On Sunday, the editorialists at the New York Times claimed that President Barack Obama merely "misspoke" when he dishonestly promised the American people that "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan" to get Obamacare passed.
Sunday evening for Monday's print edition, reporters Reed Abelson and Katie Thomas carried heavy buckets of water on behalf of Obama and his administration. The headline: "Under Health Care Act, Millions Eligible for Free Policies." It took the Times pair 21 paragraphs to inform readers that the "free" plans have annual out-of-pocket cost limits of $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families. They never described how the deductibles or copays work, and never noted that taxpayers are funding the subsidies. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):
Millions of people could qualify for federal subsidies that will pay the entire monthly cost of some health care plans being offered in the online marketplaces set up under President Obama’s health care law, a surprising figure that has not garnered much attention, in part because the zero-premium plans come with serious trade-offs.
Three independent estimates by Wall Street analysts and a consulting firm say up to seven million people could qualify for the plans, but federal officials and insurers are reluctant to push them too hard because they are concerned about encouraging people to sign up for something that might ultimately not fit their needs.
The bulk of these plans are so-called bronze policies, the least expensive available. They require people to pay the most in out-of-pocket costs, for doctor visits and other benefits like hospital stays.
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act say that the availability of free-premium plans — as well as inexpensive policies that cover more — shows that it is achieving its goal of making health insurance widely available. A large number of those who qualify have incomes that fall just above the threshold for Medicaid, the government program for the poor, according to an analysis by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company.
The latest analysis was conducted by McKinsey’s Center for U.S. Health System Reform, whose independent research has been cited by the federal government and others.
All plans, including bronze policies, limit annual out-of-pocket costs to $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families. But insurers and advocates said out-of-pocket costs — even those under that limit — can be daunting to people with low incomes.
And that's before getting to the problems of high deductibles and lower than expected percentage co-pays.
Here's the fundamental point: The vast majority of people who voted for politicians who supported the Affordable Care Act fully expect their plans to have very low deductibles ($500 - $1,000 or less), normal copay percentaages of roughly 80%, and virtually uninhibited access to medical providers. At best, the second one might be present in some plans; you can forget about Items 1 and 3.
There's a point at which "blame the insurance company" isn't going to work, because this is the government's "marketplace," which has been relentlessly packaged as the "signature presidential achievement" of Barack Obama.
The primary mission of Abelson's and Thomas's report appears to be to delay that inevitable firestorm by throwing around the magic word "free."
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.