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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What About "Bette in Spokane," Republican Example of Failure of Obamacare?-- The Daily Kos

Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 03:47 PM PST

Where is Cathy McMorris Rodgers' ObamaCare victim 'Bette in Spokane'? UPDATE X2! Bette Found!

In their frantic attempt to either 1) deny they are waging a war on women or 2) win the non-existent war, the Republicans sent out a woman to give their response. At least it wasn't Michele Bachman... or Virginia Foxx.... or Marsha Blackburn.

I now know lots about Cathy McMorris Rodgers - she was previously only noticeable as the token female standing behind Speaker Boehners whenever he gave a statement - but absolutely nothing about any plans the Republicans have to make our country better.... other than they have a plan and 'it' is great, and they'll tell us about it... sometime.

Naturally she had to tell us that Obamacare is a failure, and here's how she did it:
Not long ago I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who had hoped the president’s health care law would save her money but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. We’ve all talked to too many people who received cancellations notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have. No, we shouldn’t go back to the things -- the way things were, but this law is not working. Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s, and that whether you’re a boy with Downs syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.
The last part - "...and that whether you’re a boy with Downs syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you." seems a bit over the top to me, considering that this is precisely what Obamacare does. I assume she's smart enough and well-informed enough to know this, so her statement is at best disingenuous. 
What really caught my eye, however, was the letter from Bette in Spokane who claims that her health care premiums are going up 'nearly $700 a month' because of Obamacare. That alerted my 'ACA-dar', and bothered me all night, so I decided to take a look.

We have limited information about Bette - she is a woman who lives in Spokane, Washington - but that's enough to do some research. We don't know her age, so I used the worst-case (for premiums) of 64, and while we don't know her marital/family status, the statement offered was 'her premiums' so I'll first look at her cost as a single 64-year-old woman living in Spokane.
Here is what the excellent Washington exchange gave me:
Hmmm, it's hard to see that rate as $700 higher. Well, what if Bette wants a Gold plan?
Wow! She's still paying less than the total claimed increase! BTW, I used an income figure ($70,000) which is above the cut-off for any subsidy, to keep that out of the mix. Well, what if Bette is married?
We now know enough to state that this claim makes no sense at all. If Bette is single, she can get a Gold plan for less than $700, and if she's married she would have to have been paying less than $136 per month for health insurance for 2 64-year-old people on the individual market - an obvious impossibility. 
I ran the worst-case scenario: 64, no subsidy. What happens when parameters change?

Younger? Rates go down. At age 44, Bette pays $194/mo. for the same AmBetter Bronze policy in the first graphic above.

Lower income? Below $46,000/yr, a subsidy of at least $250/mo kicks in. And if Bette is married, look what happens to that subsidy at $62,000/yr income:
Amazing! That subsidy makes even a Gold plan cost a net of $595. 
More dependents? That raises the subsidy level, and it persists to higher income levels. It's calculated as a percentage of the poverty level, which increases with each dependent.

More income? The premiums don't increase.

So this claim just doesn't make sense no matter how hard I work the numbers. I suspect Politico would award it some Pinochios!

One other possibility is that Bette was one of about 8,000 Washington residents who, early in October, were given incorrect expected premium amounts due to a faulty calculator on the Washington Obamacare exchange web-site. Here's a story about that:

Washington exchange error

There's a couple of problems with believing Bette was caught up in this:
1. It only involved subsidy calculations, and we already proved that if Bette was entitled to a subsidy, there's no way she could have had to pay $700 MORE than she had paid pre-ACA.
2. The problem got fixed well before anyone had to actually pay anything.
3. This wouldn't have been an actual premium increase.

Sorry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, your story doesn't pass the smell test, and certainly doesn't withstand any level of detailed analysis.

