Greg Sargent on Tuesday unveiled the "documentation" offered by the Koch brothers-funded tea party group Americans for Prosperity to back up its recent anti-Obamacare campaign commercial airing in Michigan. The ad featured a local leukemia patient named Julie Boonstra, complaining about her experience under Obamacare. The ad's target, Gary Peters, a Democratic candidate for Senate, demanded that the group back up its claims.
As you might expect, the documentation does nothing to contradict the expert debunking of the original ad performed by Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post. We reported on the back-and-forth here, and placed it in the context of the short, sad history of conservative efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act with "horror stories" that don't stand up to scrutiny.
In the ad, Boonstra relates her old insurance was canceled "because of Obamacare," and under her new, ACA-compliant plan, "the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it's unaffordable." The ad also implies she lost her cancer doctor in the changeover, but that turns out to be untrue.
As Kessler pointed out, the costs of Boonstra's old and new plan are essentially identical. Her old plan had a "low" out-of-pocket annual maximum (how low hasn't been made public), and the new plan has an out-of-pocket maximum of $6,350. But her monthly premiums have come down from $1,100 to $571 a month. That's a savings of $6,348 for the year, which covers her maximum.
So what does Americans for Prosperity say about that? It merely cites a story published by Politico last September, quoting a health company spokeswoman saying consumers may face "the potential for unpredictable, expensive, out-of-pocket costs in plans with higher deductibles."
Leaving aside the quote has nothing to do with Boonstra's personal case, plainly her maximum out-of-pocket costs are nothing like "unpredictable": They're $6,350. Period.
Americans for Prosperity asserts in its documentation Boonstra "made a reasonable judgment that the unexpected, unpredictable out-of-pocket costs associated with her new health-care plan are unaffordable." This falls into the category of repeating a misrepresentation in the hopes that repetition will make it come true. But it doesn't work that way.
The most despicable aspect of this affair may be American for Prosperity's ruthless misuse of Julie Boonstra. She may sincerely believe her new plan is bad for her, despite the lower up-front costs she acknowledges herself and the consumer provisions written into the Affordable Care Act that will protect her from mistreatment by her insurers. Or the idea may have been put into her head by Americans for Prosperity.
But Americans for Prosperity can do the math as well as anyone. If it could have backed up her statement her new policy was "unaffordable," it would have produced the evidence. It didn't, showing it didn't care that it was putting Boonstra out in public as a spokesperson for an ideological misrepresentation. Shame on Americans for Prosperity.
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Michael Hiltzik is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Readers may send him email at email@example.com.