Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Scott Brown Comes Out for a New Hampshire State Healthcare-Insurance Public Option. In the Name of Freedom. Cool!**

[Annotation added below.]

I’ve written here on AB, extensively now, about the invidious co-opting of the word “freedom” by the political far-right.  I’ve addressed this mainly in the context of the conservative Supreme Court justices’ neat trick of disconnecting the word from any relation to actual physical freedom as long as it is a state court (in criminal cases and in a variety of civil cases, e,g. adult-guardianship and conservatorship cases, as well) or a state or county prosecutor’s office rather than the federal government that violates federal constitutional rights in order to remove physical freedom.  This is done in the name of federalism as allegedly envisioned by James Madison.

And on Saturday, I addressed it in the context of the Cliven Bundy matter, which includes the support he’s received from the likes of Nevada Senator Dean Heller.  The immediate occasion for that post was to note that this bizarre appropriation of the word “freedom” to justify doing whatever the invoker of “freedom” wants to do–which, for the Supreme Court’s invokers, includes obsessively requiring that state courts, but not state legislatures, be entitled as “sovereigns” to violate individuals’ federal constitutional rights; I really can’t stress this enough–is finally, thanks to Bundy, being recognized by actual professional pundits. Specifically, by New York Times columnist Gail Collins in her Saturday column.  Paul Krugman used his bi-weekly Times column this morning to highlight it.

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Okay, so why was Julie Boonstra advocating for lower-cost oral chemotherapy treatment in Washington when she was getting that medication for a set, low monthly price under the insurance plan she liked and did not want to part with? Was she concerned about reaching her annual or lifetime coverage cap?

Boonstra is the ex-wife of Mark Boonstra, the former Washtenaw County GOP chairman whom Gov. Rick Snyder appointed to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 2012. Julie Boonstra said she’s never been a political person beyond advocating for lower-cost oral chemotherapy treatment in Washington. [My boldface.]

Dexter cancer patient who called health care ‘unaffordable’ will save more than $1K, Marisa Schultz, Detroit News, Mar. 10

Boonstra famously was quoted in that article as saying when told the details of her new Blue Cross plan that it  “can’t be true” that that plan is cheaper, by a minimum of $1,200 for the year, than her old plan. “I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra told Ms. Schultz.   Schultz continued:

She said she still fears her costs will be unaffordable because she could be hit with large out-of-pocket bills in the early months when she wouldn’t have the money to pay. She also said her out-of-pocket maximum could be higher than advertised because there’s one prescription that was previously covered by her old plan that isn’t and she now buys with a separate prescription discount card.

An interesting comment thread developed here during the last few days in response to my post on Tuesday about the Detroit News article.  I titled that post “Julie Boonstra Tells the Detroit News Why Her New Healthcare Plan Doesn’t Work for Her: It Requires Her to Read the Policy or Ask Blue Cross a Few Basic Questions In Order to Learn What the Plan Actually Covers and What Her Expense Cap Is.”  One subject of the discussion concerned her statement that there’s one prescription that was previously covered by her old plan that isn’t and she now buys with a separate prescription discount card.  I pointed out that she does not say that that prescription is part of her cancer treatments, and that according to a Blue Cross spokesperson Ms. Schultz contacted for the article, it is not; all her cancer drugs are covered.

I also noted that Boonstra has not said that her old plan covered all medications.  She just said it covered all of her current medications.  And since I happen to know, having shopped there many times, that there is a Rite Aid pharmacy on the far west side of Ann Arbor, just east of Dexter, a village that is a small bedroom community mainly for people who work in Ann Arbor, I posted this from Rite Aid’s website:

Rite Aid, 500 generic-brand prescriptions available: $9 for a 30-day prescription; $16 for a 90-day one.

I also said in that comment something that, surprisingly, no one else (to my knowledge) has mentioned:

She also, by the way, has not said–because she doesn’t know, and either does Blue Cross–what her old plan would have cost in monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses and co-pays THIS YEAR, had the plan not been discontinued. But it sure as hell would be interesting to know how her old plan differed in costs and coverage last year from the year before, and how much her premiums and out-of-pocket and co-pay costs went up in, say, the last five years on that plan.

But there’s an even more fundamental question about Boonstra’s comments to Ms. Schultz: Why was Boonstra advocating for lower-cost oral chemotherapy treatment in Washington during a period when she was paying set, low monthly out-of-pocket costs and was happy with her plan?

