Pharos-Tribune

Columns

November 11, 2013

LYONS: Media misses full health insurance story

(Continued)

Had CBS done elementary due diligence, they’d have learned why Ms. Barrette’s plan was so cheap. Reporters who did learned that among other shortcomings, it didn’t cover hospitalization. In reality, she had no health insurance at all. A serious accident or illness might have bankrupted her — precisely the kind of rip-off the Affordable Care Act makes illegal.

Also, Barrette was taking the insurance company’s word about the cost of a replacement policy. Writing for BillMoyers.com, Joshua Holland ran her numbers through Kaiser Permanente’s subsidy calculator. With assistance from Obamacare, she can have a real policy covering preventive care and hospitalization for an out-of-pocket cost of $97 monthly, or a more generous Silver-Level plan for $209.

Now she calls it “a blessing in disguise.”

In short, CBS News couldn’t have gotten the story more backward had they tried. For its part, NBC News featured Los Angeles real estate agent Deborah Cavallaro, whose similar experience led her to conclude that “there’s nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act.”

However, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik found that Cavallaro had simply failed to consult Covered California, the state’s health plan exchange. When he did so, he quickly found that “better plans than she has now are available for her to purchase today, some of them for less money.”

No doubt some among the three to five percent of Americans whose individual health care policies have been cancelled are experiencing genuine sticker shock. However, nobody should take his insurance company’s word at face value without double-checking — a task admittedly made harder by healthcare.gov’s website meltdown.

See, when you read a story about a couple like Dean and Mary Lou Griffin of Chadd’s Ford, Penn., who told the Associated Press they’d expected to be able to keep the policy they bought three years ago, what reporters aren’t asking is where they’d gotten that idea.

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