Tuesday, March 25, 2014

An Horrible Article On Obamacare

I need to stop reading other articles because they make my head explode. Today’s article comes from Meghan Foley of the Wall Street Cheat Sheet. Foley is generally quite a talented writer on the subject of Obamacare, but not this time.

The article is called “Obamacare Paradox: Unsubsidized by Satisfied Insurance Customers,” and it suggests that people who got their insurance away from the Obamacare exchanges are surprisingly satisified with Obamacare – hence the paradox, i.e. why should someone who doesn’t benefit from the law like the law. The article goes like this:
1. More than 80% of the people who have gotten insurance in the exchanges are getting subsidies. That’s more than 4 million out of the 5 million who have signed up. They seem happy.

2. Critics complain that the subsidies are an attempt to hook people on subsidies, but even though only 20% of people signing up are not get subsidies, that doesn’t mean that those who aren’t getting subsidies are unhappy with Obamacare or that they staying away in protest.

3. Critics say that the $1 trillion in tax increases in the bill will depress economic activity, and will cost 2.5 million jobs, which are valid concerns, but the subsidies make the law work and people like the subsidies.

4. Even people who don’t purchase through the exchanges like the law.
Ok, let’s take this apart. First, she provides no evidence of happiness. In fact, I would counter that people are not happy or else more than 5 million people (of the 49 million uninsured) would have signed up and polls wouldn’t continue to show a majority favoring repeal.

Secondly, as for asserting that the people who got subsidies are happy, well yeah, people who get subsidies will not complain because they’re getting something for a lot cheaper than they otherwise would.

More interesting though is her assertion that the unsubsidized are happy. To make this argument, she relies on interviews with people. She admits that ancedotal evidence doesn’t prove anything, but then she goes ahead and relies on a couple interviews. She even says that perhaps with many more interviews, the anecdotal evidence will be persuasive, but that’s totally flawed logic. Anecdotal evidence is meaningless because it cannot be extrapolated to a larger population.

Moreover, the anecdotal example she uses is horrible. First, the claim she makes is that people who do not use the exchange are happy with Obamacare. But the woman she talks about actually did use the exchange. What she did was shop through the exchange to find a policy and then she called the insurance company directly to get that particular policy. Yet, Foley presents this woman as someone who bought insurance completely outside of the exchange system.

Further, the reason the woman is happy is because she has a pre-existing condition which kept her from getting insurance in the past. So she’s one of the 5 million people the law was specifically intended to help. Of course she’s happy with the changes! But don’t pretend that this woman is somehow representative of the public at large.

Interestingly, Foley tries to make her seem representative by quoting an HHS figure, which claims that between 19% and 50% of people have pre-existing conditions according to insurers. AND, the collateral effect of that affects those people’s families. Really? There are 2.7 people per family in the US on average. So if the collateral effects are true then between 51.3% and 135% of Americans are affected by this issue. Does that make sense to you?

Even taking just the 19% figure is obviously false. How do we know? Because the uninsurance rate is ony 15% total. Moreover, we’ve been told that there are only 5 million to 9 million people who are denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions. That’s a maximum of 2.9% of the population. So what is happening here is that someone who is in the 2.9% of the population for whom the law was specifically written went through the Exchange except for the final step of ordering the policy, and they are being sold as somehow representative of half the population and as someone who had no interaction with the Exchange.

Like I said, Foley has generally been very good at diagnosing the problems with Obamacare honestly and logically. She does research and reads the law. She doesn’t fall for public relations lies. Indeed, she hasn’t been alarmist or an apologist, but this article struck me as really stunning.

In fact, when you think about reality as compared to the spin here, what you see is that Obamacare is doing what conservatives said: it’s caught on only with people who are getting subsidies or those who are uninsured. Beyond that, it’s got pathetic market penetration. And with the economic damage being done with the tax hikes and the job losses, this is a law will never gain popularity.

Finally, as for the idea that the subsidies are good because they make the law work, maybe that fact alone is proof that the law shouldn't work. Keep in mind that the Inquisition didn't work without torture, but that doesn't make torture a good thing nor does it mean the Inquisition should have worked.


LL said...

Liberals have traded on human misery as long as I've been alive. ObamaCare is but one more example of a failed program. It's the Great Society, fifty years later.

Kit said...

Well, even the best writers have their bad ones.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - did I misread Foley's article? First she analyzes (sort of) the most reent b.s. put out from Health & Human Services talking points. Then she was showing the folly of the false assumption that there are "hidden unsubsidized happy people" put forth in The Atlantic by Andrew Sprung. Here is the "link" to that article: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/03/the-satisfied-unsubsidized-obamacare-s-hidden-winners/284487/

Tennessee Jed said...

I should add that sprung bases his conclusions on interviews with "several" families who were "unsubsidized" who purchased insurance on the exchange. Well, apparently, the common denominator is purchasers had a family member with a pre-existing condition. But even still, it appears most of these people chose to by direct rather than through the exchange. This all seems like a "no shit" moment to me. Pre-existing conditions are what health care in America is all about. That is probably the one popular feature of the act. Still, if people are mostly opting to NOT purchase through the exchange even though the exchange limits the rates to three times the young invincible rate, it is hardly supporting the contention peole are "loving" the law.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, Agreed. This is yet another failed Great Society program that does the exact opposite of what it was supposed to do and it ends up hurting millions to help thousands. Liberals love sledgehammer solutions.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I'm surprised. She's generally been very spot on throughout the debate.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Unless I misread it, she was agreeing with all of these points except that she agreed that you can't rely on anecdotal evidence -- except she said that it might eventually reach enough anecdotal evidence to be believed.

