Measuring effectiveness of propaganda campaigns: How unpopular is the Obamacare individual mandate?

Previously, this blog pointed out that public opinion polls are primarily a measure of the effectiveness of propaganda. Routinely, members of the public are asked to have an opinion on subjects about which they likely know little and what they do know was disseminated to them through a variety of propaganda methods and channels.

The following item illustrates this well.

Trump said the individual mandate is “highly unpopular.” As recently as February 2017, a YouGov poll found that 65 percent of people opposed it, a finding that is consistent with earlier polls from other organizations. That’s a fair sign of the provision’s unpopularity.

On the other hand, when people were given more details about the mandate, they had a more favorable view, as high as about 60 percent.

Source: How unpopular is the Obamacare individual mandate?

The second paragraph confirms the thesis – a public opinion poll is measuring the effectiveness of the propaganda campaign and little else.

To illustrate, here is additional propaganda on this subject. There is much discussion of whether or not there must be an individual mandate. What if the individual mandate is a moot issue due to how the ACA itself is written?

The authors of the ACA defined what was meant by “affordable” – if the price of insurance is too high, the government cannot force someone to purchase insurance. Here is an example – a 64 year old married couple living in Laramie, WY with an income of $65,000 per year is above the subsidy cut off level – that means there is no subsidy assistance to them.

The lowest cost Silver plan available to them is (quoted screen capture from HealthCare.gov for 2018) a staggering $49,000 per year:

First, you may be surprised that ACA insurance premiums can cost near $50,000 per year. Second, you may surprised that a person with a $65,000 pre-tax income has an ACA insurance bill of $49,000 per year with a $5,000 deductible – and no subsidy. This means their costs are $54,000 per year … or about 100% of their after tax income.

Clearly, this couple cannot afford ACA insurance. The ACA recognized this and this can be seen in IRS Form 8965. For 2016, if the least cost Bronze plan exceeds 8.13% of your income (modified adjusted gross income or MAGI), then you are exempt from the mandate. The least cost Bronze plan for this couple is $2,750 per month or $33,000 per year.

If this couple’s income is LESS than $405,904 per year, then they are exempt from the ACA individual mandate to purchase this insurance per IRS Form 8965.

For couples or families over age 45-50, the ACA rates have risen so high, so rapidly, that  s likely a majority, and nearly everyone over age 55, are exempt from the individual mandate, by law.

If your insurance costs are $750/month, then you are exempt if your income is less than $110,000 per year. Surprised?

In effect, the individual mandate is a moot issue for perhaps most of the unsubsidized market.

When you see actual ACA price quotes like the above, what do you think of the individual mandate?

Does this illustrate how a public opinion polls merely measure the effectiveness of propaganda campaigns?

Notes

In Laramie, WY, there is a Gold plan that costs less than the cheapest Silver plan – for a mere $40,000 per year. Why is the Silver plan used in this example? Because the US Department of Health and Human Services uses the Silver plans as the “benchmark” and subsidies are given out based on the pricing of the lowest cost Silver plan in each market.

Is Laramie just an outlier? Perhaps, we have not looked at all markets. It is common, however, for the ACA rates to run $25,000 to $35,000 for families in different locations in the U.S. The NY Times just noticed this for the first time in November of 2017 – check it out. (The NY Times diagnoses the wrong root cause, however – to learn about the actual root cause and possible solutions see my paper.)

Why is there no subsidy for this couple? Because the subsidy cut off level has nothing to do with the cost of insurance. The cut off level is set to 400% of the regional poverty level. There is no connection what so ever to insurance costs. Thus, a couple earning $65,000 per year has an insurance premium of $49,000 per year and is ineligible for a subsidy. If they made just $1,000 less per year, they then qualify for a $43,316 per year subsidy from the taxpayers. (Of interest, the out of pocket payment by the subsidy recipient works out to about the 8.13% value – as insurance rates rise, the subsidy payment increases to keep the consumer’s costs at the ACA defined affordability level. Of interest, in another year or two, the costs of insurance for some will exceed their annual income – and the subsidy value will also exceed their annual income too).

