“Like It Or Not, Obamacare Is Moving Forward”: For Certain People, This Isn’t As Good A Story As The Website’s Implosion Was
So demand still appears to be there, despite weeks of deservedly awful press about the website and the law, and weeks of Republican claims that the law is so disastrously flawed that it cannot be rescued.
Along those lines, Kevin Drum captures what matters most about the news of the moment in one half a sentence:
if you need to buy health coverage via healthcare.gov, you can do it
This really is the rub. Sure, there will be continued problems. Charles Ornstein personally had a terrible experience. Sarah Kliff found the site is still not working for everybody. And the snafus at the back end may persist, too.
But the big picture is that far more people who need health insurance — whether they were bumped from plans or whether they were previously uninsured — will now be mostly able to go online, do some shopping, and buy health insurance. Before, they couldn’t.
This isn’t as good a story as the website’s implosion was, and if the site continues to function as expected, it will mostly stop getting media coverage. The press will move on to the next Obamacare disaster story, should it materialize: The “keep your doctor” saga, coming soon via Republican press release directly to reporters’ inboxes.
But the current fix has mostly tamped down concerns among Democratic lawmakers, and barring some truly catastrophic change, they just aren’t going to abandon the law in any meaningful sense. Meanwhile, demand looks likely to continue, even as insurance companies redouble their efforts to entice people on to the exchanges, which means enrollment will continue piling up, too.
Will it be enough? It’s too soon to say. Republican lawmakers and their voters have been 100 percent certain for some time now that Obamacare has already collapsed, but for everyone else, the law’s long term prospects will turn mostly on what that enrollment looks like over time. And for that, we’ll just have to wait.
By: Greg Sargent, The Washington Post, December 2, 2013
“Turning The Health Care Corner”: The Health Care Talking Points That “Everyone Knows” To Be True Are Due For An Update
Political journalism is sometimes criticized, fairly, for its “pack” mentality. Major news organizations wait for the conventional wisdom to organically take shape, and then the players stick to their scripts, reinforcing an agreed upon consensus. In practically no time at all, there are certain political facts that “everyone knows” to be true.
But soon after, that gets dull, the conventional wisdom invites skeptics, and contrarian instincts kick in. Maybe, the political world starts to wonder, those truths that “everyone knows” aren’t so true after all.
For the last several weeks, the consensus in establishment circles was that the Affordable Care Act’s open-enrollment period was not only a disaster, but a catastrophe that would destroy Obama’s presidency, the Democratic Party, the American health care system, and the very idea of progressive governance. Pundits could hardly contain their analogies – this was Obama’s Katrina, Obama’s Iraq, Obama’s Watergate, Obama’s Iran-Contra, and even Obama’s Bay of Pigs.
But the funny thing about narratives is that they’re sometimes fleeting. Ezra Klein suggests today that “Obamacare” may finally be “turning the corner.”
There are increasing reports that HealthCare.Gov is working better – perhaps much better – for consumers than it was a few short weeks ago. “Consumer advocates say it is becoming easier for people to sign up for coverage,” report Sandhya Somashekhar and Amy Goldstein in the Washington Post. “The truth is, the system is getting stronger as it recovers from its disastrous launch,” writes Sam Baker in the National Journal. Applying “was no problem at all, with no delays,” says Paul Krugman.
Reports from inside the health care bureaucracy are also turning towards optimism. People who knew the Web site was going to be a mess on Oct. 1st are, for the first time, beginning to think HealthCare.Gov might work. Data backs them up: By mid-November, the pace of enrollment in the federal exchanges had doubled from what it was in October.
The Obama administration is certainly acting like they believe the site has turned the corner. Somashekhar and Goldstein report that they’re “moving on to the outreach phase, which had taken a back seat as they grappled with the faulty Web site. Next week, the White House will host an insurance-oriented ‘youth summit’ aimed at people ages 18 to 35, an age group whose participation in the health-care law will be critical to its success.”
Why didn’t the White House do this sooner? Because officials didn’t much see the point in directing people to a website that didn’t work. If they’re increasing the website, it’s the result of greater optimism.
