Anti-Peters ad more emotion than fact

How we make the call

Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:

No factual inaccuracies in the statement and no important information is missing
Mostly accurate
While the statement is largely accurate, it omits or exaggerates facts, or needs some clarification
Half accurate
Truths are interspersed with mistruths, or the speaker left out significant facts that render his/her remarks misleading in important respects
Mostly inaccurate
The major point or points made are untrue or misleading, even while some aspects of the claim may be accurate
The statement is false, or based on false underlying facts

WhoAmericans For Prosperity
WhatJulie's Story: It's Time to Listen
The callFlagrant Foul

This powerful one-minute ad aimed at U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, centers on Dexter resident and leukemia patient Julie Boonstra. Peters is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. In the ad, Boonstra says she found a “wonderful doctor and a great health care plan” only to be told she could not keep that plan because of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. She obtained a new plan under Obamacare but said she found its costs “unaffordable.” Boonstra says the vote by Peters for Obamacare “jeopardized my health.” This is among a series of ads run by Americans For Prosperity attacking Obamacare. The group is backed by conservative billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Boonstra was a guest of U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, at the Jan. 28 State of the Union address.

Relevant text of the ad

“My name is Julie Boonstra and five years ago I was diagnosed with leukemia. I found out that I only have a 20 percent chance of surviving. I found this wonderful doctor and a great health care plan. I was doing fairly well fighting the cancer, fighting the leukemia, and then I received the letter. My insurance was canceled because of Obamacare. Now, the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable. If I do not receive my medication, I will die. I believed the president. I believed I could keep my health insurance plan. I feel lied to. It’s heartbreaking for me. Congressman Peters, your decision to vote for Obamacare jeopardized my health.”

Statements under review

“I found this wonderful doctor and a great health care plan...and then i received the letter. My insurance was canceled because of Obamacare...I believed the president. I believed I could keep my health insurance plan.”

Boonstra’s words could be interpreted as suggesting that, as a result of Obamacare, she lost access to her doctor. She did not.

The statement also references President Barack Obama's oft-repeated assurance: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” It was judged “Lie of the Year,” by Politifact, the fact-checking arm of the Tampa Bay Times. The Associated Press estimated that 4.7 million Americans, including 225,000 individuals in Michigan, received notice in 2013 their plans were being canceled because they did not meet the standards of Obamacare.

“Now, the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable.”

The ad fails to mention, as Boonstra has acknowledged, that her monthly premium costs dropped, from $1,100 a month to $571 a month, after she enrolled in a new Blue Cross Blue Shield plan under Obamacare. Boonstra told the Detroit News the new plan increased certain out-of-pocket costs, such as doctor's visits, from $20 to $50. But it is unclear how the plan is “unaffordable” compared with her old plan. Under the terms of Obamacare, the out-of-pocket maximum for an individual in 2014 is $6,350. When the difference in premium cost is factored in, her new plan would cost just $2 more in a year even if she incurred no out-of-pocket expenses under her old plan.

Americans for Prosperity did not returns calls from Bridge Magazine seeking comment. Earlier, AFP President Tim Phillips told the Detroit News he stands by the ad’s claim that Boonstra’s new plan is unaffordable. “If you look at the script and she says they’re so high they are unaffordable and we know the out-of-pocket costs are not what they were — by definition they were almost nonexistent in the old policy. We feel very comfortable with that,” Phillips told the News. AFP and Boonstra have also said that, regardless of overall costs, the month-to-month unpredictability of her out-of-pocket costs creates uncertainty.

“If I do not receive my medication, I will die...Congressman Peters, your decision to vote for Obamacare jeopardized my health.”

While emotionally wrenching, Boonstra’s assertion that the new health care coverage she received under Obamacare jeopardized her health is not sufficiently backed up. The ad offers no evidence Boonstra will not receive medication she needs under her new health plan. Boonstra told the Detroit News that she was able to keep the same University of Michigan cancer specialist under her new health plan and that she was continuing her chemotherapy treatment.

The callFlagrant Foul

The ad correctly notes Obama's false claim that no one would be forced to lose their health insurance under Obamacare. But the ad does not support its central assertion that Boonstra's new health plan is “unaffordable” compared with her old plan. Moreover, while there is no question that changing health plans during the course of leukemia treatment can be an unsettling, even frightening experience, this ad lacks supporting evidence that the new plan “jeopardized” Boonstra's health.

