(Update) Media villager concern trolling over cancellation of individual health insurance plans

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

As I said the other day, "There is some actually very good reporting on this topic, none of which
will be reported on the tee-vee by the concern troll media villagers,
nor reported in your local newspapers which rely on the AP (All
Propaganda) concern trolls for sensationalistic reporting. Horseshit
reporting is what is killing any serious policy discussion in this

Paul Waldman at The American Prospect wrote about this the other day, Another Phony Obamacare Victim Story:

In the last couple of decades, a particular technique of news-story
construction has become so common that I'm sure you barely notice it as
something distinctive. It's the use of a device sometimes referred to as
the "exemplar," in which a policy issue is explained through the
profile of one individual, whose tale usually begins and ends the story.
It's ubiquitous on television news, but print reporters do it all the
time as well.

* * *

To see how misleading some of these exemplar stories can be, let's take this piece from last night's NBC Nightly News,
which uses an exemplar named Deborah Cavallaro, a self-employed realtor
from Los Angeles who buys insurance on the individual market[.]

Waldman then systematically destroys the NBC news reporter's reporting. "Unfortunately, we seem to be seeing a lot of these stories; here's an almost identical story from CBS about a 56-year-old Florida woman that goes through the same routine[.]"

Journalists have a natural inclination to cover bad news over good and
to be skeptical of the government, which is usually healthy. But if you
aren't careful it can also lead to misleading reporting. If you're going
to do a story presenting one person as a victim of the law, it might be
a good idea to make sure they are what you say they are

Similarly, Michael Hiltzik, the excellent business reporter for the Los Angeles Times also looked into this same "exemplar," Deborah Cavallaro, by the tee-vee reporters. Another Obamacare horror story debunked (shockingly, this story did make the editorial pages of the Arizona Daily Star today Michael Hiltzik: Don’t believe the canceled insurance hype):

"Please explain to me," she told Maria Bartiromo on CNBC
Wednesday, "how my plan is a 'substandard' plan when … I'd be paying
more for the exchange plans than I am currently paying by a wide

Bartiromo didn't take her up on her request. So I will.

The bottom line is that Cavallaro's assertion that "there's nothing
affordable about the Affordable Care Act," as she put it Tuesday on NBC
Channel 4, is the product of her own misunderstandings, abetted by a
passel of uninformed and incurious news reporters. 

I talked with Cavallaro, 60, after her CNBC appearance.

Cavallaro told me she hasn't checked the website of Covered
California, the state's health plan exchange, herself. I did so while we

Here's what I found. I won't divulge her current income, which is
personal, but this year it qualifies her for a hefty federal premium

At her age, she's eligible for a good "silver" plan for $333 a month
after the subsidy — $40 a month more than she's paying now. But the
plan is much better than her current plan — the deductible is $2,000,
not $5,000. The maximum out-of-pocket expense is $6,350, not $8,500. Her
co-pays would be $45 for a primary care visit and $65 for a specialty
visit — but all visits would be covered, not just two. 

Is that better than her current plan? Yes, by a mile.

If she wanted to pay less, Cavallaro could opt for lesser coverage in
a "bronze" plan. She could buy one from the California exchange for as
little as $194 a month. From Anthem, it's $256, or $444 a year less than
she's paying now. That buys her a $5,000 deductible (the same as she's
paying today) but the out-of-pocket limit is lower, $6,350. Office
visits would be $60 for primary care and $70 for specialties, but again
with no limit on the number of visits. Factor in the premium savings,
and it's hard to deny that she's still ahead.

* * *

When she told Channel 4 that "for the first time in my whole life, I
will be without insurance," it's hard to understand what she was talking
about. (Channel 4 didn't ask.) Better plans than she has now are
available for her to purchase today, some of them for less money. 

