Following the October 1 rollout of the Affordable Care Act's exchanges, media outlets hyped several anecdotal stories of people who will be negatively affected by the law. These stories have ranged from the misleading to the outright false.
Media "Horror Stories" Conflict With Reality
MYTH: ACA Caused Cancer Patient To Lose Her Coverage. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, cancer patient Edie Littlefield Sundby blamed the ACA for the loss of her coverage, calling herself "one of the losers" of the health care law:
For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky. But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.
My choice is to get coverage through the government health exchange and lose access to my cancer doctors, or pay much more for insurance outside the exchange (the quotes average 40% to 50% more) for the privilege of starting over with an unfamiliar insurance company and impaired benefits.
Countless hours searching for non-exchange plans have uncovered nothing that compares well with my existing coverage. But the greatest source of frustration is Covered California, the state's Affordable Care Act health-insurance exchange and, by some reports, one of the best such exchanges in the country. After four weeks of researching plans on the website, talking directly to government exchange counselors, insurance companies and medical providers, my insurance broker and I are as confused as ever. Time is running out and we still don't have a clue how to best proceed. [The Wall Street Journal, 11/3/13]
REALITY: Sundby's Coverage Is Being Dropped Because Her Insurer Did Not Want To Pay For Sicker Patients. In a ThinkProgress post, Igor Volsky pointed out that Sundby's dropped coverage is a result of her insurer, United Healthcare, being unwilling to insure sicker patients:
But Sundby shouldn't blame reform -- United Healthcare dropped her coverage because they've struggled to compete in California's individual health care market for years and didn't want to pay for sicker patients like Sundby.
The company, which only had 8,000 individual policy holders in California out of the two million who participate in the market, announced (along with a second insurer, Aetna) that it would be pulling out of the individual market in May. The company could not compete with Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente, who control more than 80 percent of the individual market. "Over the years, it has become more difficult to administer these plans in a cost-effective way for our members," UnitedHealth spokeswoman Cheryl Randolph explained. "We will continue to keep a major presence in California, focusing instead on large and small employers." [Think Progress, 11/4/13]
MYTH: Obamacare Caused Businessman To Cut Back On Employment. On the October 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity ¸ host Sean Hannity interviewed Paul and Michelle Cox, business owners who claimed that ACA regulations were causing them to "cut back on hiring full-time employees" and "keep [employees] below 30 hours":
MICHELLE COX: We received a letter from our insurance company stating that we would no longer be able to have our existing health plan, despite the president's promise that we would be able to keep that existing plan.
As a business, we are jumping through more hoops, more regulation, more paperwork. And we've also cut back on hiring full-time employees because of the health care costs involved, even though we'd love to do that.
HANNITY: You'd like to hire full-time employees --
MICHELLE COX: We would love to.
HANNITY: -- but you -- so you're going to keep them below 30 hours.
MICHELLE COX: Exactly.
PAUL COX: We've had to keep them below 30 hours or we wouldn't be able to -- you know, not that we wouldn't want to pay it, we just wouldn't be able to --
MICHELLE COX: Yes.
PAUL COX: -- stay in business and pay it. [Fox News, Hannity, 10/11/13]
REALITY: Cox's Business Has Only Four Employees And Not Subject To ACA Regulations. In an October 18 Salon post, Eric Stern, a senior counsel to former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, contacted Paul Cox after the segment and found that his business employed only four people, well below the 49-employee threshold that would have affected his business: