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Affordable Care Act

Obamacare 'Victim'? Never Mind

diane_barrette_on_cbs_news.jpg
CBS

Last week, a Winter Haven woman became the face of the Affordable Care Act backlash by complaining to CBS News that the law was forcing her out of her insurance plan. Diane Barrette, a 56-year-old real estate agent, choked up on camera as she said the replacement policy would cost her 10 times more.

Fox News rushed to sign her up for multiple talk shows, but then actually checked the facts, as CBS apparently did not. It turned out that Barrette's policy from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, for which she pays $54 a month, covers almost nothing.  Barrette's "GoBlue plan 91" wouldn't cover hospital bills -- the big-ticket item that spurred the 1929 creation of Blue Cross in the first place, historians say.

As Consumer Reports noted, Florida Blue offered to replace it with a $591-a-month “Blue Options Essential plan.” It is not clear why the company steered her toward such a pricey plan, when plenty of less-expensive choices were available to her on the Health Insurance Marketplace, Healthcare.gov.

She could get a Humana Silver plan that would protect her from going deeply into debt if she got sick. With the premium subsidies she qualifies for, Consumer Reports says, she would pay $165 a month.

Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik cited that case and others to raise the possibility that  insurers are trying to cheat their customers by steering them toward the most profitable policies.

"Expecting insurance companies to play fair with their customers is as pointless as expecting dogs not to drink from the toilet, but what's the excuse of the reporters who retail these yarns without fully checking them out?" Hiltzik wrote. "It's time to tamp down the breathless indignation about these health plan cancellations. Many of the departing plans are being outlawed for good reason, and many of the customers losing them have no idea how much financial exposure they were saddled with in the old days."