Lee Terry vs The Fine Print

First, I need you to watch this:

Let’s set aside the awe-inspiring power of our Representative’s public speaking abilities (a tool that one would imagine could be of rather vital importance as someone who speaks for others). If the story he told were true, or if this was the entire story, it would make sense that people in this state rabidly oppose Obamacare. There’s just the tiny problem wherein this entire story is skewed bullshit.

I feel like I’m putting on my sneakers and sweater Mr. Rogers’ style: “Come along, kids. Today we’re going to blow up this anecdote and show you how it represents a national GOP trend. If we have time, we’ll do that creepy bit with the demon puppets riding trains.”

Before we get started, I want to be clear: I don’t have any feelings about the subject of Terry’s story, Andrea Kodad. She is sharing her opinions and experience as a private citizen, which she is COMPLETELY within her rights and encouraged to do. In fact, because I want to make this ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that I am NOT targeting Ms. Kodad, I’m going to call her Mrs. Smith from now on, just so we focus on the issues and not the person. Also, if somehow she reads this, she can imagine Angelina Jolie playing Mrs. Smith in the movie adaptation of my blog post, so at least that’s cool.

Issue number one: Mrs. Smith was allegedly unable to keep her existing plan.

Fact: Mrs. Smith kept her existing plan.

It’s worth noting that the reason anyone’s plans were even threatened with cancellation is because they didn’t meet the minimum value. Basically, if your plan was on the chopping block, it was because YOU WERE GETTING SCREWED. It is FASCINATING to me that this isn’t being communicated more directly. The White House totally borked it on the whole “if you like your plan, you get to keep your plan.” It should have been “If you like your plan and your plan isn’t siphoning money from you without your knowledge because insurance companies are designed to profit off of your health, you get to keep your plan.”

Mrs. Smith, as far as we know, remains to this day on the same plan she said went away. She presumably continues to overpay for her coverage by choice.

Issue number two: Mrs. Smith would allegedly be unable to keep up with the cost.

Fact: She could…but she’s choosing not to on principle…

Check out this gem printed in the Omaha World Herald.

“[MRS. SMITH] is bracing for further increases and the possibility that she will have to find a plan on the exchanges created by the health care law, rather than keeping her existing plan. She sighs as she peruses plans that are $800 or more a month — more than her family can afford. “That’s not even in the ballpark,” she said. Those premiums don’t factor in the subsidies offered under the health care law.”

That poor woman can’t possibly keep her family afloat on…WAIT, WHAT NOW? She’s lamentably sighing and gnashing her teeth, telling the World Herald “I literally sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands, almost crying,” and she didn’t factor in the subsidies?! Hey, this story has a happy ending! Clearly someone explained to her that there are “silver tiered plans” that are better than her crappy plan that shouldn’t exist! And that she’s eligible for subsidies to help her keep costs down! Hooray! She’s saved!

The online exchange for Nebraska shows 13 second-tier, or “silver,” plans with premiums ranging from $768 to more than $1,000 a month. But a household with $60,000 in income would be eligible for a $384-a-month subsidy. That would drop those premium costs as low as $384 per month. [MRS. SMITH] and her husband earn enough that their subsidy would be smaller than that, although she asked that her exact income not be disclosed. She also expressed a philosophical desire to avoid subsidies and pay for her insurance on her own. “I don’t want a government handout,” she said. “I don’t want to be on the government dole.”

Well…um… You are perfectly within your rights to stand on principle. That’s cool. But you cannot talk in the news media about how you were “crying” and suggest that your children are somehow at risk WHEN YOU COULD GET INSURANCE SUBSIDIES BUT WON’T BECAUSE OF YOUR PRINCIPLES. Should you choose your principles over the health and financial well being of your family, totally your call. But that’s not exactly a sign that the LAW is working wrong. It’s a sign that you can’t get what you philosophically want.

I went to the subsidy calculator. This helps you see what you can qualify for in terms of plans and subsidies. Mrs. Smith said that $800 wasn’t “even in the ballpark” of what they could afford. We also know that she and her husband make more than $60K. I don’t know how much more. I played around with a few numbers. Here’s what I found:

Assuming the pre-tax income of the Smith Household was $75K ($50K above the state average income), insurance would cost $594 a month with subsidies. Remember, this is a “silver” plan. That’s better than the “bronze” plan, which is better than the current plan Mrs. Smith is on. If she wanted to just stay with crappy coverage (but still less crappy than she had), it would be $378 with subsidies if her family made $75K.

If you’re keeping track at home, that means she’d pay virtually the same as she was for better coverage.

The horror…

If the family made $90K, which would be way more than TRIPLE the average household income in Nebraska, she’d pay $712 a month for silver and $497 for bronze (again, still a better plan).

The problem with a woe-is-me story told to the media and in ads is that it has to actually be true. This isn’t the story of a family at risk: This is the story of a family choosing politics and principle over personal finance and well-being.

Issue number three: You will not believe Lee Terry’s plan

From the “I shit you not” department, Terry went on the House floor and actually introduced an alternative plan…named after Ndamukong Suh. For real.

Nothing instills faith in the viability of a comprehensive health care overhaul like naming it after a defensive lineman from your college football team. Whenever I hear that the guy who introduced a bill like this has 8 terms already, I feel like day drinking myself into a coma.

Don’t worry, it died quickly.

In 2009, Terry offered his own alternative he called the Simple Universal Healthcare or “SUH” Act — he named it in honor of former Husker lineman Ndamukong Suh. That legislation, which went nowhere, would have set up health insurance exchanges modeled after the federal employee health care system. Democrats criticized the plan as not viable.

While the Democrats criticized the plan, Republicans likely gathered together behind Terry and chuckled. Our esteemed, 8-term representative’s other plan, The People Everywhere Like Insurance in Nebraska to be Inclusive (or PELINI) Plan, only applied to fuzzy cats.

Issue number four: Campaign lies

You’ve heard the Obamacare horror stories. For the love of Pete Rickett’s baldness, the GOP primaries here in Nebraska were basically a cavalcade of “No, I hate Obamacare more” ads. Each one trumpets some stunning story that falls apart faster than Mrs. Smith’s does above. I’m going to take you on a tour of some, and then I want to ask you: If something were REALLY so bad that it “threatened America” like Ben Sasse and others have said, wouldn’t you be able to find, I don’t know, REAL stories of problems? Instead of the following:

And so on and so on.

Lee Terry spoke on Mrs. Smith’s story on the house floor, then ran an ad with her, then talked about her story in the World Herald this week. All despite the fact that inside of about 10 minutes, I determined she could afford better plans in the new system, provided her and her husband don’t bring in more than 4 times the Nebraska average (and provided NOT crying and leaving their family financially strapped was more important than a political philosophy).

The GOP plan locally is to hammer on Obamacare. As I have said before and I will say again: If you can tell me that you personally were affected, that you pay more or are unable to afford insurance, AFTER YOU HAVE EXAMINED ALL THE OPTIONS, then voting for someone like Terry because of Obamacare may make sense to you. The problem is, you likely (A) didn’t consider alternatives or (B) were too angry about Obama himself to consider them.

You want to make changes to Obamacare? Be my guest. But the plan of “repeal and replace” is just a nonstarter. Right now you have protection from pre-existing conditions and can keep your children on your plan after they reach young adulthood, until they can afford it on their own. JUST THOSE TWO THINGS ALONE make the current plan worth fixing, and not ditching.

In the future, Mr. Terry and Mrs. Smith, perhaps y’all may want to let people know the ACTUAL circumstances. Of course, that would likely lead us to vote for the other guy.

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