About that anti-MNsure poster child

After writing a letter-to-the-editor to a weekly newspaper complaining about MNSure rates, Jennifer Slater of Mabel, Minnesota was used by Republican operatives as a national poster child in their anti-Affordable Care Act crusade.

In late November, the following Slafter accusation was all the rage in the national media and conservative blogosphere.

“All we ever heard about Obamacare is that it would lower our deductibles and premiums,” said Jennifer Slafter, 40 of Mabel, Minn. “That’s just not what’s happened.”

The exchange’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plan was $1,087 a month with a $6,000 deductible, while a Medica plan was $877 a month with a $12,700 deductible. Both are steeper than their current plan.

Conservatives ate this up.  Type the first few words of that quote into Google, and you’ll see it appearing in news publications such as CNNMoney and conservative blogs about 10,400 times. Slafter was everywhere.

But it turns out that Slafter was a premature poster child.  In paragraph 14 of a 16-paragraph Associated Press follow-up article, we recently learned something new about Slafter’s experience:

Since first going public, (Slafter) said the Fillmore County family found out it is likely eligible for more federal subsidies to help pay for coverage than initially thought. She now doesn’t anticipate the family losing money in the conversion next year.

If you search the first few words of that correction, you see that the article containing the correction appeared in three times, buried at the end of a very long article.   As far as I can tell, the correction article does not appear in any of the publications that ran the original article reporting the false claim.

Slafter doesn’t seem to have political motives.  Part way through her review process, she just was confused by a confusing system and she was sincerely concerned.  It can happen to anyone, and it’s not her fault that she was used as a political pawn by cynical operatives.

Though Slafter’s much publicized assertion that she would be paying more now seems to be completely false, she still finds the system too complex and worries about being able to pay the deductibles. I feel her pain on both fronts, though it should be noted that nothing her conservative promoters are offering would help on those two fronts, because they are offering nothing other than the badly broken status quo system.   The best way to reduce complexity for consumers and  remove deductibles would be a single payer payer system, which Slafter’s conservative promoters vehemently oppose.

Again, the false assertion gets over 10,000 placements in the conservative echo chamber, and the correction gets 3 hits in the 14th paragraph of the follow-up article.  As Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

This post was written by Joe Loveland and originally published on Wry Wing Politics.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/10/2013 - 12:20 pm.


    Well, now the error is corrected twice more, in the Wry Wing Politics blog and on MinnPost. That makes 5 vs 10,400. Of course the correction doesn’t fit the conservative narrative that Obamacare is broken, so they only mention the BS and leave off the correction.

  2. Submitted by jason myron on 12/10/2013 - 03:11 pm.


    the GOP reside in a bubble of their own reality. Much to their chagrin, more and more people are signing up and finding out that they do save money and will receive better coverage. As yet another false narrative fades, they’ll be back to screaming about Benghazi by March.

  3. Submitted by Erik Petersen on 12/10/2013 - 03:13 pm.

    Well maybe she was wrong about her situation. But the phenomenon of the Affordable Care Act causing increased base premiums (pre-subsidy), increased out of pockets, and increased deductibles is true.

    What then is problematic about the ‘conservative echo chamber’ making this critique?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/10/2013 - 04:55 pm.


      “Everything about Obamacare costing more is correct, as long as you don’t consider the subsidies that will make it cost less.”

      That sound about right?

  4. Submitted by Erik Petersen on 12/11/2013 - 01:33 am.

    Very problematic

    Well yeah. The increase in base premiums is generally understood as about 41%, best as can be measured right now. If you’re fortunate enough to get a subsidy, that’s great. But the subsidy thresholds are not protecting an enormous amount of functionally middle class households from being exposed to the base premium increase. With the 4x poverty threshold they use, it’s basically $50k for a single earner and $89k for a family of four. Maybe it’s arguable whether a mere $89k or $100k household can and should afford a 41% premium increase. But a $50k earner with a child can’t and shouldn’t, but is exposed because they’re not subsidy eligible.

    But yes, ostensibly this makes insurance affordable for a new group of people. So you have insurance, and maybe premiums are somewhat better than before (particularly if you were high risk). Or maybe you’re insured for the first time. But you’re not getting a good insurance value re what was available before (see New Republic today). Households receiving subsidies are by design to be nudged towards bronze and silver plans. As a function of premium pricing and cost sharing, the deductibles and out of pocket thresholds for the bronze and premium plans are enormous. They’re basically catastrophic plans. To use a term that’s floating around, they’re ‘junk plans’.

    That subsidized premium isn’t buying much protection or care, certainly not the amount people expected for the money they pay. And inasmuch as newly insured, subsidized silver and bronze households had no ability to pay for hc before, it’s not clear they’re actually ‘protected’ now. People are going to be on the hook for their pre-threshold deductibles and out of pockets, and that’s a lot of money. They’re inevitably going to be exposed to the collection mechanisms of the service providers. The claim was that PPACA would protect people financial risk and ruin for these financially vulnerable people. It doesn’t.

    And to finance this, specifically guaranteed issue, there’s a vast amount of solidly middle class households who face unsubsidized base premium increases of the aforementioned 41%. Often times as a round number we’re talking about $5000 a year per household. Functionally this is a tax, that’s paid to say…. UHG, Cigna, BC… whatever. Great, that’s where we all like our tax money to go.

    PPACA is not particularly affordable or actually affordable even to those it helps the most. And it shouldn’t be socking it to middle class premium payers. Suffice it say whether every anecdote stands up against the way it’s asserted, there are valid critiques of the cost structure. People are free to make these critiques whether they can espouse an alternative or not.

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