Another day, another debunked Obamacare horror story. The larger problem with this one is that it's got the big bucks of the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity behind it, blasting it out on the airwaves in Michigan against Rep. Gary Peters, a Democrat running for Senate. In it, Michigan resident Julia Boonstra says this:
“I was diagnosed with leukemia. I found out I only have a 20 percent chance of surviving. I found this wonderful doctor and a great health care plan. I was doing fairly well fighting the cancer, fighting the leukemia, and then I received a letter. My insurance was canceled because of Obamacare. Now, the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable. If I do not receive my medication, I will die. I believed the president. I believed I could keep my health insurance plan. I feel lied to. It’s heartbreaking for me. Congressman Peters, your decision to vote Obamacare jeopardized my health.”At this point, so many of these horror stories have been debunked, traditional media has their radar up for them. This one is no exception, and the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler is on it, researching the claims made. First off, Boonstra was able to get a plan on the exchange with Blue Cross Blue Shield that had her doctor in its network. While she doesn't claim in the ad she lost her doctor, she sure implies it. She didn't.
Secondly, Boonstra herself told the Detroit News that her monthly premium cost had been cut in half, from $1,100 a month to $571. Her assertion that "the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable," is hard to back up as well because Obamacare limits out of pocket spending to $6,350 for an individual plan, at which point the insurance company picks up everything. According to what Kessler found, all of the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Michigan have that limit. So the out of pocket expenses Boostra is facing will be almost entirely covered by how much she is saving in premiums over the course of the year—$6,348. AFP's answer to Kessler about all this is that her out of pocket expenses are now more unpredictable, and that makes it harder to budget. That's a fair point, and the uncertainty surrounding monthly costs would be upsetting for anyone battling any illness (though potentially mitigated by the $571 in savings Boostra sees every month), but that's not the message given in the ad.
AFP is being purposefully misleading using Boostra's story, and doesn't think that their ad should be subject to this kind of scrutiny, attempting to shame Kessler and any other fact checkers with this: "The reality of what she's dealing with is much more involved and can't be swept aside by saying, 'you have an OOP maximum so quit complaining about your cancer.'" No one is sweeping aside her illness, or telling her to stop complaining about her cancer. They're pointing out that she's saving enough in premiums to cover her out of pocket costs. She can complain all she wants, but it's not callous and it's not out of bounds to say that she's not telling the entire truth.