As I said back in October: Keep the faith, folks. Obamacare is working!
Final note: How about Calgary Cruz still beating his dead horse about '5 million people who had their insurance policies cancelled because of Obamacare'? You'd think that if that had actually happened, he'd be able to find at least ONE victim to tell his story.
UPDATE - Bette's been found! h/t to Bethesda 1971 in the comments for finding much of this.
NOTE: there is a lot of speculation below, because until some intrepid reporter (are you reading this, Rachel???) ferrets out the REAL Bette we can only read the tea leaves.
Bette is probably Bette (or possibly Betty) Grenier, who along with her husband Don appear to be co-presidents of Pro-Roofing, Incin Spokane.
Here's a reference link to the company.
Bette first surfaced in a letter from CMR dated 11/5/13:
As I travel the Congressional district during the time the Affordable Care Act is being rolled out, I hear a consistent concern: More people are being hurt than helped. It’s about the Meenach family, who will be pushed into the state health care exchanges, where they could lose benefits like dental and vision and no longer be able to see the family doctor that has treated them for years.
It’s about Bette Grenier, who can’t afford the increased payments and is currently uninsured because of Obamacare.
Now, the first problem here is figuring out how, on 11/5/13, before Obamacare insurance policies were even effective, Bette could possibly be 'uninsured because of Obamacare'. Her existing policy would still have been in effect. So already my ACA-dar starts beeping. 
OK, so we think Bette's married, (or Don could be her son or brother) so her worst-case scenario is the third policy graphic above, $836/mo for a Bronze plan for herself and her husband, which means she must have been getting comparable insurance (for her complaint about Obamacare to be valid) for about $136/mo. I think I'd need to see concrete proof of that before I'd believe it.

The company profile linked above leads us to believe that it employs about 10 people and does around $500,000 of business per year, although I've found this type of site to be routinely inaccurate. Neither of those numbers really matters here.

Others have suggested that Bette may have been talking about a Silver or Gold plan with higher premiums, but you can't say 'I can't afford insurance' and complain about the premiums if you're not talking about the cheapest Bronze plan. To put it in 'Tom Perkins' terms, you can't complain about not being able to afford a wristwatch, and then specify it has to be a Rolex.
So even with this new information/speculation, I stand by my earlier analysis: this claim doesn't ring true.

But I have an open mind, so if anyone has better information, please bring it forward.
And maybe I'll tune into Faux Noows to get the hot skinny...... or maybe not!

 UPDATE 2: BIG h/t to  chazbritfield for finding these gems, apparently written by Bette Grenier herself on Facebook:
I am livid to be told that I am to stupid to understand the coverage I had. Unlike Congress who did not read the bill before voting for it I did read my policy and I liked it. Now It has been cancelled and the choices I have been given I happen to hate, which aren't many. Not only that my premiums have doubled from 532.00 a month to over 1000.00 a month for my husband and I. The reason for the cancellation was my policy did not fulfill the GOVERNMENT MANDATES not that the evil insurance companies want to make my life miserable by sucking all my money from me, which is what Obamacare is doing to us.
 October 30, 2013 at 9:57am
And on Neil Cavuto's web-page:
Thanks to Obamas horrible economic policies which tanked our business of over 20 yrs my husband had to go on disability at age 60 because he has emphesema and can no longer do all the work our contracting business demanded and we can't find any help who would do all the work he use to do and keep the long hrs he did and still try to make a profit. Oh I forgot we are not suppose to make a profit. So yes we are one of the victims thanks to Obama, but support Romney. I think there are alot of us like that. I would be thrilled if our business was doing as well as it did in 2009. We then woulddn't need any govt. help.
 September 18, 2012 at 4:28pm
So let's deconstruct this..... with the assumption that these are legitimate posts. 
First off, what kind of health insurance was she getting for $532... with a 61-year-old husband suffering from emphysema?

Second, even accepting that her premium 'doubled from 532 to over 1000', that's not 'almost $700' - but that's nit-picking on my part.

More important is that she could have at least equaled her previous coverage for about $800 - a Bronze plan.

Now let's look at her second post, where she blames President Obama for tanking her business in 2012. Leaving out the blame part, doesn't it seem that if her business 'tanked', she and her husband would have income less than $62,000 per year? That's important, because it would put them into the subsidy range, and a subsidized Bronze policy would cost them a net of about $100/mo.

So I think we're getting an increasingly focused look at CMR's Bette, and  lot of our suspicions are being realized.

And while I have sympathy for her for her business tanking and her husband's health problems, I wonder how long her sick husband would have been able to keep his pre-ACA policy?

And finally, given that she claims she was uninsured on 11/5/13 in the letter to CMR - and we know that this could not have been caused by ACA - could she have been uninsured due to her husband's medical condition.... and only was even able to GET insurance because of ACA?

Thanks to all of the commenters - I really enjoy discussing these kinds of topics with our community. And special thanks to the posters whose comments I have used in my updates without remembering where I read them - my apologies for not being organized enough to give you credit.

Originally posted to databob on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 03:47 PM PST.