Las Vegas Review-Journal Cites Two Californians To Attack Obamacare PremiumsOctober 10, 2013 5:31 PM EDT ››› DANIEL ANGSTER
The Las Vegas Review-Journal penned an editorial attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over high premium prices, but failed to provide more than a pair of anecdotes that misrepresented Nevada's uninsured population to support its claims.
The October 8 editorial promoted the idea that people will turn against the ACA as they learn the price of coverage under the exchanges, and according to the Review-Journal, the only thing preventing that scenario are technical glitches that have slowed the process:
It wasn't part of the Obama administration's shutdown theatrics, but healthcare.gov had to close for the weekend, and it was closed again early Tuesday. The website was taken offline because of myriad glitches that have plagued the national health insurance exchange (and state exchanges across the country) since the Oct. 1 rollout.
The technical problems are significant because huge numbers of people are being prevented from learning how much their newly mandatory health insurance will cost. Once potential enrollees can review exchange plans, their premiums and deductibles, there will be yet another uproar -- one with the potential to force changes to Obamacare or at least delay enforcement of its individual mandate.
The Review-Journal went on to give two examples of Californians over the age of 50 who claim to have been quoted at higher premium prices than they had paid in the past. Because the editorial did not include any information about the pair's previous insurance situation, tobacco use, or any other indicators, however, it is hard to verify or explain why these individuals were quoted at higher premiums. But this lack of information did not stop the Review-Journal from extrapolating their experience onto a wider population and predicting a delay to individuals' requirement to have insurance, an action that would gut the law and cripple insurers' ability to cover those with pre-existing conditions.
The editorial also highlighted the rates these individuals will pay without mentioning that older populations can only be charged up to three times what young and healthy adults can be charged. According to the Congressional Research Service, 49 percent of Nevada's uninsured are between the ages of 19 to 21, as compared to 26.4 percent for ages 21 to 64, and 1.9 percent for ages 65 and over. Using two older buyers as a sample of Nevada's insurance-buying population gives a misleading picture of prices and experiences.
Furthermore, the piece made no mention of the federal tax credits that will help make coverage affordable for many young Americans. Nationally, tax credits will allow 6.4 million people to purchase insurance for less than $100 each month. Including the subsidized prices for plans bought on the exchanges is critical to understanding the actual cost of insurance because the law "provides sliding-scale subsides to help people with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level." As the Kaiser Family Foundation explained in a primer on the makeup of the uninsured:
Most people without health coverage are in working families and have low incomes. Adults make up a disproportionate share of the uninsured population because they are less likely than children to be eligible for Medicaid. While a plurality of uninsured people are White non-Hispanic, racial/ethnic minorities are at especially high risk of being uninsured.
Health insurance makes a difference in whether and when people get necessary medical care, where they get their care, and ultimately, how healthy people are. The consequences of reduced access to care over time can be serious, including preventable hospitalizations, poor overall health, disability, and premature death.