By Alan Bean
Maggie Mahar knew something was wrong when she read in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that a local woman’s health insurance policy had been cancelled and that the premium if she signed up for Obamacare would be $1,000 a month. Mahar did some quick checking and learned that the woman qualified for insurance at one-third the price. When she informed the Star-Telegram of this fact, she learned that the newspaper had been notified, shortly after the article went to print, that the woman had signed up for a new policy under the Affordable Care Act at a cost of only $350 per month.
That was a month ago, and the paper still hasn’t published a correction.
It doesn’t end there. According to Mahar, most of the dissatisfied health insurance customers quoted in the expose were Tea Party activists who were eager to believe the worst about the ACA. It isn’t clear if these people contacted the reporter who wrote the story or if she initially reached out to them.
This isn’t a story about conservative media bias in North Texas. The Star-Telegram is about as moderate a newspaper as you can reasonably expect hope to find in deep red Tarrant County. This kind of colossal screw-up is happening across the country on stories large and small because newspapers don’t have enough reporters to cover important stories well, nor, in many instances, do they have the luxury of fact-checking. When reporters are doing the work of three people the temptation to cut corners becomes overwhelming and mistakes are inevitable.
There is no sense pointing fingers at individuals. Staffing cutbacks are a function of declining readership and a corresponding drop in advertising revenue. Even the New York Times would be out of business by now had it not been purchased by a wealthy benefactor.
Still, it is unforgivable for the Star-Telegram to maintain a stony silence when the editorial staff knows they dropped the ball. When it comes to health care reporting, be very skeptical about what you read, especially when only folks on one side of the issue have been asked for their opinion.
Note: Since this story aired, Jim Witt, the executive editor of the Star-Telegram, has printed an editorial apologizing for the newspapers’ failure to publish a correction to the story Maggie Mahar cites below. Witt points out, correctly, that the Star-Telegram has maintained a neutral and unbiased stance toward the Affordable Care Act. He also denies that one of the women quoted in the story belongs to the Tea Party (although her mother leads the Parker County chapter) and the woman has published a letter in a Tea Party friendly paper repeating her inaccurate claim that her premium would be almost $1,000/month. Will mentions that the S-T published a story by a reporter who says he had no trouble signing up for insurance on the government site. Witt has made a good initial attempt to set the record straight, but he needs to correct the grossly inaccurate claims about the high cost of premiums that constitute the heart of the original S-T story and Mahar’s critique. Witt is right to claim that Tea Party members need good health care just like everybody else, but that’s not the point. As Mahar makes clear, reasonably priced policies (by inflated American standards) are available, so the point is moot.
Texas daily went digging for victims of the ACA and Surprise! Reporter unearthed three Tea Partiers who hate the new law.
By Maggie Mahar
January 3, 2014
For months, health reform’s opponents have been feasting on tales of Obamacare’s innocent victims – Americans who lost their insurance because it doesn’t comply with the ACA’s regulations, and now have to shell out more than they can afford – or go without coverage.
Trouble is, many of those stories just aren’t true.
Yesterday I posted about a Fort Worth Star Telegram article that leads with the tale of Whitney Johnson, a 26-year-old new mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). Her insurer just cancelled her policy, and according to Johnson, new insurance would cost her over $1,000 a month.
That claim stopped me in my tracks. Under the ACA, no 26-year-old could be charged $1,000 monthly – even if she has MS.
Obamacare prohibits insurers from charging more because a customer suffers from a pre-existing condition. This rule applies to all new policies, whether they are sold inside or outside the exchanges.
At that point, I knew that something was wrong.
When I checked the exchange – plugging in Johnson’s county and her age – I soon found a Blue Choice Gold PPO plan priced at $332 monthly (just $7 more than she had been paying for the plan that was cancelled). Co-pays to see a primary care doctor would run just $10 ($50 to visit a specialist) and she would not have to pay down the $1,500 deductible before the insurance kicked in.
The rest of the story can be found here.