Say what? Did Anthem tell Stewart she couldn’t use the children’s hospital because it was in Ohio? It was not clear. And if she wanted to use this children’s hospital, could she get out-of-network benefits and pay more out of pocket? Fox’s Hasselbeck did not ask either of these potentially clarifying questions, but rather went straight to her next question: “The president now said, Look things are running ok now, everyone’s happy, it’s almost fixed, you know, we’re still working on it. What’s your message to him this morning?” (As if Fox News’s chyrons hadn’t been answering that question throughout the segment: “MOM WHO LOST HEALTH INSURANCE,” ” ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING?’ MOM ASKS PRESIDENT ABOUT OBAMACARE PROBLEMS,” “HEALTH CARE HURDLES,” “STILL NOT SOLVED”.) Worst of all, Hasselbeck didn’t respond to Stewart’s confused claim that she would be “forced” to buy “Kentucky health cooperative government insurance.” First, no one can force her to buy a plan from any particular carrier. And second, the Kentucky health co-op is not “government insurance.”
Since Fox didn’t set the record straight, I tried. I rang up John Morrison, the founder and president of the National Alliance of State Health Co-Ops, whose members are the 23 health insurance co-ops set up under Obamacare to provide a member-run alternative to the big commercial carriers. No, the government doesn’t run them. Morrison explained that by 2016 the majority of the board members of these co-ops will be member policyholders. The government gave loans to these co-ops to get them off the ground, Morrison explained, adding the government’s only interest is that they are working well to pay down the loans. “HHS doesn’t participate in management,” says Morrison. “These are private entities with a public loan. The government is the lender, and they keep tabs only to be sure the co-op continues to be a good risk.”
The co-ops are doing well, Morrison says. They account for about 20 percent of the Obamacare marketplace enrollment, although the actual enrollment varies among states. In Kentucky, he said, the co-op is “dominating the market.” There’s a backstory here. The insurance industry never liked the co-ops and managed, in the fiscal cliff deal in early 2013, to kill funding for another 40 co-ops whose applications were in the pipeline. The big insurers worried about competition, Morrison told me at the time.
Maybe there’s also a backstory to Stewart’s mixed up tale. Was Fox sending us a clue that there could be another insurer backlash in the making? Or was the message Fox was sending simply, “HEALTH CARE HURDLES” “STILL NOT SOLVED,” never mind the confused and confusing specifics of Rebecca Stewart’s anecdote, on which Fox shed no light?
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