February 26 2014
The Democrats have at last come up with a meme to address the proliferation of tragic stories we’re hearing about people who have been harmed severely by ObamaCare: they’re liars or dupes.
The Democrats’ leader in the Senate framed the argument this way (courtesy of Patrick Brennan at “The Corner”):
Senate majority leader Harry Reid seems pretty confident no one is being harmed by the president’s health-care law. ”There’s plenty of horror stories being told [about Obamacare],” Reid said on the floor of the Senate today. “All of them are untrue.”
He blamed the conservative group Americans for Prosperity for the negative ObamaCare stories, conveniently ignoring that stories about people rendered desperate by the Affordable Care Act also have appeared in such pro-Obama venues as the Washington Post and the New York Times.
The Majority Leader’s claim comes on the heels of a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times that made pretty much the same claim. Dismissing the people who have come forward to tell their sad ObamaCare stories, Krugman writes:
Even supporters of health reform are somewhat surprised by the right’s apparent inability to come up with real cases of hardship. Surely there must be some people somewhere actually being hurt by a reform that affects millions of Americans. Why can’t the right find these people and exploit them?
The most likely answer is that the true losers from Obamacare generally aren’t very sympathetic. For the most part, they’re either very affluent people affected by the special taxes that help finance reform, or at least moderately well-off young men in very good health who can no longer buy cheap, minimalist plans. Neither group would play well in tear-jerker ads.
Got that? If you lost your coverage because of ObamaCare, you're probably just not that sympathetic a character. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
On the day after Krugman’s nasty column, Stephen Blackwood recounted in the Wall Street Journal the harrowing story of his mother, a cancer patient who had a health insurance policy that paid for the drug that kept her alive. Thanks to ObamaCare, she lost her policy:
And then in November, along with millions of other Americans, she lost her health insurance. She'd had a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for nearly 20 years. It was expensive, but given that it covered her very expensive treatment, it was a terrific plan. It gave her access to any specialist or surgeon, and to the Sandostatin and other medications that were keeping her alive.
And then, because our lawmakers and president thought they could do better, she had nothing. Her old plan, now considered illegal under the new health law, had been canceled.
Because the exchange website in her state (Virginia) was not working, she went directly to insurers' websites and telephoned them, one by one, over dozens of hours. As a medical-office manager, she had decades of experience navigating the enormous problems of even our pre-ObamaCare system. But nothing could have prepared her for the bureaucratic morass she now had to traverse.
The repeated and prolonged phone waits were Sisyphean, the competence and customer service abysmal. When finally she found a plan that looked like it would cover her Sandostatin and other cancer treatments, she called the insurer, Humana, HUM +1.73% to confirm that it would do so. The enrollment agent said that after she met her deductible, all treatments and medications—including those for her cancer—would be covered at 100%. Because, however, the enrollment agents did not—unbelievable though this may seem—have access to the "coverage formularies" for the plans they were selling, they said the only way to find out in detail what was in the plan was to buy the plan. (Does that remind you of anyone?)
Is Senator Reid calling the Blackwood family liars? Does Paul Krugman think they are unsympathetic? As a recent email from our sister organization, Independent Women’s Voice, noted:
Blackwood’s situation is not unique. ObamaCare contributed to the death of Melanie Graham’s sister and it cost Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who’s currently fighting cancer, his oncologist. Krugman, for the record, referred to the Coburn story as “garbage.” And of course. IWV has heard from hundreds of men and women, and collected their stories at MyCancellation.com, who could tell Krugman a thing or two about how ObamaCare has harmed them.
We probably should address the case of leukemia patient Julie Boonstra, who got caught up in a national media feeding frenzy after she cut an ad about her experiences with ObamaCare for Americans for Prosperity. Ms. Boonstra, who was diagnosed with leukemia five years ago, appeared in an Americans for Prosperity ad. Ms. Boonstra said that she had lost her policy and that the new, out-of-pocket expenses are "so high it's unaffordable."
But you can’t say that:
The target of that ad, Michigan Rep. Gary Peters, subsequently had his campaign lawyers write to Michigan TV stations, effectively warning that their FCC licenses could be at risk unless they demanded more proof from AFP.
But Boonstra, in an interview with Fox News on Monday, defended her claims and blasted Peters for trying to take down the ad.
"They're not scaring me. Cancer scares me," she said. "I battle cancer every day. They're not going to intimidate me."
It should be noted that the Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler looked into the Boonstra ad. He gave it two Pinocchios (four is what President Obama got for his whopper about keeping your health insurance policies and doctors). Kessler said that more disclosure was needed. You can read his column here.
The dollar figure in the Boonstra case are complex and so we’ll say only that, at the very least, Boonstra has lost a policy she liked and has been through an incredible trauma because of ObamaCare. Peter Roff of US News has the last word:
[Boonstra’s story is] a story the New York Times or the Washington Post should have uncovered on its own and put on the front page above the fold. That it took the efforts of an outside actor, a third party group engaged in the intellectual and policy debates defining politics in America today, to bring the story out is a reason for the Times and the Post to take a good hard look at themselves rather than the ad’s sponsors.
By making excuses for Obama and the Affordable Care Act, by trying to find ways to split hairs in order to disguise the harm this law has done to the American people, they are doing everyone a disservice. That they are also behaving in a way that insulates Democratic candidates for office betrays their bias and removes the aura of neutral observer from their tarnished journalistic halos.
But why would the media go after these stories? Harry Reid says these people are liars or dupes.