January 26, 2014

AP Report Acts As If Obamacare-Driven Coverage Drops and Spouse Exclusions Only ‘May’ Occur

When it comes to reporting on aspects of Obamacare, the press is really good at pretending to speculate about outcomes which have already happened in the real world, and at contradicting Obama administration assertions without telling readers that’s what they’ve just done.

Case in point: Last Tuesday at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, Carla K. Johnson and Tom Murphy told readers that Obamacare “could touch … people who have insurance through work,” and that “The law may prompt some companies to drop coverage for their part-time workers” and to “start excluding spouses.” The law has already “prompted” all of these things. Excerpts follow the jump.

Somewhat out of character, the AP’s headline is more accurate than the underlying report, in that it’s not conditional (bolds are mine throughout this post):

INSURANCE THROUGH WORK? HEALTH LAW AFFECTS YOU TOO

The health care overhaul’s reach stretches far beyond the millions of uninsured Americans it is expected to help. It also could touch everything from the drug choices to doctor bills of people who have insurance through work.

… benefits experts say there are several other ways the law can leave fingerprints on the benefits of the roughly 149 million people who are covered through their jobs.

What?

How many times have administration officials told the public that there will be no change for those who have employer coverage? Answer: Very, very many, including President Obama in the November 14 speech where he tried and failed to explain away the false guarantee, serially stated over several years, that “If you like your health care plan, doctor, medical provider, and drug regimen, you can keep them”:

With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan, you can keep it, I think — and I’ve said in interviews — that there is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate. It was not because of my intention not to deliver on that commitment and that promise. We put a grandfather clause into the law, but it was insufficient.

Keep in mind that the individual market accounts for 5 percent of the population. So when I said you can keep your health care, I’m looking at folks who’ve got employer-based health care.

The guarantee when originally made was clearly unconditional (“you can keep your plan, period”), and made no distinction made between categories of plans.

Getting back to the AP story, the wire service’s reporters understood that law-driven changes are being made to employer plans, but failed to mention that those changes demonstrate the fundamental dishonesty of Obama’s guarantee:

Many companies already are starting to change benefits to avoid an overhaul-mandated tax on high-cost plans that takes effect in 2018. One way a company can lower the cost is to raise an employee’s out-of-pocket expenses.

So, your plan may introduce a bigger deductible, which is the amount you have to pay for care before most coverage starts. It also might require you to start paying more at the doctor’s office in the form of a higher co-payment.

… Overall, the federal law could raise the total cost of an employer-sponsored health plan from 1 percent to 5 percent, said Tracy Watts, a senior partner with the human resources consultant Mercer.

Referring back to the President’s November 14 quote, you’re not “keep(ing) your (existing) health care” — that was the core of his false guarantee — if the law itself and not changes in business conditions has caused higher deductibles, higher copays, and overall cost increases.

There was also no distinction in Obama’s guarantee between full-time and part-time employees at firms which provide coverage. The following two paragraphs make one wonder whether AP reporters Johnson and Murphy have been living incommunicado for the past couple of years:

The law may prompt some companies to drop coverage for their part-time workers and send them to public health insurance exchanges.

Some businesses also may start excluding spouses from their coverage, but most companies have avoided doing that, said Jim Winkler of the benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

“May”?

Well before the pair’s report, many companies dropped coverage for part-timers (Walgreen’s and Home Depot, to name just two) and spouses (UPS and IBM, to name just two). So the operative word at the time of their report wasn’t “may”; it was “have.”

Shortly after the pair’s dispatch, Target dropped coverage for part-timers, and Manitowoc County in Wisconsin dropped coverage for most spouses. The operative word at the time wasn’t “may”; it was “will.” It was eminently predictable and subject to virtually zero doubt at the time of the AP report that these results would occur somewhere, and that they will continue to occur elsewhere .

Beyond that, the AP pair’s relay of what the Aon Hewitt rep told them shows that while “most companies have avoided” excluding spouses, others obviously have not. In other words, despite their otherwise feigned ignorance, they were directly told that spouse exclusions have occurred.

As a public service to the AP, Ms. Johnson, and Mr. Murphy, here are appropriately revised versions of the two excerpted paragraphs above:

The law has already prompted some companies to drop coverage for their part-time workers and send them to public health insurance exchanges. A number of others will likely follow.

Some businesses also have already started excluding spouses from their coverage. Others will likely follow, even though thus far most companies have avoided doing that, according to Jim Winkler of the benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt.

See how easy that was, guys?

Cross-posted at NewBusters.org.

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