“There are plenty of [Obamacare] horror stories being told. All of them are untrue,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not long ago on the floor of the Senate.
Four years after the president signed the measure into law, there are, of course, many real stories of hardship under Obamacare. An extensive list of which is included at the end of this article. But when Reid made those remarks, he wasn’t repeating words carelessly dashed off by some 20-something staffer. Rather, he was repeating a meme that has become common among those who economist Thomas Sowell dubs “the Anointed,” intellectuals whose belief in their own superior knowledge and virtue leads to their misperception that they are an anointed elite more qualified to make decisions for the rest of us in order to lead humanity to a better life.
The Anointed’s “no horror stories” meme arose when leftist pundits found potential holes in the story of Julie Boonstra, a cancer patient featured in ads run by Americans for Prosperity. While Boonstra did lose her policy due to Obamacare, she has kept her physicians and the new policy she found doesn’t yet appear to cost her any more money.
Some on the right sought to blunt the attack by unjustly complaining that the left was attacking cancer patients. But the left was not attacking Boonstra and other cancer patients as much as trying to discern the extent to which Boonstra was a true victim of Obamacare. Investigating the details of such cases is perfectly legitimate.
That said, one hopes the political left honors that legitimacy the next time Michelle Malkin, Mark Steyn, Powerline and others challenge the details of the person Nancy Pelosi uses to promote SCHIP. Given the left’s reaction in that incident, though, don’t hold your breath.
However, the Anointed didn’t merely investigate the details of Boonstra. Instead, they took it a big step further. For example, here is Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik:
Kevin Drum [of Mother Jones magazine] wonders whether there’s a single genuine Obamacare horror story out there, given that virtually every yarn promoted by Republicans or conservatives about people hurt by the Affordable Care Act has deflated like a pricked balloon on the merest examination.
It’s a very good question, inspired by the latest horror story bloomer — the tale of one Julie Boonstra of Michigan, wholesaled by the Koch-founded conservative organization Americans for Prosperity.
Maybe that question should be posed to Danielle Nelson. Nelson, a California resident, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She had to take up a plan on the Covered California exchange with Blue Cross, which assured her that her oncologists were on the plan. But a sign at one of her oncologist’s office states that Covered California plans are not accepted. “I can’t imagine this is how President Obama wanted it to happen,” Nelson said.
As heartbreaking as that sounds, we still need to ask if that is genuine Obamacare horror story. Or perhaps Hiltzik can save us a lot of time by posing it to his colleague, reporter Chad Terhune, who wrote the story for the Los Angeles Times.
Hiltzik and Drum are not the only members of the Anointed to hint that there isn’t a genuine Obamacare horror story. Andrew Sullivan also quotes Drum. Paul Krugman writes that the political right’s new strategy “relies on highlighting examples of the terrible harm Obamacare does. There’s only one problem: they haven’t managed to come up with any real examples.”
One can almost credit Brian Buetler of Salon for acknowledging this: “Given the numbers involved, I’d be pretty surprised if such people didn’t exist.” Unfortunately, Buetler is just being weasily: “But at some point it’s worth asking whether the apparent difficulty conservatives have finding them suggests that maybe the law isn’t wreaking all the devastation they want you to believe it is.” Thus, if there is a plethora of horror stories, Buetler can say he believed it all along. In the meantime, he can leave readers with the implication that Obamacare isn’t causing that many problems.
The Anointed continue to believe in their vision of Obamacare that, as Krugman states, will “increase the burden on fortunate people — the healthy and wealthy — to lift some burdens on the less fortunate: people with chronic illnesses or other preexisting conditions, low-income workers.” In The Vision of the Anointed, Sowell notes evidence contrary to the vision is often ignored or dismissed. The tactic in this instance is to discredit all of the evidence of hardship under Obamacare by hyping the few instances that are inaccurate and portraying them as typical of all horror stories.
Unfortunately, Obamacare does put the burden on some with serious illnesses. Larry Basich, for example, underwent bypass surgery in early January. He figured he was covered because he signed up for a UnitedHealthCare plan through the Nevada Health Link in November. Yet UnitedHealthCare has since claimed that he was never in their system, while Xerox, the contractor for the Nevada exchange, claimed he was. Then Xerox claimed Basich signed up for a different plan. In the end, the hospital claimed Basich wasn’t covered when he had surgery and, for now, he owes over $400,000 in hospital expenses.
The term “horror stories” is also typical of the vocabulary of the Anointed. Sowell notes that “a concern that is important to the benighted is called ‘an emotional issue’” by the Anointed. Why don’t the Anointed use terms like “hardship” or “personal suffering”? Because neither of those is associated with the make-believe scary movies Hollywood produces like the word “horror” is. Thus, using the term “horror story” works perfectly when the writer wants the presumption to be that all such stories are exaggerated, if not fictional, until shown otherwise.
The Anointed also find other ways to dismiss the concerns of those struggling under Obamacare. When criticizing Julie Boonstra, Buetler states:
If she and [Americans For Prosperity] get their way, she’ll be just as much a victim of Obamacare repeal as all the people who face health circumstances similar to hers. And the saddest part of that tragic irony is that Boonstra doesn’t even seem to understand what her circumstances are, or why it doesn’t make sense to devote her energies to repealing the law. Boonstra told the Dexter Leader, “People are asking me for the numbers and I don’t know those answers — that’s the heartbreak of all of this. It’s the uncertainty of not having those numbers that I have an issue with, because I always knew what I was paying and now I don’t, and I haven’t gone through the tests or seen my specialist yet… But that’s just not so. Anyone who’s studied the law knows it’s not so. Anyone who’s paid unexpected health bills in installments knows it’s not so.