Is the 8.13% value set by the ACA and the IRS too low? The government’s data indicates we spend about 18+% of national GDP on health care. By their reckoning, insurance plus out of pocket costs and miscellaneous expenses are going to result in an average family spending of perhaps 18% on health (this is a simplified explanation). Thus, 8.13% for insurance is the component of this spending that is used as the ACA “affordability” criteria. Higher than this, and the government says it is not affordable. The government had to pick some level and chose this one based on data. The government might have selected a different dollar value – for example, should the government mandate that you spend 120% of your income on health insurance?

The bottom line is that ACA health insurance is not affordable according to the ACA itself.

 

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How ‘Obamacare’ propaganda works

ObamaCare propaganda is simple and not at all sophisticated.

Like almost all ObamaCare news stories, the article linked below discusses benefits only – and never, ever mentions that half the market receives no subsidies and never, ever mentions an actual cost per month for people paying for health insurance.

Did you know that some have ACA annual premiums as high as $49,000 per year for a basic Silver plan? Yes, seriously. Read on to learn more. And how the media hides this information from you.

Most news reports about the ACA are like this: If they quote an insurance premium they typically select age 27, and rarely, age 40. But the rates from 21 to 40 are nearly flat – about 270% of the price increase occurs after age 43! This presents the public with a misleading view of premium costs.

By leaving out critical information and presenting only benefits, why would anyone have any concerns at all about ObamaCare?

This article by the Associated Press and their member news organizations is propaganda messaging. You will literally be dumber for having read the AP article!

Source: ‘Obamacare’ curveball: free insurance in 1,500-plus counties | The Seattle Times

NPR has a similar propaganda piece, mentioning only benefits – never, ever mentioning actual problems with ObamaCare. This is PR puffery, not journalism.

Cherry Picking and Censorship Methods of Propaganda

Let’s look at real numbers for 2018 – all of which are omitted from the AP’s “errors by omission” piece. This falls under the propaganda method of “censorship” – literally cutting out information that contradicts the propaganda message.

  • In Flagstaff, AZ the least cost Silver plan for a 64 year old married couple making $65,000/year in pre-tax income is about $35,000/year – which is less than last year!

You might be thinking, but don’t they get a subsidy? No. The subsidy cut off limit is completely unrelated to the cost of insurance; its based on the regional poverty income level.

Let’s look at another example – it gets worse!

  • In Laramie, WY, the lowest cost Silver plan for this 64 year old couple earning $65,000 per year and above the subsidy cut off is a whopping $49,100 per year! Whoa! With a $5,000 deductible on the policy, they’ll pay just about 100% of their after tax income before collecting on their insurance policy. (Oddly, the cheapest Gold policy is a bargain at just over $40,000/year – but we use the Silver as the benchmark, just like HHS does.)

Yet if they earned only $64,000, they would receive about $43,000 in direct subsidy. Since insurance is paid for with after tax dollars, that is similar to earning $50,000 before taxes. This illustrates how upside down and crazy this has become – by earning $1,000 less, they receive a pre-tax benefit greater than the their direct cost of insurance! ($50k pre-tax value compared to $49k after taxes paid value.) This is insanity!

What’s going on?

There are two defects (of many) in the ACA that are at work here.

  • First, the subsidy cut off level has no relation to the insurance cost – it is based on the regional poverty level. Consequently, even though rates may take up 100% of your after tax income, you do not receive a subsidy.
  • Second, the way the ACA works is that those who receive subsidies are paying essentially the same price as in 2014. As insurers raise rates, the government increases the subsidy. But the subsidy cut off level continues to track the regional poverty level. Rates can climb as high as they want but the subsidy level remains unchanged!

The second point is why 1,500+ counties will have “free insurance” policies – the subsidies have grown so enormous that taxpayers now pay everything.

