When You Have Eliminated the Impossible

I certainly hope there’s some investigative follow-up to this claim from a conversation between a constituent and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, reported by James Taranto and originally caught by Jason Pye:

The caller told Shaheen that “President Obama’s health care is not affordable.”
“It’s cost me more, my deductible has more than tripled and my monthly premium has doubled, so it’s not affordable,” he said. “And so, I’d rather have my old healthcare, my old system back.”
Shaheen dismissed his concerns out of hand, telling him to leave his name with the host so her office could call him back “because that doesn’t sound right to me.” She chalked the caller’s complaints up to “misinformation.”

When we have discounted the uncomfortable, we may also have rejected the truth. Or not. That’s what investigation is for.

The phrase “anecdotal evidence” is in research to describe reports of incidents, often from untrained observers. The characterization is sometimes used to discredit evidence that contradicts the preconceived notions of the individual making the characterization.

Here’s the problem: the anecdotal evidence may be correct. Or it may be wrong. The only way to make that determination is by thorough investigation that includes review of even reports that contradict previous findings.

11 comments… add one
  • PD Shaw

    A large part of the problem with anecdotes is that the ACA was projected to raise rates in the small/individual market in most states, but not all states. So a political pundit seeking anecdotes has a travel guide to where to look. And we’re talking about averages and/or medians anyway — there is no mechanism in the ACA to make everybody’s premiums increase/decrease by the same amount.

  • So a political pundit seeking anecdotes has a travel guide to where to look.

    That’s an important and, I think, neglected point, PD. If the PPACA works perfectly as designed, it will provide significant benefits to a few people while injuring a few people and increasing the current operating costs of a lot of people.

    In other words, if you were designing it to be permanently on politically tenuous ground, that’s what you’d do.

    That’s a big difference between the PPACA healthcare exchanges and, for example, Social Security. Everybody aspires to receive Social Security. Just about nobody aspires to receive subsidies under the PPACA. It’s not like Medicare but like Medicaid, another program that’s teetered on a knife edge since its inception.

  • michael reynolds

    Well, Dave, we’ve seen dozens of these cases debunked so far. In fact one right after the other. But sure, let them drop whatever else they were doing in New Hampshire to look into yet another.

    But prudence might suggest we set a limit on just how many of these claims we have to debunk.

  • we’ve seen dozens of these cases debunked so far.

    Have we? Or have we had them dismissed as anecdotal?

    At this point thinking that we know everything about enrollment, premiums, and the impact on spending is tremendously premature.

  • TastyBits

    In order to have an objective study, you need objective parameters.

  • Andy

    I don’t see how it’s possible for the PPACA to create only winners. The law is designed so that some people will pay more, that is a feature. At the end of the day that may or may not be worth the laws benefits, but I think it’s pretty ridiculous for anyone to claim that losers don’t exist or that they’re not really losers.

  • Sam

    “Have we?”

    I think the cases have been analysed and presented as “here’s what changed, you can decide”. For instance some complain about higher premiums but their new plan has less out of pocket or vice versa.

    If this person’s claim is true – that both their deductibles AND their premium have doubled, they’d have to be making good money and young, male and single, but in that case I doubt it’s not affordable.

    It’s more likely his company is cost shifting onto employees and blaming Obamacare for it – but that was already happening and it’s a tough sell I think. My premiums and deductibles were doubling long before Obamacare.

  • PD Shaw

    @Sam, one of the claims that wasn’t debunked, (I believe was in California), where there was a small risk pool where everybody was healthy and paid low premiums, etc. The insurance company couldn’t explain it, it was just one of those things. I don’t think anyone debunked the claim that these people had extremely low insurance costs, but there was consternation about whether its cancelling this insurance pool was caused by ACA or was a pretext for profit-making (or both!!!)

    (Also, it was unfair for these people to have a kewl pool, while the rest of us just have sprinklers)

  • steve

    AFAICT, all of the individual claims presented by politicians about wildly increased rates have been debunked. People had not even looked at the ACA rates, they just made stuff up, didnt understand it or claimed deductibles were very high, while failing to note premiums were lower. I am inclined to think that claims of very large increases are not true, or we are not really talking about true insurance. That said, I expect that some people will pay a bit more and some a bit less. By and large, PD’s example being an exemption, insurance companies are just not that nice.


  • Ben Johannson

    Dave, I came across this very interesting blog post from a Chicago area doctor:


    In short the health insurance industry is planning for the Wal-mart-ification of health care.

  • jan

    I read the article you posted Ben. The bottom line is that healthcare is headed for a robotic, impersonal, HMO status — kind of an assembly-line version of what we used to have, if one expects to cover their expenses via HC insurance. Those having limited resources will have little choice but to accept the care they are allotted. However, those with the fiscal means or political contacts can afford to go outside the system and privately pay for better, more comprehensive medicare care. Ironically, many of these people will be the elites who ushered in government created HC for everyone but themselves.

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