UPDATE: The Denver Post appears to be making corrections to this story from the version you see below, which is the version that appeared in the print edition today. But as of now they appear to have only made it more confusing. According to the story as it reads now, the insurance buyer cited below was looking at both "single plans and family plans because he is engaged." But the story still claims that the "plan with the lowest monthly premium had a deductible of $10,000," and if he was looking at single plans, that's not accurate. The previous version of the story plainly says he opted to take the "penalty for a single person," but the new version actually removed that clarification. Also, neither version of the story mentions the premium subsidies this buyer would have almost certainly qualified for–especially if he couldn't afford a $175 monthly premium–to get a plan with a much more reasonable deductible.
We appreciate the Post's stated willingness to correct these glaring factual inconsistencies, but for whatever reason, they're not actually succeeding. We invite them to keep trying.
Freelance reporter Arthur Kane has another negative story about the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare" on the front page of the Denver Post today that is generating a lot of fact-based criticism. It starts like this:
Matt Leising spends about $3,600 a year on medication to treat asthma and sinus problems, so he was supportive when Washington politicians were debating the Affordable Care Act.
After the law passed and then began rolling out last fall, Leising went to Colorado's health care exchange website to look for coverage, but the 29-year-old Littleton resident quickly realized he couldn't afford any of the plans.
The lowest monthly premium was $175, but the deductible was $10,000, [Pols emphasis] meaning he would still have to pay for his medication and other expenses. He decided to just pay for his medication out of pocket and take the $95 tax penalty for a single person. [Pols emphasis]
Quite the horror story, isn't it? Except, as Healthcare.gov explains, the "$10,000 deductible" for an single policyholder cited in this story is fictional.
The most you pay during a policy period (usually one year) before your health insurance or plan starts to pay 100% for covered essential health benefits. This limit must include deductibles, coinsurance, copayments, or similar charges and any other expenditure required of an individual which is a qualified medical expense for the essential health benefits. This limit does not have to count premiums, balance billing amounts for non-network providers and other out-of-network cost-sharing, or spending for non-essential health benefits.
The maximum out-of-pocket cost limit for any individual Marketplace plan for 2014 can be no more than $6,350 for an individual plan and $12,700 for a family plan. [Pols emphasis]
This isn't subject to debate: the maximum deductible for an individual policyholder is thousands less than this story asserts in the lede. We don't dispute that high deductibles for health insurance plans today are a problem, though they are offset in many cases by the guaranteed benefits provided by the ACA. But the figure quoted in this story is simply not factual. And once you see that, you start questioning other things. The premise of the story was that young people aren't signing up for insurance plans in the numbers hoped. While nobody can disagree right now, over the last few months the percentage of younger people signing up has grown. Kane quotes 3% in this story, but according to Connect for Health Colorado's signup data, the percentage of young people signing up was 17% for the initial period of October 1st through November 30th. Currently, the rate of 18-34 signups is at 23%–admittedly not where proponents want it, but that's a 6% higher rate, not the 3% this story claims.
The Los Angeles Times has a story up today that explains this situation, and so many other "Obamacare horror stories" that fall apart under casual scrutiny:
What a lot of these stories have in common are, first of all, a subject largely unaware of his or her options under the ACA or unwilling to determine them; and, second, shockingly uninformed and incurious news reporters, including some big names in the business, who don't bother to look into the facts of the cases they're offering for public consumption.
And that appears to be what happened here, folks.