Only a small sliver of the Americans who buy their own health insurance plans and may be seeing them canceled under Obamacare will pay higher premiums, according to an analysis released Thursday. More than seven in 10 Americans who purchase health plans directly will get subsidies to help pay for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to the report by Families USA, a Washington-based organization that supports the health care reform law.
When pressed for specifics, the Affordable Care Act's detractors tend to focus on two main areas of concern: the website and the cancelation notices. The website is obviously important and administration officials are doing what they can. Maybe it'll be fixed quickly, maybe it won't -- we'll find out soon enough.
But the cancelation notices are a different kind of concern. As we've discussed, we're talking about a very small percentage of the population that has coverage through the individual, non-group market and are now finding that their plans are being scrapped. When the House Republican "playbook" looks for people saying, "Because of Obamacare, I lost my insurance," these are the folks they're talking about.
But the story about these "victims" of reform is coming into sharper focus all the time.
"It is important to keep a perspective about the small portion of the population that might be adversely affected," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. "That number is a tiny fraction of the 65 million non-elderly people with pre-existing health conditions who will gain new protections through the Affordable Care Act. It is also a small fraction of the tens of millions of uninsured Americans who can also get help."
Let's put this another way. A tiny percentage of consumers will receive cancelation notices, and of them, more than 70% will get new, more secure coverage that ends up costing them less.
They're not, in other words, victims. They're beneficiaries.
In fairness, many of them won't know this for a while because they can't yet go to healthcare.gov and see how much they'll benefit, but we're talking about the health care system itself -- for all the talk about the cancelations, by a 2-to-1 margin, these folks are going to be better off, including receiving subsidies through the Affordable Care Act.
In reference to the remaining folks who'll pay more, Pollack told the Huffington Post, "That's approximately 1.5 million people, and that's not trivial and I don't in any way suggest that we shouldn't be concerned about that group. But ... the number of people at risk of this becoming a problem is considerably smaller than the tens of millions of people who are going to get substantial help."
And here's the larger question: if the evidence had pointed in the other direction, and 71% of these folks were poised to pay more, not less, would the story have gotten more attention? Would the coverage be dominated by "More bad news for Obamacare"?
This week, after years in which Obamacare critics said the law would fail to control costs, we saw remarkable evidence that the law is succeeding in controlling costs. Didn't hear much about that? Neither did I.
I'm starting to get the sense that there's an approved narrative -- the Affordable Care Act is failing and is in deep trouble -- and developments that point in the opposite direction are filtered out, while developments that reinforce the thesis are trumpeted.
The debate is often confusing enough, but this isn't helping.