January 29, 2011

AP’s ‘Fact Check’ of HHS Scare Stat Also Factually Challenged

Ten days ago, on the eve of the House vote to repeal ObamaCare, Kathleen Sebelius’s Department or Health and Human Services issued a fearmongering press release saying that “129 million Americans with a pre-existing condition could be denied coverage without new health reform law.”

Ten days later, on a Friday afternoon (naturally), the Associated Press’s Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar finally got around to skeptically evaluating HHS’s claim. Way to be there at crunch time, Ricardo (/sarc).

Here are selected paragraphs from Ricardo’s rendition:

FACT CHECK: Did gov’t stretch health care stat?

It’s a striking statistic.

Without President Barack Obama’s health care law, as many as 129 million Americans – half of those under age 65 – could be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre-existing medical condition.

The new estimate by the Health and Human Services Department is more than twice as high as a figure that supporters of the law were using last year.

It just might need an asterisk.

Most of those millions of people are covered by health insurance at work and don’t face any immediate risk of being denied care for their pre-existing medical problems. And as a rule, those who take a new job and sign up in their employer’s health plan are already protected by a 1990s law.

“It’s a hypothetical situation, not an actual situation,” said economist Paul Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change. “Most of these people don’t have a problem, with or without health reform, because they get their coverage through their employment, and employer coverage takes everybody.” The center is a nonpartisan research organization.

… “It’s like trying to estimate hurricane fatalities by the number of people living on the seashore,” said Edmund Haislmaier, a health policy expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation. Most people in the path of a hurricane would evacuate, some would hunker down in reinforced homes; only a fraction would face the worst consequences, said Haislmaier.

“People are not going to suddenly face losing coverage if you repeal this law,” he added. The Heritage Foundation supports repeal.

The Obama administration stands by the statistic.

Note how what the press usually referred to before the November elections as the Affordable Health Care Act is now “Obama’s health care law.”

The AP reporter described the Heritage Foundation as “conservative,” but the Center for Studying Health System Change, whose abbreviation is HSC, as “nonpartisan.” Spare me:

HSC is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. HSC helps support the Foundation’s overall mission to improve the health and health care of all Americans.

David Colby, RWJF vice president of research and evaluation, is responsible for administering the Foundation’s funding of HSC. Debra Perez serves as program officer.

As Michelle Malkin’s latest column notes:

… the left-leaning, nationalized health care-promoting Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – has direct ties to the White House. Obama health care czar Nancy DeParle sits on the foundation’s board of trustees.

RWJF is also among the parade of employers, unions, and other organizations which have obtained ObamaCare waivers. Apparently, the Foundation’s philosophy is: “ObamaCare for thee, but not for me.”

As described above, if ObamaCare is ever fully repealed, even without any kind of replacement, the large majority of the 129 million people HHS cited would never see coverage denials.

Alonso-Zaldivar should have noted that HHS’s press release refutes the agency’s own headline — twice:

  • The release’s sub-headline reads: “Without Affordable Care Act protections, in 2014, 1 in 2 non-elderly Americans could be denied coverage or charged more due to a pre-existing condition.” There’s a big difference between being denied coverage and having to pay more to get coverage.
  • The HHS further adds a further qualifier about halfway into the release: “Prior to the Affordable Care Act, in the vast majority of states, insurance companies in the individual market could deny coverage, charge higher premiums, and/or limit benefits based on pre-existing conditions.” So there are three possibilities, not just one.

The furthest Alonzo-Zaldivar will go is to say that HHS’s claim “might need an asterisk.” Might?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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2 Comments

  1. Can someone explain how there were (supposedly) 47 million without insurance before Obamacare but 129 million after it is repealed? How did “reform” kill 82 million policies?

    Comment by Joe C. — January 30, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

  2. #1, the magic word is “could,” which HHS wants us to believe means “will, pretty soon.”

    Comment by TBlumer — January 31, 2011 @ 3:47 am

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