Hmm. Leukemia patient Julie Boonstra and Americans for Prosperity are up with a new ad in Michigan, Boonstra’s home state. This time, she thinks people are too stupid to wonder why a healthcare plan that costs her less annually than her cancelled plan for identical care “doesn’t work for [her].” And too stupid to wonder why she originally claimed that that plan is “unaffordable” even though her earlier plan for slightly more money annually was affordable.
“My plan doesn’t work for me,” she says, dramatically. She just doesn’t say why. Which is understandable, since we all know by now that her plan works just fine for her.
That’s right; her plan works just fine for her. She just doesn’t want people whose plan doesn’t work fine for them, or who have no access to a plan at all, to have one that works for them.
She says early in the new ad that it was painful to her that Rep. Gary Peters, the Dem Senate candidate in November, challenged her credibility after her last AFP ad, in which she claimed that her new ACA-compliant plan was unaffordable because of higher out-of-pocket expenses than her own plan, and implied that she would be unable to continue to see the specialist she’d been seeing.
It quickly was revealed after that first ad that she could keep (and would be keeping) her specialist, and that because of the ACA’s limitation on annual out-of-pocket expenses, her annual maximum costs in premiums (one-half of her previous amounts) plus maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses would total on $2 less annually than the combined costs of her premiums and maximum expenses under her new plan. Because her out-of-pocket expenses were low under her old plan, but were not zero–she has not disclosed what they were–she comes out ahead now under her new plan, maybe substantially ahead because her already high premiums under old plan might have been raised for this year.
She clearly knew at the time she purchased her new plan, and at the time she cut the AFP ad, that she would have access to the same care and the same doctors under the new plan as under her old one. But most people–I, among them–presumed initially that she did not know when she cut that ad that because of the ACA’s limits on annual out-of-pocket costs, the most she would pay annually, total, for healthcare under her new plan would be slightly less (no, not $2 more; her maximum out-of-pocket expenses under the old plan were not zero or $1) than they were last year under her old plan.
Clearly, her representation was false that her old plan was affordable and that her new plan was not, and that the fault was Obamacare. If her new plan is, as she claimed, unaffordable, than absent some recent change in her financial status unrelated to Obamacare, her old one was, too. And, of course, the reverse is true, as well.
No one–including Peters–had accused her of lying. They did, though, accuse the AFP of using her to put forward inaccuracies. Again, the presumption was that she herself did not know then that the ACA requires, and that therefore her new plan has, an annual out-of-pocket cap of about $6,500, and that that together with her new plan’s halving of her annual premiums from last year, make her total annual costs under the new plan identically as affordable as (or more affordable than) her annual costs last year under her cancelled plan. Her new monthly premiums are about $550. Her old ones were about $1,100.
In her new ad she claims that Peters challenged her credibility. That is false; what Peters did was ask the AFP for documentation supporting her claim that her annual healthcare costs under her new plan are substantially more than under her old plan, and therefore “unaffordable” now but affordable before.
In post-initial-ad interviews with fact checkers and with her hometown newspaper, she claimed that the problem was the uncertainty now of not knowing month-to-month what her out-of-pocket expenses will be, whereas she had always reached the low monthly out-of-pocket expenses, and budgeted for that amount monthly.
In other words, her entire complaint is that she might spend the additional $550 a month as soon as she gets it, on something unrelated to her medical care, and then her out-of-pocket expenses totaling an annual maximum of her yearly savings of about $500 on her monthly premiums will become unaffordable.
Which is fine, but that’s what she should have said in her original ad, if she knew it then. What isn’t fine is her claim that because she’s a leukemia victim, and has a pretty teenage daughter shown walking with her in the new ad, Peters shouldn’t point out inaccuracies in her claims about a matter that is, to many people, one of life-or-death.
But I think people are catching on to this manipulative game. This ad comes off to me as pathetically ineffectual, at best, and possibly offensive to many people. She claimed in her earlier ad that her new plan was unaffordable; the plan, however, is as affordable as her earlier one, and in the new ad she’s no longer claiming that it’s unaffordable; yet she’s angry at Peters for questioning the accuracy of that key statement in the earlier ad, which she now doesn’t repeat because it’s been exposed as inaccurate. What basis does she have for complaining that Peters wanted the facts reported fully and accurately? Why does she think the public’s not entitled to accurate information? Because she has leukemia?
Toward the end of the ad she says she knows of thousands of people who have been hurt by Obamacare in the same way she has been, and that she wants to help them by forcing Peters to listen to them. I say, let’s hold her to it.
Let’s insist that she identify people who have a chronic life-threatening illness who are unhappy that they now have the same coverage as before, with the same healthcare providers, at the same or less cost, and no longer have to worry that their plan will be cancelled and cannot be replaced, or that they will reach the maximum lifetime coverage cap and then no longer have access to healthcare, and who have the constant threat of financial ruin hanging over them. Just for starters.
Ms. Boonstra wants Peters to listen to her? I’m sure he’ll be happy to do that. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Ma’am. So help you, AFP. Peters will listen. He just needs you to talk.
The AFP apparently doesn’t recognize that these ads with these people are effective only until the representations these seriously ill women make are revealed as deeply inaccurate. Just as the ACA did not make Julie Boonstra’s healthcare unaffordable, or even one red cent more expensive, it also didn’t require lupus patient Emilie Lamb to pay several hundred dollars more a month than her now-cancelled plan for the healthcare coverage she receives, as she claimed in her own AFP ad, which ran in Tennessee. Ms. Lamb’s claim to the contrary notwithstanding, it did not require her to pay anything more for the coverage she was receiving, with the same doctors, at the same hospital. Lamb made the false claim in an AFP ad running in Tennessee that the plan she chose was her least expensive option. In fact it was one of her most expensive, and every single plan available to her–all 40 of them, according to Glenn Kessler–would have provided far more comprehensive coverage than her now-cancelled unlimited-annual-out-of-pocket-expenses, maximum-annual-$25,000-coverage-cap plan she claimed to be happy with.
Undoubtedly, it won’t be long before Lamb , too, cuts a follow-up ad for the AFP. And like Boonstra, she’ll look into the camera and frantically insist that her purpose is to help people who have been harmed by Obamacare. And, who knows? Maybe, unlike Boonstra, she won’t come off in the new ad as protesting too much. My suggestion: Don’t let the theatrics get out of hand.
Attempts at emotional manipulation work only if subtle. Maybe by the time of her next AFP ad, Boonstra will have learned that.