Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Walker Admin keeps deceiving on Obamacare

The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance released a study yesterday on Obamacare, and even before I looked at the results, my BS detectors were going off like mad. I know that Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel gave over $10,000 to Gov. Walker's campaign in 2010, breaking campaign finance rules in the process, and was a longtime insurance industry lobbyist before taking the position in Walker's Administration, so he isn't exactly a person to be trusted to give a straight scoop on how Obamacare will work.

  And sadly, Ted Nickel and company did not disappoint, as their study gives dire predictions of big increases in costs between 10 and 124 percent for people that go onto Obamacare exchanges and get a plan that has
  a $2,000 deductible that included drug coverage in the individual insurance market. We examined plans for a 21-year-old, a 40-year-old, and a 63-year-old. The rates were examined separately for Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison, Appleton, Wausau, Kenosha, and LaCrosse. The pre-reform plans are based on quoted rates effective July 1, 2013. Post reform plans are limited to plans from companies who have filed to participate in the federal exchange, and the averages will change if some insurers modify their service areas.
Sounds terrible and very unlike what we've seen from some other places! Why is that? T

  Because the comparison is BULLSHIT. Notice a few things are missing in the OCI release.

  1. What other items are in the insurance plans, and what are the limits in the coverage?
  2. What's the Obamacare plan being compared to? And are they the same coverage?
  3. Where does this total cost get derived from? Is it for an individual person, or is it an average?
  4. Can someone get a lower or higher level of coverage, and what's the change in that cost?

  As a former teacher, it's crap like this that explains why we ask students to "show their work." As of today, the OCI is still refusing to release the tables and insurance plans that these allegedly huge increases come from...which tells you that they know their release is bullshit, and that they are lying by omission.

  I wasn't the only guy to call this out for the deception it was. Citizen Action's Robert Kraig, who has been on top of the Obamacare changes in Wisconsin from day 1, let Nickel and company have it within 2 hours of the OCI's release, and illustrated the apples-and-oranges nature of the "study."

1. The rates released by OCI do not include tax credits which will be available to make health insurance affordable, and therefore do not report the true sticker price of insurance coverage purchased on the new marketplaces. It is misleading to only report average rates which do not take into account the generous premium tax credits. A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that nearly half of consumers on the new health insurance marketplaces will receive tax credits which will on average a reduce the sticker price of a family plan at the silver level by 32% (or $2,672). The subsidies would reduce the cost of a bronze plan by 77%. (Note: OCI does not say what level of exchange plan is being used in its comparison).

2. OCI’s rate comparison does not take into account the quality of plans. An exclusive focus on premium rates does not reflect total consumer cost. The Affordable Care Act establishes quality standards for insurance plans. While this may increase premiums in some cases where the consumer currently has substandard coverage, higher quality coverage has lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers when they get medical care. According to Dr. Jonathan Gruber’s analysis of the Wisconsin insurance market released by the Walker Administration in 2011, 38% of plans fall below the minimum standards of ACA.

3. The rates released by OCI do not take into account preexisting conditions and other factors. Average premiums do not tell the whole story because rates that are low today are a product of a system that discriminates against people with preexisting conditions and against women. Rates are expected to go down for people with health conditions and for women. In addition, many who are denied coverage or cannot afford discriminatory rates will be able to buy coverage. The rates for plans offered on the new marketplace take into account the addition of consumers currently facing discrimination, the current rates do not.

Kraig also points out that this pattern of GOP operatives deceiving about Obamacare is a disturbing pattern in recent years, both nationwide and in Wisconsin. In Indiana, Governor Mike Pence's Administration compared all levels of Obamacare exchange service, including the most expensive services as an equal portion and then averaging the rates together,  an absurd measure when they should be comparing apples to apples, with a certain level of Obamacare service being shown next to the exact same menu of services in the private sector.  Not surprisingly, the Obamacare exchange premiums are competitive and often less than the private insurance when done this way- the same way the average citizen or business owner will make his or her comparisons of services.

Ohio's GOP Lieutenant Governor pulled the same deception as Indiana's, using an average of all Obamacare plans to claim Obamacare could nearly double costs, but conveniently not mentioning that the average Ohioan would often pay less in premiums and out-of-pocket costs. And the most egregious example of this deception came to light recently in Georgia, whose Insurance Commissioner bragged in a county GOP meeting that he would try to screw up Obamacare implementation, and Governor Nathan Deal's family and business partners  have been getting huge amounts of money funneled to them from a PAC of insurance scumbags demanding that he keep people from using Obamacare correctly in Georgia.
And of course, in the Koch/ALEC-run state of Fitzwalkerstan, we've seen our own set of lies about the Affordable Care Act. In addition to Ted Nickel's BS release this week, you might remember the cherry-picked study of Dr. Gruber's in August 2011 that former DHS Secretary Dennis Smith tried to use to claim Obamacare wouldn't work in Wisconsin, and  Gruber ended up calling Smith out for not mentioning Gruber's conclusion that Obamacare was a "great thing" for Wisconsin. Governor Walker also got into the act, repeating then-Secretary Smith's lies in a Washington Post op-ed about what Obamacare would do wrong-  lies that were quickly shot down by Kraig and others.

Beyond the false rhetoric, there are also Governor Walker's horrible policy choices related to Obamacare. This includes Scotty's foolish strategy of  turning down $37 million that would have gone toward the state's version of an Obamacare exchange, hoping that Obamacare would eventually be repealed (how'd that work out for you, Scotty?). Walker then refused to take the expanded Medicaid funds in Obamacare,  increasing the state's amount of uninsured as well as the cost to state taxpayers (the definition of a lose-lose policy).

   Then again, Scott Walker, Ted Nickel, and Koch-funded GOP dingbats don't care about how Obamacare can help the constituents who pay their salaries, or even if implementing it property would help their state's economy by removing uncertainties that come from uninsured people refusing to spend money on other items out of fear of going broke due to a medical emergency. These scumbags just care about striking their pose for the oligarchs that pay their campaign expenses, in the hopes that they can mess things up so badly they can exploit citizen frustration in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

It is a disgusting dereliction of duty, and the way they are trying to keep citizens from taking advantage of this program through their lies and sabotage is nothing less than treason, trying to injure the quality of life for the United States and its citizens in order to get...what? A few more campaign dollars and votes?

But it also goes along with my theory that "If you're lying on an issue, you're losing," and I do think the GOP is losing on the Obamacare issue because of their arrogance and refusal to come up with any type of solution to deal with health insurance issues other than "no Obamacare", and stand to fall even harder in 2014 than they did in 2012 as a result. I sure hope so, as these low-lifes must pay a price for their crimes and willful deceits.

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