Perusing the news this morning, there are more than a few compelling pieces along these lines. The L.A. Times has a terrific article, for example, on “the Obamacare success stories you haven’t been hearing about.” NPR today highlighted some Californians who received cancelation notices – and are thrilled with the results. National Journal made the case yesterday that Obama not only can recover from the troubled rollout; he already has.
Moreover, Greg Sargent has a great piece noting that for all the talk about health care crushing Democrats, there’s a credible argument that the Republican position “is actually a political liability of its own.”
Yes, some of these pieces were written by center-left observers who may be predisposed to hope “Obamacare” succeeds, but note that we weren’t seeing any of these kinds of reports a few weeks ago when the feeding frenzy got underway. On the contrary, Ezra, Greg, and others were openly critical of the administration’s obvious mistakes and missteps as they unfolded.
The conventional wisdom won’t change quickly or easily, but you can almost see the consensus shifting in real time. There are some important issues the administration still needs to address, and failure very much remains an option. For that matter, if it’s a mistake to exaggerate the importance of every piece of bad ACA news, the law’s defenders must be equally cautious about exaggerating the importance of every positive development, too.
But for those stuck in the “Obamacare is and will remain a disaster” story, it’s time for a reality check. The system is improving, enrollment is increasing, more consumers are smiling, horror stories are failing, and health costs are shrinking.
The health care talking points that “everyone knows” to be true are due for an update.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 26, 2013
It has been said many times over the last few years that now that Democrats successfully passed a comprehensive overhaul of American health insurance, they own the health-care system, for good or ill. Every problem anyone has with health care will be blamed on Barack Obama, whether his reform had anything to do with it or not. Your kid got strep throat? It’s Obama’s fault! Doctor left a sponge in your chest cavity? Stupid Obama! Grandma died after a long illness at the age of 97? Damn you, Obama!
OK, so maybe it won’t be quite as bad as that, but pretty close. Here’s an instructive case in exactly how this plays out. Take a look at this article that ran in yesterday’s Washington Post, telling how in order to keep premiums down and attract customers, some insurers are limiting their networks. “As Americans have begun shopping for health plans on the insurance exchanges,” the article tells us, “they are discovering that insurers are restricting their choice of doctors and hospitals in order to keep costs low, and that many of the plans exclude top-rated hospitals.”
So insurance companies—private actors seeking to maximize profit—are making decisions that some potential customers find less than perfectly appealing. The article itself is clear about why this is happening, but in the newspaper’s print edition, the subtitle read, “Exchanges Exclude Doctors, Hospitals.” Of course, that’s completely false. The exchanges haven’t excluded any doctors and hospitals, the insurance companies offering plans on the exchanges have made a decision to exclude them. The insurance companies are perfectly free to make a different decision, but they’ve decided not to.
So the newspaper runs this story, with the headline writers mistakenly portraying what for some small number of people is an unwelcome development as a decision made by the Obama administration. Conservatives will then take articles like this and others like it, and say, “See? Obama said you could keep your doctor! He lied! This law is a disaster!” Barack Obama never said that he’d forbid any insurance company from ever changing anyone’s policy or offering policies that provide something less than spectacularly gold-plated coverage at absurdly low prices. But now, every profit-maximizing decision by a corporation becomes Barack Obama’s fault.
The second component of Barack Obama coming to own all the problems with the health-care system is that with the rollout of the ACA, you suddenly have a lot of political reporters doing stories on health care, and many of them have only the thinnest understanding of the law. That limited understanding makes it easier for them to just focus on whatever negative things are happening in health care, blaming them on the ACA, and assuring themselves that they’ve been appropriately “tough” in their reporting.
