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March 19, 2014 12:43 PM “The Sky Is Falling,” Says Anonymous Chicken

By Ed Kilgore

I’m sure many of you saw a certain headline from The Hill today: “O-Care premiums to skyrocket.” At first I thought the source was The Drudge Report.

If you actually read the accompanying article by Elise Viebeck, the rather alarming assertion is mostly a collection of blind quotes from “health industry officials.” Yes, one former Cigna executive went on the record to say his “gut” tells him premiums could go up, which is of course very convincing. Otherwise the closest Viebeck gets to attribution is an “insurance official who hails from a populous swing state.”

In an updated version of the article, Viebeck does quote by name two experts—who deny the whole premise of her story.

And 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 Viebeck seems to be predicting as a reality for much of the country is very unlikely to occur.

Particularly in its revised form, Viebeck’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.”

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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