In this March 10, 2014 photo, with Health care information in the foreground, participants learn more about their health care options.
David J. Phillip/AP Photo

About those premiums…

The lead headline on the front page of The Hill this afternoon appears custom-made for 2014 attack ads: “O-Care premiums to skyrocket.” The right quickly seized on the report – it told conservatives what they wanted to hear – and Republican officials have spent much of the day circulating the article far and wide.
But is it true?
The piece cites “concerns” raised by unnamed “industry officials,” which isn’t entirely in line with the definitive, declarative nature of the four-word headline. It goes on to say:
The hikes are expected to vary substantially by region, state and carrier.
Areas of the country with older, sicker or smaller populations are likely to be hit hardest, while others might not see substantial increases at all.
Oh. So while the click-bait headline says premiums will “skyrocket,” we then learn some insurers think some consumers in some areas may see higher premiums. (In fairness, the piece quotes one named executive at Cigna, who cites his “gut” about future changes to premiums.) The same article added that other insurers, especially those in larger states, “will continue to hold rates low in order to remain competitive.”
It then tells readers, “After this story was published, the administration pointed to some independent analyses that have cast doubt on whether the current mix of enrollees will lead to premium hikes.”
Notice how the actual reporting keeps moving further away from the needlessly provocative headline?
Making matters worse, Ed Kilgore added:
The “premiums to skyrocket” claim directly contradicts a variety of on-the-record assessments by health insurance executives – e.g., Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, Wellpoint president Joe Swedish, and Cigna CEO David Cordani – that the Obamacare premium structure is working out relatively well. And the most reliable independent study, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, concluded that the much-feared “death spiral” of premiums that Vieback seems to be predicting as a reality for much of the country is very unlikely to occur.
Particularly in its revised form, Vieback’s piece has a number of “to be sure” qualifiers that undermine the headline. But it’s the headline that will get big coverage today – to be sure – maybe on Drudge Report itself. And it’s pretty clear which political constituency is driving the “story.”
Something to keep in mind when your uncle who watches Fox News all day emails you The Hill article later.