There’s nothing wrong with reporters fully exploring all the changes our ever-evolving health-care system goes through, so long as they do it accurately. But you might notice that they are completely uninterested in the stories of people who are being helped by the Affordable Care Act. Harold Pollack estimates that there are over 10 million uninsured Americans who have significant medical issues like a cancer diagnosis or diabetes, and thus find it difficult or impossible to get insurance on the individual market under the pre-ACA system. These people will now be able to get reasonably priced insurance, which for many will be literally life-saving. But journalists find these people boring and not worth talking about. They’re much more interested in people who find something problematic in the new system, and they’re working hard to find every last one of those people’s stories and share them with the country. And that’s how Barack Obama ends up owning the health-care system.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 22, 2013
Before we proceed to today in the continuing saga of “What in God’s Name Are You Talking About, Richard Cohen?” here’s a warning — get your gag reflex ready.
In a typically rambling screed about… something, Cohen, who recently became the first man to connect the dots between Miley Cyrus’ MTV Video Music Awards performance and what he likes to call “the so-called Steubenville rape” that happened one full year earlier, Cohen unleashes some choice nonsense thoughts on “Chris Christie’s Tea Party Problem.” In it, he ostensibly looks at the New Jersey’s governor’s political future and declares that “At the moment, it is Cruz, not Christie, who has seized the imagination of Iowa Republicans.” He also lets loose a truly outstanding array of bizarre assessments of prominent political figures, calling Sarah Palin “the Alaska quitter who, I think, actually now lives in Arizona,” Rick Santorum a man who’s “neither cuddly nor moderate” and Christie “too Joisey for the tea party — too brash, as well.”
But the true kicker of the piece comes near the end, when he swerves away from concern trolling Chris Christie to laughably state “Today’s GOP is not racist” — a declaration that the antics of party members would seem to contradict –and to consider what must be “troubling” the Tea Party right now. “People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York,” he writes, “a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all.”
Cohen would likely argue he’s just calling it like he sees it – reporting on incredibly offensive ideologies but not engaging in them himself. And hey, you want to suggest that political extremists might have a problem with a high profile mixed family? You might be right. Look how berserkers they went over that Cheerios commercial.
But we all know this isn’t Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” brightly announcing that “I think New York City might be ready for a charismatic biracial family with their own signature, synchronized dance moves.” This is Richard Cohen — a guy who thinks that “conventional” people would have a vomit response to a mixed marriage – and who then parenthetically throws in a little gay panic to boot. Because in his mind, being a backward moron is “conventional.”
This is a man who, let us never forget, has written creepily of the “sexual meritocracy” of older men and declared Clarence Thomas “condemned of being a man.” This is Richard Cohen, the writer who applauded Switzerland for it leniency toward Roman Polanski, who admitted, “There is no doubt that Polanski did what he did, which is have sex with a 13-year-old after plying her with booze” and then proceeded to dismissively refer to that girl as a “victim” in scare quotes. (Note to Cohen: Just like with the Steubenville case, this behavior is called rape.) The same man who, fascinatingly enough, has reportedly been reprimanded for “inappropriate behavior” toward a much younger colleague. This is a man who in July explained that he could “understand why [George] Zimmerman was suspicious” of Trayvon Martin, because the young man was “wearing a uniform we all recognize” and who lamented, “Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males?” A man who thinks maybe there’s something to this whole torture thing. One who hasn’t quite worked it out about homosexuals either, who’s decided that prejudice is bad but thinks “Gays don’t get some sort of pass just because they’re gay.”
You can almost understand how a guy like Cohen, who was spent his entire career amply demonstrating that he has a boatload of issues around women, sex and race, really hit the jackpot with Chirlane McCray. My God, look at her, all seemingly normal and living under the same room as a white man. Did I mention she used to be lesbian? Because she totally was. Surely, Cohen wants the world to understand, some people might have a problem with this. Not him, no, he’s just observing. Maybe asking for a friend.
It’s almost sad – almost – to watch a bigot try to cloak himself in the guise of concerned citizen. But rest assured, nobody with a track record like Cohen can use the phrase “gag reflex” without bringing plenty of his own bile to the party. And his transparently ugly shtick is fooling no one.
By: Mary Elizabeth Williams, Salon, November 12, 2013
The Obamacare website might still not be working, but journalists are. All across the country, as Republicans try to highlight tragic tales of Americans losing their current health insurance and allegedly stuck with more expensive options, journalists are coming to the rescue. In case after case, journalists investigated these stories and called the policyholders and combed the insurance exchange websites to bring actual facts to bear in our public debate about Obamacare.
