The Billings Outpost

Daines mum on truth-stretching Obamacare ad

We’re used to minor exaggerations and inaccuracies in political ads. When Matt Rosendale releases an ad showing himself shooting down a “government drone,” no one seriously thinks he is proposing that citizens destroy the nation’s chief hardware in the war on terror. In fact, no one can be sure he thinks seriously at all.

When Corey Stapleton releases an ad accusing President Obama of trying to “dismantle our country,” nobody believes that Stapleton really thinks Mr. Obama wants to do that. On Obama’s list of priorities, dismantling the country ranks somewhere below signing a contract to play basketball for Donald Sterling.

But when politicians make concrete claims about actual people, a certain standard of accuracy is expected. So when Steve Daines issues an ad featuring a Livingston woman who claims she lost her medical insurance because of Obamacare, we might reasonably hope to see the claim backed by facts.

Good luck with that. Multiple attempts to reach Rep. Daines or his campaign office and to reach the woman in the ad have been unsuccessful. We have nothing to go on but the ad itself.

In the ad, the woman, Gayla Wing, says she has had diabetes since about age 13. “When Obamacare kicked in, our plan didn’t qualify,” she says. “We lost our insurance. I’m back trying to pay for my insulin again. I’ve worked hard all my life and it seems like the working person isn’t getting ahead again.”

If accurate, the ad is a devastating attack on Obamacare. The law’s biggest selling point was that people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, could no longer be denied health coverage. Even Republicans don’t think people should be refused medical care just because they are sick.

So if Obamacare actually is causing people with pre-existing conditions to lose their insurance, it fails even at its most basic goal. But is the ad true? Hard to say.

In a letter to The Billings Gazette last week, Michael Wippert called the ad a “ridiculous and blatant … lie.” He has had diabetes for a couple of decades, he said, and insurance options before Obamacare have been “increasingly rare, ridiculously expensive and useless.”

It’s believable enough that Ms. Wing may have lost her coverage under Obamacare. Millions of Americans were covered by plans that failed to meet Obamacare standards.

But the ad clearly implies that she is no longer able to obtain health insurance at all. A quick search of healthcare.gov, the federal Obamacare website, turns up a couple of dozen insurance plans available to women in Park County of age 50 or so. None, of course, restrict coverage for people with diabetes or any other pre-existing condition.

The cheapest bronze plan runs $277 a month, with a $3,950 deductible and a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $6,350 a year.

A mid-range silver plan costs as little as $358 a month, with a deductible of $2,500 and a $6,000 limit on out-of-pocket costs. Depending on Ms. Wing’s income, she might be eligible for subsidies that would drastically reduce those costs.

Is this a worse deal than the one Ms. Wing already had? Has she been to healthcare.gov? Does she even know how to negotiate its complexities? No way to tell, unless she or Rep. Daines responds to one of my numerous email and phone messages.

I get the impression that Rep. Daines really isn’t too interested in discussing the topic. A couple of commenters on Mr. Wippert’s letter at the Gazette website said they were blocked from Rep. Daines’ Facebook page after raising questions about the ad.

Some commenters still on his Facebook page also have raised questions, but they have received no response, except from online bullies whose replies can be summarized by this example: “a less than clever response from another liberal sheep incapable of rational thought ... or any thoughts at all that they haven’t been told.”

Rep. Daines’ campaign web site offers only two options to visitors: “join the team” and “contribute.” Email and phone messages left at his campaign office and in response to his news releases have not been returned.

I haven’t found a phone number for Ms. Wing, but I did leave a message on what appears to be her Facebook page. She has not yet responded.

One can only hope that Rep. Daines is as interested in serving his constituents as he is in winning election to the Senate. If Ms. Wing, acting in good faith, is left without insurance because she hasn’t learned about the options available to her, then she has been poorly served by her elected representative.

Sadly, she probably will vote for him anyway.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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