Me, shortly after the healthcare.gov debacle:
…the more observations I make…the more value I see in measuring what we could call the F.Q., the Fantasy Quotient. This would be the weight of everything that contributed toward your final opinion about something, divided into one hundred times the influence of your first-impressions. So travel back in time a few years, Obama and crew say something about health insurance for the first time and you go — cool! Maybe. You get inspired, the inspiration creates a fantasy. The fantasy creates a prejudice. The prejudice, by definition of the word, feeds into the final judgment, even if it has to withstand an onslaught of subsequent and contrary experience. How much or how little the subsequent and contrary experience diminishes that original impression, says something about you, and that something is reflected in the F.Q.
A good software-testing engineer has an F.Q. approaching zero. A healthy F.Q. might be somewhere in the twenties, maybe down in the teens.
If your F.Q. is a hundred, you’re pretty much incapable of ever learning a damn thing, and that’s a widespread problem we have now.
These people can’t apply tests. Not really. Sure, they can run tests on things, but they can’t learn anything from the results. Their minds are already made up.
I quoted severian back then, and shall do so again:
I’m trying to think of the last time I heard a liberal admit he had ever been wrong about anything of consequence. A liberal who believes today the exact opposite of what he believed five years ago — like President Obama on gay marriage, say — wasn’t wrong then, and he’s not a hypocrite now. He’s just “evolved”; the issue is “dynamic”; we have a “living” Constitution. Being a liberal means you can do 180s all day long like a figure skater on crack, and pat yourself on the back for your “nuanced” views and mental flexibility.
Meanwhile, conservatives — whose opinions have a foundation other than self-congratulation — tend to feel a bit uneasy about celebrating today what they condemned yesterday, and vice versa. It’s part of that “living in the real world” thing. If liberals could do that, they wouldn’t be liberals.
Perhaps we should sit around and wait for an illustrative example to come along…you know, besides the healthcare.gov launch, and Detroit…wait…wait…
Now you should know, this “ad” has been fully debunked. The law firm of Perkins Cole is demanding that it be pulled, and as justification for that demand they are citing a Washington Post editorial that says it “doesn’t add up.”
This emotional and gut-wrenching attack ad should be every Democrat’s worst nightmare, combining references to President Obama’s 4-Pinocchio promise (PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year”) with a raw account of a woman who says she suffered because of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.
But do the facts match the emotions?
First of all, many viewers might think Boonstra lost her doctor, as she mentions her “wonderful doctor” and then says her plan was canceled. But AFP confirms that she was able to find a plan, via Blue Cross Blue Shield, that had her doctor in its network.
Local news reports recount that Boonstra, like many Americans, initially had trouble getting a plan because of the botched launch of healthcare.gov. No doubt that was a difficult experience. She then was invited by her local member of Congress to attend the State of the Union address and participated in a Republican National Committee news conference that highlighted problems with Obamacare’s stumbling launch.
At that news conference, Boonstra said, “I’m paying a higher cost now as far as out of pocket costs and the coverage is just not the same.” But in the new ad she says “the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable.”
The claim that the costs are now “unaffordable” appeared odd because, under Obamacare, there is an out-of-pocket maximum of $6,350 for covered expenses under an individual plan, after which the insurance plan pays 100 percent of covered benefits. The Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in Michigan that appear to match Boonstra’s plan, as described in local news reports, all have that limit.
Meanwhile, Boonstra told the Detroit News that her monthly premiums were cut in half, from $1,100 a month to $571. That’s a savings of $529 a month. Over the course of a year, the premium savings amounts to $6,348—just two dollars shy of the out-of-pocket maximum.
We were unable to reach Boonstra, but on the fact of it, the premium savings appear to match whatever out-of-pocket costs she now faces.
Levi Russell, a spokesman for AFP, said he “would assume there is an OOP max, but this is the story of Julie, a real person suffering from blood cancer, not some neat and tidy White House PowerPoint about how the ACA is helping everyone.” He said there is a possibility that her specific chemotherapy medication will not be covered.
“Julie’s concerns about her new plan are ongoing and very personal. Since her out of pocket costs are so much higher now, her costs have quickly become unpredictable,” he added. “Rather than knowing exactly what she would have to pay every month, she now is facing a roller coaster of expenses that vary with her health. She said she feels like a surprise is around every corner, since she keeps being hit with new out-of-pocket costs every time she needs treatment, or a test, or even an office visit.”
He concluded: “Now her expenses are unpredictable, and that means unaffordable. It could be $600 one month, and three times that the next month. The reality of what she’s dealing with is much more involved and can’t be swept aside by saying, ‘you have an OOP maximum so quit complaining about your cancer.’”
