Dianne Barrette, the 57-year-old Florida realtor who was paying $54 a month for a Blue Cross insurance plan that got cancelled quickly became the poster person for the "Obamacare is taking my insurance away!" campaign after CBS News
ran her story, and almost just as quickly became the face of debunked Obamacare stories when Fox News' (!!!) Greta Van Susteren poked it full of holes
. It's been a useful story for plenty of journalists—Erik Wemple of the Washington Post
, and Nancy Metcalf of Consumer Reports
—to explore what's really going on with Obamacare, "rate shock," and people losing their junk insurance.
After all that follow-up, The New Republic's Jonathon Cohn did some of his own calculations, exploring the plans that were available in Florida and her likely subsidy qualification. He was limited to the information about Barrette that was publicly available and by the fact that Florida is using the federal site and he couldn't really get on it and dig around. Nonetheless, using what information is available, he found quite a few options for real health insurance that weren't prohibitively expensive. He followed up with Barrette to see what all this new information meant to her, and what she now thinks about Obamacare. In a nutshell, she says, "it’s a blessing in disguise."
When I gave her a broad description of the plans available, she seemed interested. I noted that she’d be paying $100 or $150 extra a month for policies that still had high cost-sharing, so that she would still be a lot of money out of her own pocket. (I also made very clear that I’m not an insurance agent or broker—that, when she finally goes shopping for insurance, she should talk to a real expert for advice.) Here was her response: "I would jump at it," she said. "With my age, things can happen. I don’t want to have bills that could make me bankrupt. I don’t want to lose my house."
Barrette can't be sure until she sees the numbers for herself. And so far she hasn't been able to do so, thanks to the technological problems at healthcare.gov. But as she’s become more aware of her options, she said, she’s no longer aghast at losing her plan—and curious to see what alternatives are available. "Maybe," she told me, "it’s a blessing in disguise."
Barrette was used by CBS, plain and simple. They wanted a horror story about Obamacare and they found one that seemed to fit the bill, at least on the surface. But the real story is now out, and as a result Barrette knows what her options are and is optimistic about them. CBS hasn't done a follow up story on this, much to their detriment, but perhaps all of the debunking that's been done on this story will make the traditional media a little more reality-based when they approach Obamacare stories going forward.