There is a difficult race in Michigan for the U.S. Senate, and as part of that campaign the group "Americans for Prosperity," which is funded by the ultra-Far Right Koch brothers, is running a heart-wrenching TV ad. It features a woman who is talking about having leukemia and losing her old health insurance, having to get a much more expensive coverage under the ACA which she can't afford, and therefore will be unable to buy the medication she needs, or else she will die.
By any standard, it's impossible not to feel the deepest human sympathy for the woman. Happily there at least clearly is medication that does allow her to treat her condition, but it's a terrible situation and one can only wish the best for her.
What is also clear, as the story develops wider, she is also being used by the Far Right to deliver totally false information, which not only has a negative impact on the election, but conceivably on her own health.
You see, when one makes very public statements and wants you to pay attention to them and to act on them, sometimes people actually do pay attention and act. In this case, "people" were the Detroit News.
And the reality is very different.
What the paper learned when it studied her claims is that, before her policy was cancelled, the woman had been paying a premium of $1,100 a month. That works out to $13,200 a year. Again, that is for her old policy.
Her new plan is Blue Cross Premier Gold. Under the Affordable Care Act, she has two payments to contend with -- monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Her premiums are $571 a month -- that comes to $6,852. (Basic math.) Out-of-pocket expenses under the ACA are capped at $5,100. That means she has zero expenses above that threshold. Adding the two together (basic math), her costs under "Obamacare" are $11,952.
You don't even need basic math to see that $11,952 is less than $13,200, which is what she used to pay. But employing simple grade-school subtraction, you can easily discover that, rather than paying more as she claims and having to die, she is actually saving $1,248 a year.
This is simple, easy, basic math. And you end up with something that is known as "facts".
And what was the woman's response when the Detroit News told her the good news? Was it "Yippee!" Or "Oh, dear Lord, thank God!" Or "Thank you, thank you so much for discovering this!!"
No, her response was -- it “can’t be true” before adding, “I personally do not believe that.”
And there, in a nutshell, you have one of the biggest problems with the radical Far Right today. Science, math and facts are not a "belief" system. 11,952 is less than 13,200. And there's nothing "personal" about it. The new number is less for all people, whatever your race and creed and math skills level.
The Far Right keeps doing this. There was a story when the ACA was first made available where a woman (just one woman) told about losing her old insurance coverage and having to pay more under "Obamacare.' Fox News ran with the story about this one, single woman big time. Then, a magazine journalist did something radical -- he called up the woman and went over plans with her. (Shocking, yes, I know.) And together they discovered that there was a terrific option available that cost slightly more but offered hugely significant coverage whereas her old plan was one of those junk policies that offered next to nothing. The woman not only "believed" the new figures but was overjoyed to have the coverage available.
Eric Stern of Salon did a similar story here about numerous "outrages" that Sean Hannity had "reported" on "Fox News". Trudy Lieberman of the Columbia Journalism Review did yet another similar story, as well, about Fox here. There are numerous such stories and examples -- reporters following up on fake, heart-aching stories about people losing their coverage by virtue of supposedly paying more for the Affordable Care Act, and by simple attention to math and facts discovered the lies and that the truth was the very opposite.
Those were all insidious, but small individual cases, made important by their collective numbers. This story in Michigan, though, is another matter entirely. It is a Koch-sponsored organization trying to impact an election by tearing at your hear with a blatant, fact-based, demonstrably provable lie.
Or so I...uh, believe.
Happily, once again, some reporters in Michigan thought they'd do something basic and...well, y'know check it out. And what did they discover?
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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