Hey, did you hear about how much Obamacare is going to cost? It’s 16% less than expected!
By the way, have you heard about the Obamacare rates? Premiums are going to double!
Praise Obamacare! Some people will get insurance for only $11/month!
What exactly is going on here? Well, Obamacare, the most politically contentious piece of legislation of Obama’s time in office is about to come into effect in earnest. Liberal and conservative media outlets, acting as an extension of the two political parties, are doing their best to make the point that Obamacare is just great or birthed from Hell, depending on their political leanings. Mainstream media outlets are joining the chorus, but in being less partisan, they tend to be bad explainers, incapable of digesting and regurgitating Obamacare in a helpful form. Lastly, there are actual ambiguities, both about how Obamacare will start and how it will progress.
That first link is from progressive blog Think Progress. The headline refers to previous estimates on the costs of Obamacare: they are comparing a previous government estimate to a more recent one, though they do go on to lay out what it will look like for most Americans:
"In the 36 states where the federal government supports or fully runs the Health Insurance Marketplace, a 27-year old who does not qualify for tax credits will pay, on average, $163 for a plan that covers approximately 60 percent of health care expenses (a so-called bronze-level plan), while a 27-year-old with an income of $25,000 could pay $83 dollars per-month after subsidies."
Forbes, the source behind the second link, says that we should be comparing Obamacare rates to pre-Obamacare rates, which is a good point, but most of the article is spent looking at Obamacare rates without subsidies. Why would Forbes do this? Because Forbes is written for billionaires (and wannabes), most of whom don't like Obamacare and are no stranger to the sort of BS accounting trick that that article pulls. If you scroll down to more than halfway through the article, you eventually find a graph that shows that nearly everyone making under $40,000 annually will save money under Obamacare (once you factor in those darn subsidies), and that seniors will save under Obamacare almost regardless of their income.
Not quite what one would expect from an article with a headline about how premiums will double under Obamacare, but Forbes is a special case. In case you missed it, Forbes published a truly embarrassing, idiotic, all-too-easy-to-tear-apart article on Obamacare rates. Seriously, I’m still a little shocked by how bad it was.
The last link (above) is from NBC News. Not to be confused with liberal cousin MSNBC, NBC News is simply looking for the catchiest headline, and to do that, they looked for the lowest possible rate under Obamacare. It’s not bad journalism, but if you were just skimming headlines, you might think we’re headed for some bizarre free healthcare utopia like Canada or England.
Our zombie-like desire for news before it happens (it’s not like the world would stop if we all just waited to see what the rates actually are) leads to an open sea of possibilities for what the news will actually be, so the source gets to pick their preferred facts and act like that’s what the news actually is.
As for Obamacare, all of these estimates ignore the fact that health exchanges set up a marketplace, and that market forces will come into play over time. Over the coming months and years, Obamacare will push more people into the market and force insurance companies to spend more of their revenue on providing insurance, both of which will push rates down. Is that how it will actually happen? Who knows?
It’s a worthy goal to try and understand Obamacare, but maybe we should actually try to do that instead of constantly trying to read news from the future.