In other words, the uncertainty and fear that Boonstra faced when she lost her plan — whether her new plan would cover her needs and include her doctors — is not really an issue.
Krugman, in fact, claims that the people actually who do face some hardship related to Obamacare don’t deserve our concern. The “true losers from Obamacare generally aren’t very sympathetic. For the most part, they’re either very affluent people affected by the special taxes that help finance reform, or at least moderately well-off young men in very good health who can no longer buy cheap, minimalist plans.”
Thus, you don’t need to feel for Jim Bulger, head of a cattle association in Texas, who is raising two teenagers. He lost his plan with a $5,000 deductible. He decided to go with a plan from his current insurer, Humana, because he liked the service he’d received over the years and he wanted to keep his network of doctors. That resulted in a premium increase of 84 percent. But he’s healthy and relatively affluent, so his problems can be dismissed.
One is tempted to say that the Anointed have a collective case of serious denial, but it’s more than that. As Sowell has shown, people who think they know best how to run other people’s lives always push major changes in public policy such as Obamacare. When the results are little short of a disaster, they ignore the evidence, dismiss the concerns of those who are struggling, and — here’s the kicker — advocate for even greater changes in public policy.
The people who suffer are seldom the well-to-do, but are people like Gayle Ayala, who suffers from high cholesterol and high blood pressure and is at high-risk for breast cancer. She signed up for an exchange plan only to later learn that she’d have to travel three hours to see any physician on the plan. She also found out she might not even be covered under the plan because, although the exchange listed her as enrolled, the insurer had no record of her.
Maybe if Senator Reid still buys into the meme of the Anointed, he could talk to Ayala about her experience. After all, she lives in Nevada.
People suffering because of ObamaCare
Gayle Ayala: Ayala has high blood pressure, high cholesterol and is at high risk for breast cancer. She had to travel three hours to visit a doctor covered under her exchange plan, Nevada Health Co-Op. The only gynecologist she has access to has been fined by three state governments for violating standards of care.
Johanna Benthel: The 17-year-old has had 84 surgeries over her life due to congenital malformations in her brain. Her mother, Eileen, said her family policy was cancelled last year. Last year Johanna was treated in at a clinic at the University of Chicago. Eileen says the new policy they have offers no coverage for going out of New York and they have lost coverage for one of their doctors.
Larry Basich: Basich underwent open-heart surgery in early January. The UnitedHealthCare plan he signed up for on Nevada’s exchange claims they have no record of him and will not cover his surgery. Xerox, a contractor for the Nevada exchange, says Basich signed up with a different insurer. Right now Baisch is liable for $407,000 in costs for his treatment.
Gloria Cantor: Gloria and her husband, Jay, received a letter from their Florida insurance company saying their plan would be cancelled in 2014 because of Obamacare. Gloria is fighting cancer and her physicians could not assure her that they will take her new plan.
Josie Gracchi: Gracchi’s insurance plan rolled over into a new plan that was on the exchange in New York. As a result, the physicians who were treating her for breast cancer were no longer part of her network. A January 3 biopsy and subsequent surgery were delayed as a result.
Lenny Hubbs: Mr. Hubbs had insurance through his wife, Laura. Then, due to the costs of Obamacare, Laura’s employer was unable to maintain coverage for its employees’ spouses. Lenny had no insurance when he ended up in the hospital with a serious case of pneumonia. He and his wife ended up with a $100,000 hospital bill they will have to pay themselves.
Neil Jacobson: Jacobson says it is important that his family has health insurance because his wife and son need regular medical treatment. Despite selecting insurance on the Vermont Obamacare exchange on December 16, subsequently paying three premiums, and spending over 15 hours on the phone with Vermont exchange representatives and Blue Cross Blue Shield Vermont, he does not yet officially have insurance. His ten-year-old son, Charles, though, did receive a letter from the exchange saying Charles had requested a change in his insurance.
Danielle Nelson: Nelson, a California resident, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She had to take up a plan on the Covered California exchange with Blue Cross, which assured her that her oncologists were on the plan. But a sign at one of her oncologist’s office states that Covered California plans are not accepted. “I can’t imagine this is how President Obama wanted it to happen,” Nelson said.
Ellie Porter: The six-year-old from Utah is undergoing treatment from kidney cancer. Late last year, her parent’s insurance policy was cancelled. Her parents, Paul and Jami, were worried about whether the new policy they were looking for on the federal exchange would cover the physicians who had been treating Ellie. “Not knowing where she’s going to be in treatment, it’s just the uncertainty of it,” her father said. They were also facing the possibility of buying a plan on the exchange that cost double the rate of their current plan.
Shawna Simpson: Mrs. Simpson’s daughter was injured in a cheerleading accident in January. It was only then that she learned the new ObamaCare exchange policy she was paying $600 per month for didn’t cover any of the physicians she usually takes her family to see. In fact, it doesn’t cover any of the physicians in her county of residence in Tennessee. “We have insurance at this point that is worthless,” she said.
Gary Smith: Smith signed up and paid for insurance on the Nevada Health Link in December, yet never received an insurance card, a rather common glitch on the Nevada exchange. As a result, he couldn’t pay for his diabetes medication after January 1, even though he had met the deadline for coverage.