When I first read the article it seemed strange to me that this anti-federal government Republican was advocating in Washington for federal regulation of the cost of a particular medical prescription.  But only after reading through the comments to my post on the article, in which I did not mention that statement of hers, but a commenter to the post did, did it occur to me that there was something more, something fundamental, wrong with this picture.

This clearly is someone who is locked deep inside the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh sphere of reality.  She seems to want a single-payer, Medicare-for-all type of healthcare insurance system, and wants the actual benefits of the ACA, including, apparently–no, undoubtedly–the removal of annual and lifetime caps on coverage. And it’s a safe bet that she personally does not believe that the ACA includes these bars, and that that is why her old plan was cancelled.  It can’t be true, because Fox News and Rush Limbaugh haven’t mentioned it.

This woman is among those who cannot be reached with facts.  But they are in the minority among the electorate. It’s deeply unfortunate that our Democratic president won’t educate the public about the actual specifics of the plan.  He doesn’t do specifics in speaking to the public, and doesn’t do facts and explanations at all. And he certainly doesn’t do refutations of misinformation.

We know by now that hell will freeze over before he refutes Boonstra, Emilie Lamb and the others in the AFP ads, and I guess that’s okay, because everyone’s tuned him out anyway.  But why has it taken so very, very long for the Dems to begin to take over this slack?  Their failure to do do this because Obama is unpopular is a key reason why Obama is so unpopular. Or at least a key reason why Obamacare is unpopular.  Which, apparently more than anything else, is what matters this election cycle.

As for Boonstra, reader Alex Bollinger posted this comment this morning to my earlier post:

Yes, we should feel compassion for this woman. And our blame should be mostly on the political consultants who are taking advantage of her loyalty to movement conservatism (I don’t think she’s stupid at all because I’ve seen very intelligent people really, really want to believe something is true so much that they believe their rightthink).

But her comments are intended to rescind the ACA, which has already insured over 12 million people. I’m sure there are people who either have or will get cancer among those 12 million. Just because they don’t have TV ads doesn’t mean that their lives aren’t important as well, and Boonstra has the ability to temper her ideological fervor with, you know, having a basic understanding of her plan before going on national TV to talk about it.

Exactly.

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Julie Boonstra Tells the Detroit News Why Her New Healthcare Plan Doesn’t Work for Her: It Requires Her to Read the Policy or Ask Blue Cross a Few Basic Questions In Order to Learn What the Plan Actually Covers and What Her Expense Cap Is.

Oh, dear. I won’t summarize this for you; you really have to read it in full.  (Or maybe just read Glenn Kessler’s article about it posted today.)

And to think I had thought Julie Boonstra’s only comprehension problem was with basic math.  Turns out she also has a problem with reading comprehension and with understanding explicit short answers to oral questions posed to, say, a Blue Cross representative. Or maybe just with recognizing that she could learn the specifics of her plan simply by doing one or the other of those things.

Hey, she could have done both!  But first she’d have to have figured out that reading her plan or asking a Blue Cross representative might provide that information.

Yep.  The Republican Party really is the party of stupid. Then again, maybe she knew all along, but thought everyone else is stupid. Okay, I’ll give in and quote this, from Kessler’s post:

Boonstra’s response to this report was that it “can’t be true” because she was worried about high expenses early in the year and because she thought one of her prescription drugs was not covered. A spokesman for Blue Cross told the News that all of her prescriptions are covered and her co-pays on the drugs would help with meeting her out-of-pocket maximum.

It can’t be true, because the truth exists not in reality but instead in her mind. Hopefully, this woman doesn’t fear a nuclear attack by Martians.  Or by the Koch brothers, although that might be prescient, if the attack is to be on, say, Nancy Pelosi’s congressional district.

Seriously, folks.  Does anyone really think this woman had no idea what her plan provided, if not when she purchased it, then sometime shortly afterward?  This new information brings into question the truth of her back-story about being unable for nearly three months to access the Michigan link at healthcare.com and gain information about available plans.  (It also raises questions about whether she is in fact receiving subsidies for her new in-any-event-lower monthly premiums, although of course there is no way to learn that.)

Let’s hear it for Detroit News reporter Marisa Schultz.  And, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Detroit newspaper market: Detroit has two longtime mainstream newspapers, the Free Press, which leans Democratic, and the News, which leans Republican, but both papers’ reporting staffs are journalists in the old-fashioned sense. They’re real journalists, not propagandists.

Yes, folks. The Detroit News leans Republican.

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