November 21, 2013

Sidebar: This Mess, this Mess

Updates, tangents, or absurdities related to my post on Sunday about the President's handling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

(1) Politico noted that the Obama administration is now carefully using references to the ACA instead of calling it Obamacare, a clearly derogatory term used to slam the legislation.  The article points out there are a couple reasons why Dems are now focusing on calling the bill by name.
Calling it the Affordable Care Act has advantages for Democrats seeking to defend health care reform while still criticizing the bungled White House rollout. The phrase polls better than Obamacare -- and people have responded more positively on the law's benefits when they haven't been told they come from Obamacare.
I had previously called out the difference in poll numbers, having seen this reported on a few occasions. And I'm pleased that the administration has finally figured out not to slam their own product. It's likely too late, but at least they're trying.

(2) Did you see this conversation on Fox the other day, where Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Stuart Varney and others did a segment about UnitedHealthcare's decision to cut doctors from its Medicare Advantage program - which of course is an outcome of the ACA and therefore the President's fault and a broken promise. First, here's Varney:
That leaves hundreds of thousands of patients without the doctor that they've had for many many years. We don't know how many thousands have been dropped, but thousands have been dropped. What about their patients? What about the people who used to have this doctor now no longer have this doctor? Broken promise.
And then Hasselbeck:
And many of those people are women who are expecting babies and who may just have a real relationship with their physician and want to see the same doctor deliver possibly their second child. And they are now left in the dark in a time that they're feeling quite vulnerable.
Now, I'm not going to harp on Hasselbeck for not understanding that a Medicare Advantage program is not likely to have a lot of pregnant women on their plans.  One can only assume that she thought Varney said Medicaid. But then that couldn't be right, could it? Because that would mean Hasselbeck was supporting people on Medicaid having additional children, and if that was the case, then clearly Earth had shifted on its axis.

 Back to the segment, where there were so many things wrong, it's hard to capture them all.
  • United started contacting doctors more than a month ago, so this is not breaking news.
  • Varney acts as if they have no idea how many 'thousands' of doctors are being cut; however, a simple web search would have given Varney the same info I found: that United plans on trimming its provider network by 10 - 15% by the end of 2014. Since they had a graphic on the clip showing 350K providers in United's Medicare Advantage program, the math is not hard.
  • One of the talking heads refers to Medicare Advantage as a 'supplemental' plan, and Varney agrees. Except that it's not, it's a plan where a private insurer acts as the government does in a traditional Medicare plan.  Supplemental plans are completely different.
  • They also talk about AARP having a 'competing' plan, completely missing the point that AARP's Medicare Advantage plan is insured through United.
So, why is United cutting their provider network? As reported last month in the Hartford Courant, the Fairfield County Medical Society had this information on their website:
Claiming the information is proprietary, UHC would not share with the Fairfield County Medical Association the criteria the insurer used in deciding which physicians would be eliminated...UHC acknowledged its decision whom to deselect was based on quality, physician panel size, and cost of the physician provider to the insurer among other items.
Whether you believe the statements about quality and the physician panel as reasons for United's actions, you can certainly believe the reference to cost. Now, I don't watch Fox much, but I'm surprised they're complaining about a big business making cost-cutting moves to improve the bottom line. Isn't that what business is supposed to do? I think any other time, they'd be thrilled about this kind of activity - except when it gives them a chance to slam the President, of course.

(3) And speaking of slamming the President, Fox also has a habit of having people on their shows who blame 'Obamacare' for something, but a few questions later, it's clear there are other issues, or maybe no issues at all. Such was the case of the Texas car wash owner who sold his business for "myriad reasons" many of which were fault of Texas regulations, not the ACA, but blamed Obamacare and so made it to the big time on Megyn Kelly's show. And it was true with some of the guests on another Fox show, also debunked.

Seems like Fox News needs Fox Mulder: the truth is out there, indeed.

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