New Obamacare attacks: a roundup


(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

“For every Kentuckian that has enrolled in Obamacare, 40 have been dropped from their coverage.”

– May 2 newsletter for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), asking Kentuckians to “share your Obamacare stories.”

This column has been updated

We are going to do a quick roundup of two recent claims about the Affordable Care Act. We can’t always get to them, and indeed the quote above was first spotted by our colleagues at PolitiFact. But it is simply too good to pass up.

We also regret not finding the time to fact check the radio ad by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), which claimed that GOP hopeful Thom Tillis (R) had said that Obamacare was a “great idea.” This ad, featured on Tuesday in a Washington Post article, snips only a tiny bit of the full quote: “The majority of the stuff that is in Obamacare is bad, because it’s not fiscally sustainable. It’s a great idea that can’t be paid for.”  That’s pretty drastic surgery, spurring PolitiFact to label it as “mostly false” — roughly equivalent to Three Pinocchios.

 

Rand Paul newsletter: 40 people dropped for every person insured

In April, The Fact Checker faulted Paul’s Senate colleague from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell (R), for claiming that only 68,000 people in the state had received private coverage compared to 280,000 who had received cancellation notices. You will notice that under McConnell’s math, that’s a 4 to 1 ratio, suggesting that perhaps the figure in Paul newsletter was a typo. (A Paul spokesman initially missed our query; see update below.)

But even so, McConnell earned Four Pinocchios for his claim. He was using outdated figures (the state had reduced to 168,000 the number of plans that had been canceled) and comparing apples and oranges (private plans versus private plans and small-group plans.) The real ratio, at the time, was closer to 1 to 1 if you are only counting private plans.

But Kentucky actually signed up many more people for Medicaid — nearly 331,000 people, according to state officials. The latest number for private-plan sign-ups is close to 83,000. That adds up to more than 413,000 people, which is more than double the number of plans (individual and small-group) that were canceled. In other words, the reality is positive for Obamacare, not negative.

Someone in Paul’s office needs to take a remedial math class. This ridiculous claim earns Four Pinocchios.

Update: Paul spokesman Brian Darling says that the staff failed to update a line that appeared in Paul’s newsletter in November. At the time, Kentucky reported 7,000 sign-ups for private plans, and the newsletter was measuring that against 280,000 canceled private and small-group plans. This is the same sort of apple-and-oranges use of outdated numbers that earned McConnell Four Pinocchios. Instead of a remedial math class, maybe the staff in Paul’s office should start keeping up with the news.

Four Pinocchios

 


 

 

 

Lee Terry ad: Andrea Kodad’s story

 

“When I first saw the letter telling us that our old policy was going away, I was very, very concerned. I knew immediately this was going to be a financial struggle for our family.”

– Andrea Kodad of Omaha, in a campaign ad for Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)

This is another one of those Obamacare victim stories. Andrea Kodad, a mother of two, was shocked to discover that her plan was canceled and her premiums were going up from $446 a month to $726. The ad shows the text of the letter indicating the increase — and she holds up the letter at the end of the ad, with Rep. Terry at her side. (Mea culpa: an earlier version of this column reversed the lawmaker’s name as “Terry Lee.” Oops, Pinocchios to the Fact Checker!)

In a television interview in November, Kodad described how the family’s co-insurance jumped from 15 percent to 50 percent and their out-of-pocket expenses had increased by $2,000. It’s certainly a story that apparently resonated with Terry, as he cited her story on the House floor when he cast a vote for the  Keep Your Plan Act of 2013, which would have allowed families to keep their noncompliant plans for another year. (The bill did not pass the Senate but the White House took administrative action allowing extensions that was accepted by most states.)

We don’t doubt the details of the increase — as we have often said, Obamacare created winners and losers — but there is one strange aspect to this story. The Obama administration has since urged states to allow the extension of noncompliant plans until 2016, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Kodad’s insurance company, prominently displays the notice on its Web site, saying plans can be extended for another two years. “BCBSNE extends ‘keep your plan’ until 2016,” the headline declares.

In other words, Kodad — who declares “Obamacare is not good for my family” —  extended her plan and thus is not paying the higher rate. There is no “financial struggle.” She did not respond to a query left at her employer.

Update, 11 am: Kodad called The Fact Checker but declined to go into details about her health plan unless The Fact Checker met her in person at her home in Omaha. “I am really not interested in being a one-time soundbite,” she said. “I am doing this as a PSA [public service announcement].” She acknowledged that her old plan had been rolled over but said that “the spirit of the ad” was to highlight “what the true Obamacare costs are.”

“We never said they did go up that amount but rather when she got the notice — that was the reality she was confronting,” said Kurt Bardella, a spokesman for the Terry campaign. “Obamacare is creating that kind of uncertainty. Can anyone deny that the bottom line is that at some point, when all the delays and changes expire, which they will unless ObamaCare is repealed I guess, she’s not going to be able to keep the plan that she likes and had come to rely on.”

The ad certainly leaves the impression Kodad had to give up her plan. Given the circumstances, her tale of woe from November seems rather out of date. Indeed, one has to ask: Isn’t there any other “victim” in Nebraska?

This ad earns Three Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios

 


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Glenn Kessler has reported on domestic and foreign policy for more than three decades. He would like your help in keeping an eye on public figures. Send him statements to fact check by emailing him, tweeting at him, or sending him a message on Facebook.
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