Let’s Try to Keep Obamacare Anecdotes In Perspective

Examples of how the law impacts Americans are important to the conversation, but need to be observed through a wider lens.

Sen. Lamar Alexander speaks to members of the media at the Capitol October 11, 2013 on Capitol Hill.
National Journal
Sophie Novack
Add to Briefcase
Sophie Novack
Nov. 6, 2013, 9:21 a.m.

The ex­per­i­ence of “mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans” has been thrown back and forth re­cently by both parties as evid­ence of Obama­care’s suc­cess or fail­ure, de­pend­ing on who’s talk­ing.

In Sen­ate hear­ings this week, law­makers piled on spe­cif­ic stor­ies from their con­stitu­ents as em­blem­at­ic of lar­ger im­pacts of the health care law. For Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats, there are two dif­fer­ent “mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans.”

“My late friend Alex Haley used to say: Lamar, if in­stead of mak­ing a speech you just tell a story, some­body might listen to you,” Sen. Lamar Al­ex­an­der, R-Tenn., said Tues­day at a hear­ing of the Sen­ate Com­mit­tee on Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions with Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices Ad­min­is­trat­or Mar­ilyn Taven­ner.

Re­pub­lic­ans like Al­ex­an­der cited the mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans who are re­ceiv­ing plan can­cel­la­tions from their in­sur­ance com­pan­ies as a shot at Pres­id­ent Obama’s re­peated state­ment that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”

“I re­cently heard from one of those Ten­nesseans whose policy will be can­celed on Janu­ary 1,” Al­ex­an­der con­tin­ued. “Her name is Emily. She’s 39. She has lupus. She told me: ‘I can­not keep my cur­rent plan be­cause it doesn’t meet the stand­ards of cov­er­age. This alone is a trav­esty,’ she said.”

Demo­crats, on the oth­er hand, are em­phas­iz­ing the mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans who will be newly eli­gible for af­ford­able health cov­er­age for the first time, as a res­ult of Medi­caid ex­pan­sion, premi­um sub­sidies avail­able on the ex­changes, and pro­tec­tions against dis­crim­in­a­tion based on preex­ist­ing con­di­tions or gender. 

“Let me first share with you a story from Michigan that was high­lighted in an art­icle in the L.A. Times that talked about a wo­man named Ju­dith,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Wed­nes­day at a Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee hear­ing with Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us.

“She’s 48 years old, works in a de­part­ment store, had an in­sur­ance plan that cost her $65 a month. It was af­ford­able. She thought she had in­sur­ance. Then she was dia­gnosed with can­cer and found out that her plan had a $2,000 an­nu­al lim­it for hos­pit­al ser­vices, which would give her about one day in the hos­pit­al. So she delayed her care. Her can­cer got worse, and she was in a very dif­fi­cult, dif­fi­cult situ­ation.” Stabenow noted that un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act, Ju­dith would not face caps on cov­er­age, high­er rates as a wo­man, or re­jec­tion from in­sur­ance com­pan­ies be­cause of her ill­ness.

Both types of stor­ies are hap­pen­ing across the coun­try, and both are im­port­ant. However, the health care law is far more com­plic­ated than any of these an­ec­dotes in­dic­ate at face value, on their own. Some people will face premi­um in­creases. Oth­ers will see their premi­ums de­crease. Many will be eli­gible or able to af­ford cov­er­age for the first time.

In­sur­ance works by bal­an­cing these changes. To in­crease cov­er­age for mil­lions of people, something’s got to give — some people will pay less, but some people will pay more. In any private mar­ket­place, some health­i­er people end up ef­fect­ively sub­sid­iz­ing cov­er­age for oth­ers if they them­selves don’t end up need­ing med­ic­al care.

However, it’s im­port­ant to re­mem­ber that the num­ber of people who pur­chase in­sur­ance on the in­di­vidu­al mar­ket is re­l­at­ively small. The law will not af­fect the ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans, and the num­ber of the newly in­sured is ac­tu­ally much lar­ger than those los­ing their ex­ist­ing policies.

So yes, some will face high­er premi­ums, while oth­ers will be newly or more com­pre­hens­ively in­sured. These are both key sides of the story to high­light as de­bate over the law’s im­ple­ment­a­tion con­tin­ues. But to get an ac­cur­ate pic­ture, the stor­ies must be re­con­ciled and told to­geth­er.

What We're Following See More »
JOINT NEWS CONFERENCE TONIGHT
Trump And Putin Meet in Helsinki
12 minutes ago
THE LATEST

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Helsinki, kicking off a widely-anticipated diplomatic summit that "consists of a one-on-one meeting and a larger working lunch, and will conclude with a joint news conference." During his opening remarks, President Trump did not mention Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, instead focusing on the World Cup, China and nuclear weapons. His one-on-one meeting with Putin is expected to last around 90 minutes.

Source:
SAYS HE'S ALREADY ADMITTED TO HOUSE COMMITTEE
Roger Stone Says He's the Unnamed Person in Mueller's Indictment
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The mercurial veteran GOP political operative, Roger Stone, has acknowledged that he is the unnamed Trump campaign regular who corresponded with an alleged Russian hacker, as described in a new indictment against a dozen Russians returned Friday by a federal grand jury." He told ABC News that he previously admitted to the contact to House investigators. He called the correspondence "benign."

Source:
HACKERS SPOKE WITH AMERICANS
DOJ Indicts 12 Russians For Hacking 2016 Election
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A dozen Russian intelligence officers have been charged with conspiring" to hack into Democratic organizations, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and state election boards and private companies providing ballot verifying software for the 2016 presidential election, announced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The Russians corresponded "with several Americans," Rosenstein said, who clarified that there was "no allegation in this indictment" that the Americans knew they were speaking with Russian hackers.

Source:
PLAYING INTO PUTIN'S HANDS?
Trump Calls European Union a "Foe"
21 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump described the European Union as 'a foe' in an interview with CBS News on Sunday, ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland. "I think we have a lot of foes," Trump said. "I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they are a foe."

Source:
WITH MIKE PENCE
Kavanaugh Arrives on Capitol HIll
5 days ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login