This “freebie” is a side effect of the super high cost of insurance in the ACA market places – it is not “by design”.

Insurance companies may be gaming the system. They can focus on the subsidized half of the market – and raise rates without limits because the government will always increase the subsidies. Subsidies, of course, are funded by taxpayers and transfer money from taxpayers to the insurance companies.

  • Now – see if you can find a news report that covers any of this. Go ahead – try and find just one!
  • Update: Finally – at last! The Oregonian quotes prices for a 60 year old and notes that in the market they checked, the price is now $918/month for one person (or $22,032 for a married couple, a detail they leave out). The article notes provider networks are being cut to smaller sizes and many insurers have left the non-metro markets.

To learn more about this problem – and possible solutions – read my full paper. (My paper did influence policy makers in my own state, by the way.)

“Errors of Omission” via Cherry Picking and Censorship

This example illustrates the power of every day propaganda messaging. The media has never critically reported on ObamaCare and largely writes fluff pieces discussing only benefits. The general public receives a skewed perspective on ObamaCare when real life problems and actual defects in the Act are hidden from view. Problems that are hidden cannot be fixed and the act of hiding the problems leaves us worse off.

Many in the media have been cheerleaders for ObamaCare – they are not objective reporters. Consequently the news media earns a reputation for  propaganda messaging. By leaving out critical data, they have created a fictional story through the use of cherry picking and censorship.

Fascinating how fast false rumors spread on social media

This post is about how social media propaganda appeared immediately after a proposed House bill was passed, then spread like wildfire, and was mostly not true. The NY Times reviews the main social media propaganda memes and how their messages are extreme exaggerations, distortions or outright lies.

I have not looked at the bill because I doubt its going anywhere and no need for me to waste time on that. We were ObamaCare consumers starting in 2014 until our insurance rates rose by 140% from 2014 to 2017 to the point we had to drop out of the ACA markets. News reports rarely mention the majority of purchasers receive no subsidies and their rates have risen so fast and so high that many can no longer buy insurance. If you are interested in learning about the real reason for this, please read my lengthy paper on the subject to understand why ObamaCare is fatally broken, by design, with proposed solutions.)

Social Media is a stupidity amplifier

The news that big insurance companies are dropping out of the exchanges doesn’t mean Obamacare is broken, writes Tim Mullaney. The problem is easily fixable once we realize it’s really about a few specialty drugs.

Source: How Gilead ‘broke’ Obamacare

This article, from a Marketwatch.com reporter says insurance companies are dropping out of ObamaCare due to expensive “specialty drugs”. This assertion does not pass the giggle test.

This article, and its sharing on social media, demonstrates how social media amplifies stupidity. Marketwatch publishes a lame column – and people share it with their friends on social media. Most people are unlikely to be familiar with the subject matter. Those that might understand are unlikely to post corrections – remember, friends don’t correct friends on social media.

Sharing of logical fallacies, factually incorrect articles, and outright propaganda go on every day on social media.

The result is social  media is an amplifier of stupidity.

There is little to stop this onslaught except to stop reading items shared by others on social media. For the past few months, I’ve largely ignored my social media news stream but made the mistake of reading it again last night and ran across this item. All of us are being tricked into sharing nonsense (yes, I’ve done it too).

How can we stop it? If we do not find a solution, our society becomes dumber and dumber and incapable of rational discourse because much of what we know is not true. Social media propaganda trains us to view “the other side” as a low form of life, scum to which we should not interact. Just look at the implicit name calling lurking in social media posts.

Sadly, most people are not learning to think for themselves but are instead regurgitating the opinions (not even facts) of others. Few look at original sources. Few understand core issues at the basis of the beliefs and opinions spouted online. Literally, people are giving up on thinking. If you don’t go along with the popular meme du jour, you are an outcast, probably a member of “the other side” (whichever side that may be), and worse. Facts and logic no longer matter in the new world order of social media.

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