The right’s efforts to highlight “Obamacare victims” has become something of a fiasco, with one horror story after another hitting the airwaves, drawing scrutiny, and getting debunked. There are probably some folks adversely affected by the Affordable Care Act, but they’re not the ones showing up in attack ads.
But the ads keep coming anyway, and one spot from the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity has been particularly popular with ACA critics. In this case, the story involves a Tennessee woman named Emilie Lamb, who isn’t just the focus of the commercial, but who was also a Republican guest at the president’s State of the Union address.
Here’s Lamb’s message:
“I was diagnosed with lupus when I was 27. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder. It’s dramatically affected my life. I voted for Barack Obama for president. I thought that Obamacare was going to be a good thing. Instead of helping me, Obamacare has made my life almost impossible.“Barack Obama told us we could keep our health insurance if we liked it. And we can’t. I got a letter in the mail saying that my health insurance was over, that it was gone. It was canceled because of Obamacare. My premiums went from $52 a month to $373 a month. I’m having to work a second job to pay for Obamacare. For somebody with lupus, that’s not an easy thing.“If I can’t afford to continue to pay for Obamacare, I don’t get my medicine; I don’t get to see my doctors. I am very disappointed in Barack Obama as a president. He made promises he didn’t keep. And that’s disheartening.”
Obviously, it’s easy to have sympathy for Lamb, who appears to be struggling with a horrible ordeal. And for opponents of health care reform, that’s apparently where the discussion should stop – to consider Lamb’s story in more detail is outrageous, conservatives argue. Attack ads shouldn’t be fact-checked because, well, it’s impolite.
But if the public’s understanding of health care policy is going to be shaped by commercials financed by conservative billionaires, the public should also know that the attack ad doesn’t tell the whole story.
Lamb’s old insurance plan included low premiums because it was part of a Tennessee program that split the costs between consumers, their employers, and state funds. The plan, however, wasn’t very good – it included, among other things, a low annual cap, exactly the sort of thing the Affordable Care Act prohibits.
So it’s true that those with bad insurance were required to make the transition to better insurance.
But what about her high premiums? Glenn Kessler took a closer look.
Once Lamb was required to go on Obamacare, she discovered she qualified for a $15-a-month subsidy, which could be applied to nearly 40 different options. She chose one of the more expensive options – a Platinum plan – because it limited out of pocket expenses to $1,500, as her doctor fees and blood tests would be higher under the Obamacare plans. She also considered a plan with a lower premium, but it would have meant higher out of pocket expenses. “Instead of paying $6,000 a year, I would have been paying $10,000 a year” with the plan with a lower premium, she said. […]In other words, AFP has managed to highlight a very unique case – someone with a chronic condition who did not face high annual costs.
A very unique case, indeed. Kessler flagged a more typical experience for someone with Lupus.
One Lupus sufferer, Erin Kotecki Vest, blogged that she was amazed at Lamb’s tale of woe after she researched the coverage provided by CoverTN. “Just ONE of my treatments ALONE wipes out everything CoverTN had to offer me,” she wrote. “I would hit CoverTN’s $25,000 annual limit the first week of January.”In contrast to Lamb, this Lupus sufferer is thrilled to be on Obamacare. Kotecki Vest gleefully wrote in November that her family ditched her husband’s employer-provided plan after they discovered they would save nearly $19,000 a year by switching to a plan offered on healthcare.gov. For some reason, Kotecki Vest was not asked to appear in an AFP ad.
There is such a thing as exceptions that prove the rule. The whole point of anecdotal evidence, especially in a policy debate like this one, is to find situations that represent a larger phenomenon. From attack ads like these, Americans are supposed to believe Lupus sufferers everywhere are being punished by the Affordable Care Act.
The reality is the exact opposite.