The myth of the "80% unaffected by Obamacare" meme

This is one of those “I have a bone to pick” columns in terms of the media’s coverage of the ongoing Obamacare train wreck, so bear with me. Yesterday I was having my coffee and watching Morning Joe (you know… like ya do), when they had economics “expert” Steve Rattner on to explain who is being affected by Obamacare and to what extent. He kicked things off with the following chart – Steve always brings charts… it’s his thing – and his opening explanation of the first line.


“This chart basically breaks down all Americans into five groups. We start, of course, with those who are unaffected. These people, this 80%, are people who either get their health insurance through their employer, as probably most of us here do, or they’re on Medicare or they’re on Medicaid and for them, for the most part, life goes on.”

As you’ll see in the video below, he breezes right past that 80%, presenting the assumption that the vast majority of Americans are simply unaffected by Obamacare and goes on to talk about the tiny sliver of people who might be experiencing problems. (That must be a real treat for the literally millions of people who fall into some of those other categories, but that’s a story for another day.) This is a constant theme being pushed by Obamacare supporters in the media these days, and the reason I wanted to highlight it is that it’s complete garbage. For some admittedly anecdotal testimony on this, I present two examples I’ve run into personally.

My wife has been doing some work these last few years through a temp agency here in upstate New York. (Don’t ask.. it works for our schedule.) The company offered a health care plan which I (and this is only in my opinion based on our personal needs) thought was relatively poor quality. The employer contributed nothing to the premium cost (being a temp agency), the deductibles were rather high and it didn’t cover a lot of basic family care needs. It was, in short form, emergency insurance against disaster, and the premiums really weren’t all that high. But a lot of temp workers are young, single, healthy people, so quite a few of them had signed up for it. It wasn’t right for me, but it worked for them.

Earlier this year they were notified that the plan was being cancelled entirely. It didn’t “qualify” under the Affordable Care Act, so it had to go. They sent out a letter saying they would offer a new plan (no details offered) in December, but in the meantime they encouraged everyone to sign up for Obamacare. When the details of the new plan came out, the employer was still not going to contribute to the premiums, but the rates had gone up and the coverage hadn’t improved noticeably in any area. Nobody was happy.

The second story is from the contracting group that I do quite a bit of work through. They held a meeting to explain to everyone the upcoming “changes” in their healthcare plan, with a representative from United Healthcare Services coming in to go over the details. I don’t get my coverage through them, but was invited to the meeting anyway. The woman who arrived handed out fliers detailing all of the wonderful new items which were going to be covered in the revised health plan. They primarily had to do with contraception, pre-natal, well baby coverage and the like. She was also very clear that these benefits were mandated by Obamacare. (Yes, she used the word “Obamacare” in her presentation.) She then went on to brief everyone on the new employee premium contributions which had shot up in some cases by 25% or more, depending on whether or not you had single, single plus one or family coverage.

One woman I know who was at the meeting has four kids and a husband who is now taking part time jobs after being laid off from Lockheed Martin. She is the larger breadwinner of the family as well as being the one getting benefits. She left the meeting stammering to everyone in the hall, “that’s half my paycheck. What am I going to do?”

That was because of Obamacare. Both of the above stories were. And when I told these stories to others I heard similar ones coming right back at me. It may not be everyone, but a lot of people are getting hit hard in the pocketbook as a direct result of mandated changes to the insurance industry by the Affordable Care Act. So… 80% are “unaffected” if they get their health insurance through their employer and “life goes on” for them?

Not by a long shot. This is complete lie and it’s being spoon fed to the public on cable news every week. And those pimping these tales should be called out on it. Here’s the video so you can hear the entire “explanation” for yourself.

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