Update, Feb. 21: In an interview with the Dexter Leader responding to this column, Boonstra said: “People are asking me for the numbers and I don’t know those answers — that’s the heartbreak of all of this. It’s the uncertainty of not having those numbers that I have an issue with, because I always knew what I was paying and now I don’t, and I haven’t gone through the tests or seen my specialist yet.”
The Pinocchio Test
The Fact Checker surely does not want to play down the emotional anguish that any cancer patient may face, but a fuller accounting is necessary if AFP is going to air ads like this. In order to properly compare the old plan and the new plan, there needs to be fuller disclosure of the costs and out-of-pocket maximums before claims that the new plan is “unaffordable” can be accepted at face value. Too many anecdotal stories, on both sides, have fallen apart under close scrutiny.
[Update, Feb. 24: In response to a complaint to television stations from the Peters campaign, AFP supplied more documentation for the ad (embedded below). The documentation, however, sheds no light on how the new health plan has made out-of-pockets costs for Boonstra “unaffordable.” Instead, it emphasizes that these costs may be unpredictable. This does not meet the disclosure test we requested.]
Russell passed along a quote from Boonstra: “My plan, the premiums are half, but the out‑of‑pocket costs are so high that for me, it’s unaffordable. My coverage is 80/20. Blood work, I’m paying 20 percent. If I needed a bone marrow transplant, I would only be covered 80 percent. Everything, everything I do now, I have to pay a percentage of.”
It is one thing to say there are higher out-of-pocket costs, as she did at the RNC news conference, but another to assume that those higher costs are not offset in some way by the significantly lower premium. (The $350,000 bone marrow transplant, for instance, would be capped at the out of pocket minimum.) The reality is that eventually Boonstra will hit the maximum and no longer pay anything. So over the course of the year, the difference in the costs could well even out.
We will initially set this rating at Two Pinocchios, and will update if we get more information.
What a devastating debunking! Until you read it.
Two Pinocchios — because Glenn Kessler, Washington Post Fact Checker, came up with a “disclosure test” he’d like to have met. Well, Shazam. If that’s all it takes, I could hand out two Pinocchios at a time, every hour on the hour and all day long. I’d like to have lots of things explained to me.
It’s not that Kessler doesn’t have something of a point, at least a point strong enough to make an honest observer go “huh”? There is value in taking notice of such things. And the Pinocchio Test is Kessler’s invention, as I understand it, so heck he can do with it as he likes. If a Pinocchio is to be devalued to half the strength of the everyday “huhwha??” and he wants to cheapen his scale to that extent, well, it’s a free country.
For the time being.
But, one of the posters on the thread underneath his story gave him the information he had been missing:
You forgot the administrations executive order pen.
…and that link goes here:
The Obama administration has delayed a main provision in President Obama’s healthcare reform law that would limit out-of-pocket insurance costs for consumers until 2015.
The cap, which includes deductibles and co-payments, was supposed to limit consumer costs to $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family. But administration officials have quietly delayed the requirement for some insurers, allowing them to set their own limits starting in 2014.
When all’s said and done, it was as it was before, and the ad does add up. We have grown-up issues and grown-up transactions, with life-and-death consequences, being decided by the day-to-day whim of the President’s “pen.” Yes, this does create a lot of confusion. But Julia Boonstra didn’t create this confusion. Barack Obama built that.
To remain fastened to reality, as is required in some professions that have to do with making things actually work, you have to lower your F.Q. That is what is required to remain attached: Theories conflict with reality, the theory must yield and reality must prevail. Obama and His minions, unfortunately, have that inversed and apparently so does the Post’s fact-checker. So do some of the people who have commented on my own blog, as it happens. Reality and theory conflict, and reliable as rain they circle their wagons around the theory. The rationale changes minute to minute but the conclusion is always the same: Not-never-happened, doesn’t add up, can’t hear you la la la.
And that, boys & girls, is why the healthcare.gov launch went the way it did. At least, according to the benign-intent theory. There are those who believe the healthcare.gov launch was a boondoggle because that was part of the strategy. But then, ya know, there’s always Hanlon’s razor.
When the stuff you build is supposed to actually work, you can’t afford the luxury of choosing here. The choice is already made. When reality checks your theory, you have to accept it and adjust. That’s a vital ingredient to learning; to take in new information about how things all fit together, you have to be ready to take in new information you don’t have yet, therefore, didn’t have when you came up with the theory. Or wrote the code. Or built the model. You have to be ready for reality to tell you how wrong you are. That is, like, prepping the construction site before you even pour the foundation. It’s a key prerequisite.
I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out whether the folks in charge right now have it goin’ on. Can’t explain everything.