For at least a couple of hundred years in America, the “letters to the editor” section of any newspaper has been the one place where people can express views opposing a newspaper’s editorial content. Newspapers felt sufficiently strong in their viewpoints that they figured that a few crackpot letters wouldn’t be enough to damage the paper’s reputation. Now, though, the Los Angeles Times has announced that conflicting views are a bridge too far:
Regular readers of The Times’ Opinion pages will know that, among the few letters published over the last week that have blamed the Democrats for the government shutdown (a preponderance faulted House Republicans), none made the argument about Congress exempting itself from Obamacare.
Why? Simply put, this objection to the president’s healthcare law is based on a falsehood, and letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed.
So the Los Angeles Times has taken it upon itself to pronounce anthropogenic global warming as settled science, despite the fact that even the IPCC is trying to squirm around the fact that all of its earlier data and hypotheses were wrong. That tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the drive-by media, which works in an ideologically closed system that makes no allowance for new, and especially conflicting, evidence.
And then there’s that other thing: the Los Angeles Times also says that it’s false that Congress exempted itself from Obamacare. That too is a giant leap of fact and faith for the Los Angeles Times. While it’s true that Congress didn’t exempt itself from Obamacare, it made sure to insulate itself from Obamacare, which is just as bad. In that regard, I think that Noel Sheppard, of Newsbusters, gives up a bit too quickly on the Obamacare point:
Of course, readers are likely just as concerned that the Times is also not publishing letters claiming Congress is exempt from ObamaCare.
I respect Sheppard for being honest enough to concede on the facts but the facts actually support conservative complaints. The CNN link is a good start explaining why Congress has effectively exempted itself: CNN purports to do a fact-check on the claim that Congress gave itself a pass:
When Obamacare was passed into law, Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, attached language to the bill that mandated members of Congress and their staffers would have to buy health insurance on the newly created health insurance exchanges. What nobody accounted for at the time was that members of Congress and their staffers currently have health insurance through their employer – the federal government. No other employer has been legally required to drop its employee’s health care plan and have them buy coverage on the exchanges.
Like most other large employers, the federal government contributes a portion to the premiums of its employees. In fact, like many employers, the federal government pays most of the premiums for its workers; an average of 72 percent on Capitol Hill. The law didn’t account for the continued employer contribution for these federal workers who would now be buying their insurance on the exchanges. The exchanges were designed to help people without health insurance and people with overly expensive health insurance. It became clear that without their employer contribution, members and their staffers would essentially be getting a cut in pay and benefits equal to thousands of dollars. Even Grassley, the provision’s author, had said the government should continue to contribute to lawmakers’ and staffers’ premiums. What the Obama administration has done is ruled that the congressional workers will continue to receive the employer contribution to help them buy their insurance on the exchange.
All those words! What they boil down to is this: The Obamacare health exchange is so expensive, in large part because plans must contain expensive benefits that people neither need nor want, that requiring employees to go into it will cost them thousands of dollars out of pocket which, as a practical matter, decreases employees’ take-home pay at the end of the day. Therefore, Congress is giving employees (congress people and staffers alike) a stipend to offset that cost. So yes, congress people and their staffers, unlike other Americans, are being forced into the exchange, but Congress has made sure to insulate them from its devastating economic impact. This insulation is tantamount to an exemption, because Congress won’t feel the pain.
In this regard, it’s unlike other Americans who are feeling the pain very badly. The law’s terms mean that they too are being forced into the exchange, but without the nice little stipend to offset costs that Congresws gave itself. For example (h/t Gateway Pundit):
Across North Carolina, thousands of people have been shocked in recent weeks to find out their health insurance plans will be canceled at the end of the year – and premiums for comparable coverage could increase sharply.
One of them is George Schwab of Charlotte, who pays $228 a month for his family’s $10,000 deductible plan from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
In a Sept. 23 letter, Blue Cross notified him that his current plan doesn’t meet benefit requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act and suggested a comparable plan for $1,208 a month – $980 more than he now pays.
“I’m 62 and retired,” Schwab said. “This creates a tremendous financial burden for our family.
“The President told the American people numerous times that… ‘If you like your coverage, you can keep it,’” Schwab said. “How can we keep it if it has been eliminated? How can we keep it if the premium has been increased 430 percent in one year?”
Under the new law, all insurance plans must cover 10 “essential health benefits,” including maternity care and pediatric dental and vision care. Plans must also provide certain preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies for free.
Today, people who buy individual policies often choose plans without maternity coverage, for example, to reduce premiums. That choice is gone, too.
“Now maternity is loaded into everybody’s plan,” Blount said.
That means men will generally be paying more than they did before. But women, who can no longer be charged more just for being female, will probably pay less.
Blue Cross spokesman Lew Borman said Friday that large premium increases will affect about one-third of the approximately 400,000 North Carolina customers who buy Blue Cross insurance in the individual market. Some of their policies were canceled because they didn’t meet the new federal standards, he said.
Michael Hood, 46, who lives near Winston-Salem, is another of the Blue Cross customers who is suffering sticker shock after receiving a recent renewal letter.
He and his wife, who is expecting their third child, now pay $324 per month for a plan with a $10,000 family deductible. The comparable plan suggested by Blue Cross for next year would cost $895.27 per month with an $11,000 family deductible. Their annual payment would rise from $14,000 to $24,000.
Self-employed as part owner of a medical device distributorship, Hood said he and his wife “try to live a healthy lifestyle and keep our medical costs down.” They chose the high-deductible plan to keep their premium low.
Hood said his income is about $85,000 a year, which would mean he might be able to qualify for a subsidy. He said he checked the online marketplace, which has been operating only sporadically this week, and didn’t think it looked like his family would be eligible.
One of the pluses of any new plan is that it will cover maternity care, which his current plan doesn’t. But “is that really worth paying $1,000 a month more for?”
“I’m angry that legislation has been passed that is forcing me to purchase something that otherwise I would not have to purchase,” Hood said.
“The president told us Obamacare would make health insurance affordable and reduce costs. It is now impossible for our family to afford private health insurance.”
By enacting legislation that protects itself from the pain ordinary Americans are feeling, Congress has indeed exempted itself from Obamacare. And that’s no lie.