reactions of Drum’s readers. Read their comments to see the way they responded to his post.
Why have we heard so many of those bogus horror stories? Tomorrow, we’ll tell you what was we thought was missing from Hiltzik’s lengthy report.