I was frankly a little surprised by the article because she's normally been very level headed and fair. Unless I'm wrong, this one bought into a lot of things it shouldn't have.

Agreed on Sprung. His entire premise was false because he was taking people with pre-existing conditions and using them as a proxy for "people who don't need the Exchanges." And more damningly, the people he points to did use the Exchanges, they just didn't buy off the Exchange -- they bought policies that were offered on the Exchanges directly. That's a bit like saying "he didn't go to the police because he didn't walk down to the station," even though the guy called the police.

AndrewPrice said...

Also, Jed, I agree with your last point. They can focus on a handful of people who "love" the act, but the utter lack of response from the people who should be responding is damning.

Koshcat said...

There were two articles in the WSJ this last weekend: one on the disaster of Obamacare and one next to it spouting what a great job the law was doing. You can probably guess my bias but the PRO guy was in a world filled with flying unicorns who poop rainbows. I can't find it to attach but I would be interested in your take of both articles.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, That's the case of all the positive articles I've seen -- they are living in a world of utter fantasy. Actually, what they tend to do is to ignore all the facts and focus on something like "This guy really likes it! And look at these five people who signed up! SEE!! IT'S WORKING!!!" But of course, finding a couple people who like something is a nonsense article. Heck, you can still find people who like Hitler.

If you can find the links let me know, I'd be happy to take a look at them.

Tennessee Jed said...

I went back and re-read the Meghan Foley article. She may not be responsible for the headline, but regardless, her article is either very poorly written or there were some bad typo's. Here is an example: "That distribution of insurance customers — with the exchanges seeing far more lower-income, and therefore subside-eligible, enrollment numbers than the individual insurance market — suggests that those who do not benefit from subsidized insurance pillar of the healthcare reform are staying away from the exchange system. While it is true that people who qualify for financial assistance are more likely to enroll for coverage via the marketplaces, the fact that those who are not eligible for subsidies are purchasing exchange insurance at a much lower rate is not a sign of their displeasure with Obamacare necessarily. That is an important distinction to make because of the criticism that have be leveled at the subsidies." WTF??

In retrospect, what she seems to be doing is giving credibility to somebody else's poor speculative spin, so yeah, you are correct that it is a stupid article.

BevfromNYC said...

Hey everybody! I have been greatly entertained lately by the temper tantrums over the "evil Koch brothers" related ads by the Americans for Prosperity with real people who lost their coverage because of Obamacare and are not pleased with what they have to get on the exchanges. This was one of the priceless debunkings of these ads in WashPo: LINK

All I got out of it was that the Koch brothers and the AFP are all liars liars liars and even if the writer at WashPo could not actually debunk the ads. Well, they would except well, AFP facts are just too darned nuanced to be really a true accounting...

"The point here is not that nobody has had a bad experience with the law...it’s perfectly possible those in that category number in the “low millions,” but it’s likely most of their stories are too nuanced to be useful..."

Uh, yeah, it is so nuanced that one could keep the insurance that one liked...period. And that HHS can't come up with an actual number of people who have actually signed on a paid their first premium...must be nuanced information.

Btw, what happens to people after the deadline has passed and they don't have insurance and they need healthcare. Will they now be denied?

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It was confusing quotes like that which got me to notice the article. In that quote she's basically saying that while people who don't get subsidies aren't signing up, that shouldn't be seen as meaning that people who don't get subsidies are not supporting the law. Huh? That is precisely what it is. People vote with their dollars and if people who aren't being paid to buy insurance on the exchanges aren't doing it, then they aren't supporting the law. This whole article is full of silly conclusions like that.

As I mention though, Foley is normally much better than this, so I don't hold this against her. I think this was just one of those moments where everything went wrong somehow and the finished article ends up as utter nonsense... that happens to us all. She's usually much smarter than this.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, You know the left has nothing when all they can say is, "That's different!" And "the facts are too nuanced to address" is even worse than "that's different." That's like, "Uh... I really can't explain that." Nice!

As for the Koch Brothers, yeah, the left is really going insane over the Koch Brothers lately. Too bad for the left that the Koch Brothers and the public really don't care what the left thinks.

In terms of signing up later, apparently you can, but your fine will be pro rated... if you choose to pay it.

BevfromNYC said...

Actually Andrew I am wondering about is all those people who didn't have insurance before who haven't bought it now. Does this now mean they won't get healthcare (not health insurance) if they don't have Obamacare insurance? Wasn't this the whole point of the ACA because there were millions and millions of people dying in the dark alleys and right there on the street because of lack of healthcare because they didn't have insurance?

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I guess that depends on what they need those people for. Here are your options:

1. If they want Obamacare to be a success, then those people will vanish... like the homeless, only to return when Republicans are in power.

2. If they want to move toward a single payer, then those people will prove that nothing short of a single payer can work.

3. If they just want to avoid blame, then those people remain uninsured because of Republican resistance and insurance company "sabotage." In fact, that seems to be the new theory the left is pushing -- that the insurance companies have quietly sabotaged Obamacare. Yeah, right, the insurance companies who are salivating over the 49 million new customers they think they'll get.

Kit said...

Even some Dem Strategists are trying to ward Dems off from their Koch Brothers obsession. Unsuccessfully.

Which is, of course, wonderful for the Republicans.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Their fringe is just as obsessive as ours and their boogeymen, i.e. their George Soros, is the Koch Brothers. And as long as they are fighting the Koch Brothers, the better for the GOP.

Kit said...

"Their fringe is just as obsessive as ours and their boogeymen"

At least their boogeymen are in a different party. :-/

AndrewPrice said...

Yeah, sadly.

Kit said...

[Rubs forehead to alleviate headache]

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