Fox News reported a story that claimed President Obama's premiums would increase under the Affordable Care Act. But Fox's comparison of health coverage for federal employees to ACA exchanges is dishonest because the two types of insurance are fundamentally different and the comparison invokes a "worst case scenario."
On the October 25 edition of America's News HQ, co-host Alisyn Camerota claimed a new report showed "if the president were buying insurance in Wisconsin, his total premium and out-of-pocket costs would skyrocket." She added that his total premium would rise from $21,707 a year to $32,200 under the law.
Camerota did not state where the report she cited came from. It actually came from the conservative Washington Examiner writer Paul Bedard, who cited a Wisconsin insurance broker to claim that if Obama "chose to leave the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program," got the most expensive family plan, and exhausted his health care coverage "in a worst case scenario," Obama's premium could jump 48 percent.
But comparing the Affordable Care Act's health exchange to coverage to FEHB is a dubious comparison. Uwe Reinhardt of The New York Times' Economix blog pointed out that the FEHB plans are community-rated, which makes the prices lower than in the exchanges: "This means the premium quoted by a particular insurer was the same for every individual (and analogously for families), regardless of the health status or age of the insured." By contrast, Reinhardt wrote:
These new exchanges, it must be emphasized, were not even intended for the great majority of employed Americans and their families who already have job-based, group health insurance with premiums that are community-rated within the company (although some smaller employers currently with small-group coverage and those with many low-wage workers may in the future take advantage of the federal subsidies offered on the new exchanges).
Rather, the new exchanges were designed mainly for the minority of Americans who have to buy coverage in the nongroup market, many millions of whom have pre-existing medical conditions and hitherto could not afford the high premiums they were quoted or were refused coverage outright.
Bedard described Mike Farrell, with whom he worked to come up with the figures for Obama, only as "an insurance broker in southeast Wisconsin" and "a leader in the industry's lobbying association in Wisconsin." In fact, Farrell has been highly critical of the Affordable Care Act and Common Ground, a cooperative formed under the ACA to sell insurance in Wisconsin on the exchanges and the company he used for Obama's supposed insurance premium. Last month, the Racine, Wisconsin Journal Times quoted Farrell pre-emptively attacking ACA exchanges and Common Ground, dismissing the company "a co-op with no history of insuring anybody for anything."