New Right Wing Attack On Obamacare Fails To Tell The Whole Truth

There is a new anti-Obamacare story making the rounds on the internet. Of course, just like the dozens before it, it doesn’t tell the whole truth. Blogger Viki Mason writes at USFinancePost.com:

According to investment bank Morgan Stanley’s recent survey of 148 US insurance brokers, health insurance premium prices are increasing dramatically thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

The survey confirms what many Americans already knew. The Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable. Across the nation, states are seeing an average of 11 percent increases in the small group market and an average of 12 percent increases in the individual market.

Other right wing sites are echoing the story. It appears to have started with a commentator named Scott Gottlieb, and a column at Forbes.com. Gottlieb, who is connected to the American Enterprise Institute, writes:

The analysts conducting the survey attribute the rate increases largely to a combination of four factors set in motion by Obamacare:  Commercial underwriting restrictions, the age bands that don’t allow insurers to vary premiums between young and old beneficiaries based on the actual costs of providing the coverage, the new excise taxes being levied on insurance plans, and new benefit designs.

Gottlieb offers a list of states he says are seeing large increases in individual policy premiums. From a 100 percent increase in Delaware, down to a 28 percent increase in Pennsylvania, Gottlieb says Obamacare is pushing premiums to higher and higher levels.

An anti-Obamacare survey that can’t be found.

The first hint that there may be more to the story, is that there is no link to the Morgan Stanley survey in any of the articles. Gottlieb offers a variety of numbers from the survey, but no link to it. The other articles largely refer back to Gottlieb’s story. In this day and age where most things wind up on the internet, the Morgan Stanley survey should be posted somewhere. But it is nowhere to be found, at least using a Google search.

It is also interesting that no major newspaper with right wing leanings is covering this. Google “Washington Times Morgan Stanley insurance survey,” and the results have nothing to do with this story. Likewise if you use “Wall Street Journal” in your search. This is almost totally a creation of right wing bloggers.

Finally, an explanation.

It took a bit of searching to find a story that provides more of the details of this mysterious survey. Brianna Ehley, writing in The Fiscal Times, fills in the gaps left by Gottlieb and others. Of course, when those gaps are filled, the story largely blows up. Ehley explains it this way:

The survey found that the prices for off-exchange plans in the small group market increased by an average of 11 percent, while off-exchange plans on the individual market increased by an average of 12 percent. Analysts noted that the prices tended to vary by state, with some states showing increases 10 to 50 times that amount, Gottlieb wrote.

Look at that again. The premium increases found in the Morgan Stanley survey are for plans purchased “off exchange.” Meaning that those who purchase them are voluntarily giving up the protections they get with an exchange-purchased plan. The right is eager to blame these increases on Obamacare, when they have little to do with Obamacare at all. Ehley continues:

Meanwhile, premiums for plans purchased on the state and federal exchanges tend to have cheaper premiums than comparable employer-based plans, though they have higher deductibles.

A report released by PwC’s Health Research Institute found that the average cost of premiums sold on the Obamacare exchanges is about $5,844 annually —or 4 percent less than the average cost of $6,119 for an employer-provided plan with comparable benefits.

There you have it. The anti-Obamacare forces claim that individual premiums are going through the roof, when in fact the average premium for a policy purchased through an exchange is less than one you can get through your employer. Isn’t it convenient how Gottlieb and the echo chamber just happened to leave out the fact that it’s those who are going around Obamacare, rather than through it, are the ones who are likely going to pay a whole lot more?