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August 06, 2013 1:15 PM Oh, Yeah, There’s This Other Stuff About Obamacare

By Ed Kilgore

I was reading a piece at CNNMoney about Obamacare implementation by Tami Luhby, and had to laugh bitterly at how the story was put together. The headline was “Where Obamacare Premiums Will Soar,” and it was illustrated with maps of Ohio and Florida accompanied by big scary numbers (+41% for Ohio and +35% for Florida). The first ten graphs were about the premium increases expected (based on initial insurer bids, which are about as reliable as opening bids in home negotiations) in various states, with some contrasting information on states like California and New York where premiums look to go down.

Only in the eleventh graph do we have this proviso:

All of these rate hikes must still be reviewed by the federal government and do not take into account the fact that Americans with incomes up to $45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four will be eligible for federal subsidies.

Then you have to skip down five more graphs to find this rather important information:

While premiums may go up in these states, Obamacare advocates say people will receive more comprehensive coverage. Also, the law limits the amount people have to pay out-of-pocket for deductibles and co-pays to $6,350 in 2014.
“A lot of people will get more for their money,” said Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Even people paying a higher rate will benefit. It will be a big change in most states.”

So the real story is that premiums in the individual market will go up or down depending on how similar existing state insurance regulations happen to be to the new regime Obamacare will introduce, which will produce more uniform premiums with more comprehensive coverage, and with out-of-pocket expenses capped and subsidies available to people with incomes up to four times the federal poverty level.

Yes, that’s a fairly complicated sentence, but it’s the truth, and it shouldn’t take professional journalists many hundreds of words to spit it out. I don’t want to pick on Luhby, since this is pretty typical and she did get around to providing the full information. But I think it’s fair to observe that “stories” which shriek about premium increases are not improving public understanding of Obamacare.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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