Here are just some of the mythical stories journalists have helped dispel — and the lessons we can learn from them about the reality of the Affordable Care Act:
Deborah Cavallaro was making the rounds on television complaining about how her current insurance plan was canceled under Obamacare. So Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik talked to her. Her current plan cost $293 per month but had a deductible of $5,000 per year and out-of-pocket annual limits of $8,500. Also, the current plan covered just two doctor’s visits per year.
But in the California insurance exchange, which Hiltzik helped Cavallaro check, she could get a “silver” plan for $333 per month — $40 more than she’s currently paying. But the new plan has only a $2,000 deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses at $6,350. Plus all doctor visits would be covered. Hiltzik writes, “Is that better than her current plan? Yes, by a mile.”
Dianne Barrette also popped up on television on a CBS news report in which she lamented that her $54-per-month insurance plan had been canceled under Obamacare. But Nancy Metcalf at Consumer Reports investigated Barrette’s story and found that her current policy was a “textbook example of a junk plan that isn’t real health insurance at all.” According to Metcalf, if Barrette had ever tried to use her insurance for anything more than a sporadic doctor’s visit, “she would have ended up with tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical debt.”
The plan, for instance, only pays for hospitalization in cases of “complications of pregnancy.” Instead, Metcalf found that Barrette could get a “silver” plan in the state insurance exchange for $165 per month that would actually cover Barrette in the case of any sort of serious or even moderate illness. Which is the very definition of insurance, isn’t it?
Edie Littlefield Sundby, a stage-four gallbladder cancer survivor, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal blaming the Affordable Care Act for her canceled insurance policy. In her essay, Littlefield wrote that because of Obamacare, “I have been forced to give up a world-class health plan.” But, according to Igor Volsky of Think Progress, Sundby’s insurer, United Healthcare, “dropped her coverage because they’ve struggled to compete in California’s individual health care market for years and didn’t want to pay for sicker patients like Sundby.”
Earlier this year, United, which has publicly supported the Affordable Care Act, announced that it would pull out of the individual market in California. A company representative said it withdrew because its individual plans have never had a huge presence in the state. According to United, and in compliance with state law, the company won’t be able to re-enter the California individual market until 2017.
By then though, competitors will get stuck with sicker patients like Sundby signing up in the first wave of Obamacare. This means that companies like United can cover cheaper patients if it decides to go back to the California individual insurance market.
According to a report by Dylan Scott at Talking Points Memo, a Seattle woman named Donna received a cancellation letter from her insurance company regarding her current plan. The letter steered Donna and her family into a more expensive option and said, “If you’re happy with this plan, do nothing.” The letter made no mention of the Washington State insurance exchange, where Donna could find plenty of other more affordable choices, because the company wanted a convenient excuse to jack up Donna’s rates.
Had Donna “done nothing,” she would have ended up spending about $1,000 more per month on insurance than the cost of insurance she ultimately chose through the Obamacare exchange. In fact, the practice of trying to mislead customers has become so widespread that Washington state regulators issued a consumer alert to customers.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Republicans who have been desperate from the very beginning to destroy Obamacare at any cost, regardless of facts or the urgent health care crisis facing America, will continue to dig up stories of people supposedly harmed by the law. And journalists will hopefully continue to investigate these allegations, helping us all sort fact from fiction.
In the meantime, there’s a side benefit to all this: If you are one of the small fraction of Americans who currently relies on the individual insurance market and has seen your current policy canceled, call a journalist — like one of those in the stories above. Reporters all across the country are hungry for real-life stories about how Obamacare is working.
Plus, most reporters have access to high-speed Internet. If you can’t get through to the Obamacare exchange site, there’s a journalist standing by willing to help you navigate the exchange options and explore your pros and cons in terms of costs and benefits. The website might still be glitchy, but old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting is as reliable as ever.
By: Sally Kohn, Special To CNN, November 8, 2013