The sad truth is that Cavallaro has been very poorly served by the
health insurance industry and the news media.
It seems that Anthem
didn't adequately explain her options for 2014 when it disclosed that
her current plan is being canceled. If her insurance brokers told her
what she says they did, they failed her. And the reporters who
interviewed her without getting all the facts produced inexcusably
shoddy work — from Maria Bartiromo on down. They not only did her a
disservice, but failed the rest of us too

Michael Hiltzik was joined by insurance expert Wendell Potter on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on Thursday night. They were unsparing in their criticism of the horseshit reporting that is being done by the media villagers.

Paul Waldman followed up his earlier post with this, Time to Investigate Those Insurance Company Letters:

I want to talk about the thing that spawns some of these phony
Obamacare victim stories: the letters that insurers are sending to
people in the individual market. People all over the country are getting
these letters, which say "We're cancelling your current policy because
of the new health care law. Here's another policy you can get for much
more money." Reporters are doing stories about these people and their
terrifying letters without bothering to check what other insurance
options are available to them.

There's something fishy going on here, not just from the reporters,
but from the insurance companies. It's time somebody did a detailed
investigation of these letters to find out just what they're telling
their customers.
Because they could have told them, "As a result of the
new health care law, your plan, StrawberryCare, has now been changed to
include more benefits. The premium is going up, just as your premium has
gone up every year since forever." But instead, they're just
eliminating those plans entirely and offering people new plans.

If the
woman I discussed from that NBC story is any indication, what the
insurance company is offering is something much more expensive, even though they might have something cheaper available.
They may be taking the opportunity to try to shunt people into
higher-priced plans.
It's as though you get a letter from your car
dealer saying, "That 2010 Toyota Corolla you're leasing has been
recalled. We can supply you with a Toyota Avalon for twice the price."
They're not telling you that you can also get a 2013 Toyota Corolla for
something like what you're paying now.

Finally, Steve Benen lays it out in a chart form to demonstrate just how few people are actually affected by the "horror stories" that the media villagers are sensationalizing to create irrational fear and panic — the devil's tools of GOPropaganda. Obamacare's Winners and 'losers':

MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, an economist who helped then-Gov. Mitt Romney (R) shape health care reform in Massachusetts, told Ryan Lizza
this week about a percentage breakdown: how many Americans will be
unaffected (consumers who’ll keep their current employer-based plan),
how many will break even (those who’ll get a new plan, but it’ll cost
the same as their current plan), who many will win (those who’ll get new
coverage that’s cheaper than what they’re paying now), and how many
will “lose” (those whose new plan will be better, but will cost more).
It led University of Michigan economist and Brookings fellow Justin
Wolfers to put together [this] image based on Gruber’s assessment.


To be sure, the point isn’t to say that those 3% in the red slice are unimportant. Obviously, everyone matters. Rather, if all you relied upon was general media coverage over the last several days, one might assume that that the “losers” under the Affordable Care Act represented nearly 100% of the U.S. population.

They’re not. It’s not even close.

Gruber told Lizza that 97% of Americans will either be left alone or will be clear winners. “We have to as a society be able to accept that,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s a shame, but no law in the history of America makes everyone better off.”

I’ve seen some overnight pushback, arguing that Gruber’s numbers are rough estimates, not precise assessments. That’s true. What’s more, results will also vary by state. But let’s not miss the forest for the trees – even if the totals are off by a few percentage points, the key takeaway here is that the hair-on-fire coverage about Americans “losing” their current health plans, and having insurance get “canceled” on them, has been exaggerated to levels that clearly mislead the public at large.

* * *

Dylan Scott explained
this morning, “What really matters is, what happens to the people who
are receiving those cancellation letters that congressional Republicans
have been parading in front of the cameras? The bottom line: Almost all
of them are going to receive the same or much better coverage, and many
of them are going to receive financial help to purchase it

If this week is any guide, we’ll see just about every single
American in that 3% tell their story very soon
, but to think they’re
representative of most of the country is an important mistake.

If there was only one guy out there the corporate media would find him, and then extrapolate that his (unverified) story must be true for 100% of Americans. The corporate media is destroying this country.

UPDATE: Igor Volsky at Think Progress provides a helpful guide to How To Spot A Fake Obamacare Horror Story.

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