Sunday, January 26, 2014


In 2013 and following its Brill "expose" on healthcare pricing, TIME also published an infographic: What Makes Health Care So Expensive? (see below).

The infographic had a few questionable things, as pointed out by others e.g. see the below. For example their definition of "Operating Profit" was somewhat unique, and seemed chosen so as to cast the hospitals in a more unfavorable light than perhaps they deserve!

This month another article, 'Hate Obama, Love Obamacare', looked at the PPACA ("health care reform") and the implementation of its health exchanges and insurance products.  It chose a family to highlight (apparently) the benefits of the law and the positive effect it has had on the insurance needs/coverage for one family, the Recchis. However, after reading the article one wonders why TIME couldn't have found a much better example to use... (they exist by the hundreds of thousands!) It seems like it would have been simpler than torturing the facts  as the article appears to do.
  • Even before the article starts there is a problem with the setup. The picture of the family at the top of the article has a caption - "When Sean Recchi was diagnosed with cancer, he and his wife Stephanie were billed $83,900 by the hospital, in advance. Now he has insurance." Reading this I naturally assumed (as would presumably almost everyone who read the caption)  that Sean Recchi in fact did not have insurance when he sought care at  the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. However, reading on this is NOT the case, see: "When he was diagnosed with cancer, Sean's policy limited his coverage to $2,000 a day in the hospital, which at MD Anderson barely covers an opening round of blood tests.)" Strange.
  • Further on in the article TIME implies that the Recchi's pre-PPACA insurance policy was an example of 'bait and switch' - "... none of which would be allowed to have the bait-and-switch limits that had left Sean unprotected when he needed lifesaving care." Unless they were sold the policy being told that it would cover 100% of 'out-of-network' expenses (an Ohio patient seeking care at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas) which then turned into $2,000/day, this is a new and novel definition of 'bait and switch.' And one could also quibble about the use of "unprotected."

  • The article then goes on to provide insufficient information to really understand if the Recchi family found "better" insurance post-PPACA. All we really have in the way of information on their pre- and post-PPACA insurance plans is:

    • Pre-PPACA: $469/month, plan covered $2,000 per day for "out of network" hospitalization at M.D. Anderson.
    • Post-PPACA; $793/month,  $12,000 deductible, plan provides no coverage for "out of network" hospitalization at M.D. Anderson. (Note: This looks at the cost of the insurance plan, because even if it is subsidized by the government so that the Recchis pay less, the policy still runs $793 per month!)

  • Finally, the Recchis end up being covered by Ohio Medicaid, at no cost to them (premium). Here Brill then throws in a 'Well, if John Kasich hadn't opted-in to the PPACA Medicaid state expansion' then blah, blah, blah.... Huh, rather than tossing in a hypothetical situation how hard would it have been to find a real example of a family that actually was hurt by residing in a state in which a Republican governor opted out of the Medicaid expansion? Again, there are hundreds of thousands!
The bottom line? To this blogger it appears that Brill chose to highlight this particular family mainly because they were willing to go on record as initially being against 'Obamacare'  before they saw the light and realized it was actually a blessing! This blogger's take away is different - first, the Recchis appear rather ignorant - first being against 'Obamacare' because "they were clearly people who don't like the President," and second, apparently having no idea what 'Obamacare' actually entailed (as reflected by their ignorant statement "it doesn't cover pre-existing conditions and it's too expensive..", etc. Third, they apparently are quite willing to flaunt their ignorance! Note that instead of taking ownership of their ignorance it is brushed off as due to "a lot of talk," as if the facts were not readily available to them and being repeated daily by those in favor of the PPACA!

Well have the Recchis wised up and become more reticent about displaying their ignorance for all to see? Unfortunately it appears not... "Here I get full protection for $566, compared to no protection for almost $500," Stephanie says, referring to her old plan that had cost $469 monthly and that MD Anderson had scoffed at. "This is wonderful." Aargh!

And TIME? Well, they appear to want to go beyond the facts... Agenda, anyone? Perhaps the Recchis are TIME subscribers!

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