Evidence Counts…But Apparently Not In Newspaper Editorials
The lead editorial that ran in the Charleston Daily Mail on Monday was…well, a bunch of malarkey. Or maybe it was hogwash. Either way, it was an inaccurate and misleading piece of partisan hackery (yes, I made that word up*) that was better suited for late-night talk radio and had no business being run in a reputable news source.
Through a number of suspicious and baseless claims, the editorial’s message was that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is “doomed to failure” because there was no Republican support of the bill when it was passed. The editorial starts by citing several historical pieces of legislation that had bipartisan support and then points out that the ACA did not receive a Republican vote in either chamber. This is the point where the facts end and the misleading begins.
The first claim was that the ACA has cost 5 million people their insurance coverage rather than reducing the nation’s uninsured. There is no basis in fact or actual evidence here because the truth is that the ACA will reduce the uninsured by an estimated 30 million Americans. The Daily Mail is probably referring to the recent media attention regarding insurers who are discontinuing plans that do not meet the minimum standards required by the new law. The ACA requires that all health insurance plans cover certain benefits like emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and preventive care while removing annual and lifetime benefit caps and limiting the amount that a policy holder can spend out of pocket in a given year. All of the plans being canceled now were not up to snuff and did not contain some or any of these minimum standards. However, these canceled policies do not mean that 5 million people will become uninsured. In fact, all of these people will be able to shop for better health plans in the insurance Marketplaces and the majority of them will actually end up paying less! West Virginia is a great example of the impact that the ACA will have on the rate of uninsured as we expect the number of uninsured West Virginians to drop from around 246,000 to about 76,000, a decrease of nearly 70 percent.
The next claim was that the ACA is making health insurance premiums “skyrocket in many areas.” Again, the Daily Mail ignores reality here and is making a completely baseless claim considering that premiums are expected to drop on average while healthcare cost growth is at a historic low. Moreover, they are overlooking the fact that health insurance premiums increase annually and have for decades. In fact, before President Obama was even the junior senator from Illinois, insurance premiums increased at a rate of nearly 10 percent per year on average. Rule changes in the ACA are expected to increase premiums for some people, typically young healthy males, while decreasing premiums for others, typically older people and women. On the whole, however, premiums in West Virginia are expected to drop 1.5 percent on average for people who get their insurance from a large employer and by over 40 percent for people who buy insurance on their own. This claim also overlooks another inconvenient fact – three years after the passage of the ACA, the growth rate of healthcare costs in the United States is currently at an all-time low. Data released earlier this year showed that healthcare costs are growing at the slowest rate they have since the data was first collected in the 1960s. While there is no consensus among health economists attributing this slowdown to the ACA, it is still clear that this fact completely disproves the Daily Mail’s assertion.
The final, and probably most laughable, claim was that the ACA is causing people with pre-existing conditions to be dropped from their health plans. Not only is this inaccurate, it’s actually the opposite of what is happening in reality. This claim goes back to the previous inaccurate assertion about 5 million people losing their health insurance. As we discussed, there are people who currently have a health policy that will be canceled because it does not meet the new minimum standards required by the ACA, and yes, some of those people are going to have pre-existing conditions. However, it does not mean they will become uninsured and, in fact, they will be guaranteed a health insurance policy wherever they want to purchase one. For the first time in United States history, the ACA explicitly forbids any insurer from denying a person insurance due to their health status. Estimates show that currently 13 to 20 percent of people applying for health insurance are denied policies because of a pre-existing condition yet beginning January 1, 2014, that rate will drop to zero. ZERO. Hundreds of thousands of West Virginians have a pre-existing condition, from asthma to cancer to diabetes to heart disease. Thanks to the ACA, none of them will ever be denied health insurance because of their condition, nor will they be charged more for it.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing with something if you can support your stance with facts and evidence. Within the ACA there are undoubtedly aspects with which you could argue and there are even some that I personally would challenge. However, making up false and misleading claims to support your position is disingenuous.
Had I decided to stoop to the Daily Mail’s level in this response, I could’ve just summed it up this way: “Liar liar pants on fire!”
*Update: @kenwardjr pointed out that “hackery” is indeed an acceptable word, although Merriam-Webster defines it as an “Indian bullock cart” and Microsoft Word doesn’t believe it exists. However, dictionary.com has my back, defining it as “journalism: hackwork.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.