You can’t pick up a rock these days without encountering a misinformed mob of RWNJs repeating Fox News anger points about the Affordable Care Act. The main themes lately are cancelled junk plans and bad information about prices.
First, we go to the right-wing media frenzy around the “cancelled insurance plan” story arc. What Republicans are hoping that nobody tells you is this. Before the reforms were passed, insurance companies had been turning away about 20% of people who wanted to be insured. These were people who had pre-existing conditions, people who were considered good customers until they got sick and the bills came in, or people that the insurance companies thought would be likely to have higher cost health care needs.
So when you read in the NY Times that hundreds of thousands of people in the individual market are receiving cancellation notices– from insurance companies who had been selling plans that actually provide very little coverage mind you–remember this. The individual market is made up of 19 million people. So if hundreds of thousands lose a junk plan now, that’s about 5% of the market – not 20% who were refused, kicked, off, or denied before. Besides, new consumer protections mean that losing a bad plan no longer can means you can’t get health care. Insurers can no longer refuse to cover 20% of Americans. They can no longer refuse people who hadn’t had insurance in a while, and they can no longer kick you out if you get sick.
Then there’s the specter of the crazy astronomical rate increases, or “rate shock.” The facts don’t support this one either. You see, here in Montana, we got better rates. Prices are lower now than they were before the new health care law.
For the first time, we’re getting some competition in the market. Before the ACA, one insurance company controlled most of the market share: Blue Cross Blue Shield. Now, there are three companies, and this exchange “marketplace” competition has resulted in competitive prices. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, because companies can no longer turn people away to increase profits, they’re competing over price instead instead of what they call “risk selection”–cherry-picking the people a company bets are least likely to get sick.
Besides, in most states in the U.S. the past, there were false price standards due to the practice of male vs. female quoting, discriminatory prices based on whether you were a woman or a man, which is now illegal. Many states allowed companies to change lower prices for some (men) and increase them for others (women) so people had a false sense of what insurance actually cost.
Of course, we all know that the reason some of these myths are so pervasive is that the president has basically sat back and let the opposition frame the entire discussion about the Affordable Care Act. Doing so was a grave mistake. In politics, it doesn’t work to play “correct the record” after the fact by digging into the minutia of a complicated policy to “educate” people over to your point of view – and Obama isn’t even doing that much.
The myths won’t go away until the President stops letting everyone else define the debate. The truth won’t start to spread until people start telling their friends about the $25/month health plans they got–and of course, until the website starts working more consistently.