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Tue, 03/04/2014 - 8:28am
“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.” ― Joseph Goebbels
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:23am
Charles and David Koch are no different than the Ukrainian oligarchs who looted that country's treasury. They have already allocated over $25 million to buy the US Senate and some estimate that their final expenditure to buy control of our country's upper legislative body could eventually exceed $100 million. Thanks to the Robert's Supreme Court for their Citizens United decision. Also reference Tom Perkins who said During an interview with a Fortune magazine journalist, "that only U.S. taxpayers should be able to vote in elections." But that’s not all. Perkins went on to say that "wealthy people should get more votes than others because they pay more in taxes." A perfect window into their souls. The only pursuit that is acceptable and worthwhile is the pursuit of money and wealth. Want to pursue science, or a career in the clergy, or teach the next generation of students to excel, none of that matters to these oligarchs. Those decisions to value something different than their love of money is, well, an unfortunate mistake of priorities. And keep in mind that if they say these things in public interviews, they say far darker and destructive things in their private clubs where no one can hear or see the darkness of their souls..
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:40am
The only things that can be said in Ms. Boonstra's defense is that no doubt it was upsetting to have to seek out a new policy in the midst of her treatments for cancer. And now that her statements have been exposed as misleading at best, it's obvious she has no control over the ad content or distribution, which has been repeated ad nauseum. A word to the wise: be careful about lending your private cares to the political class.
Linda Pierucki
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:46am
Let me quote from a New York Times article dated yesterday here: "The main issue over the initial Michigan commercial was whether Ms. Boonstra would face higher out-of-pocket costs because of co-payments and other requirements before she hit a ceiling on total spending, compared with the costs under her previous policy. Critics said that with the lower premiums on the new policy, Ms. Boonstra could end up spending essentially the same amount because of the cap on overall spending. But Mr. Phillips said that “we do believe she will end up having more out-of-pocket costs” under the new plan because of limits on medications and treatments. He said the new insurance policy also makes her costs much more unpredictable than the more regular monthly costs she experienced under the old plan." Exactly who here is being discredited?? Obviously, this woman has been injured by this supposedly 'affordable' health care fiasco. Not quite telling 'the whole truth and nothing but" here, are you, Bridge Magazine??
David Zeman
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:09am
Hi Linda, I believe that explanation is in fact reflected in our Truth Squad article today. Best, David Zeman
mark knowles
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:53am
Thank you for the tired of "Kochies and Tea"...
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:06am
The point of the commercial is to make the assertion that Gary Peters and President Obama have left Ms. Boonstra hanging in the wind like a leaf on a tree, with NO healthcare at all. Left to fend for herself in this bad bad world, because of those bad bad men. Whether her out of pockets is the same or not the same, the fact is that in the old days (2012, 2013) her policy because of her catastrophic illness (cancer) would have been considered a prior condition and her rates would have skyrocketed. I'm not super thrilled with the new ACA and hope that it will, at some point realize that some adjustments need to be made, but the commercial is full of spin and deliberate misleading garbage to hang the responsiblity on Mr. Peters. Shame Shame on you, Ms. Boonstra, and how much did you get paid to fib?.
Jay Johnson
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:16am
What is completely missing from this article is the name of the Senatorial candidate the Koch brothers are seeking to benefit. That would be Terry Lynn Land, the Republican candidate. You might also have mentioned that the reason the Koch's can buy politicians in Michigan is because Terry Lynn Land, when she was Secretary of State, issued a ruling that gutted Michigan's campaign finance reform laws to exclude so-called issue adds such as this one so long as they do not ask you to vote for or against an individual candidate. Are the citizens of Michigan willing to let the Koch brothers buy them another Senator? I hope not.
Paul Murray
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:28am
Is there a source on data about how many Michigan residents with leukemia who previously were unable to obtain/afford medical insurance, are now able to obtain care previously unavailable to them?
David Werner
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:31am
If you tell a lie often enough, for many it becomes the truth! And, so, the ad continues to be aired over and over on TV. The most unfortunate part of this whole saga is that Rep. Walberg, the Koch brothers, and the group, Americans for Prosperity, have no problem using a health challenged woman for their personal political goals. I think this speaks volumes about the moral fiber of these individuals.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:05am
Similar misinformation in Wall Street journal op ed by Mr Blackwood which was referenced in the congressional delegate as another case of nasty Obamacare. The drug is covered on the formulary of the insurer thanks to M. Mahar for investigating.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:31am
Since truth does matter here is truth. My 35 year old son who has MS had his BCBS policy canceled as result of the new Obamacare regs. His new "comparable" policy, also from BCBS, is $60 more per month, his annual deductible increased by $750, his out of pocket max has doubled, and the new plan requires more and higher copays. Looking at both plans side-by-side (comparing the old and new plans), it is quite evident that the coverage in the new plan is not quite as good as under the old plan and the new plan does cost quite a bit more. On top of this, the new plan provides maternity coverage, female birth control and female needs coverage, and child care coverage -- all things that a single male will not be able to use and does not need. The ONLY thing his new plan gives him is a free colonoscopy, which under his old plan was 80% covered. Big deal. And by the way, while there are health insurance providers that do not allow people with pre-existing conditions to enroll, BCBS has always allowed people with pre-existing conditions to sign up for a health care policy. We did not need the federal government to take over health care to "fix" this problem. All that was needed was for more states to fix their own insurance regs.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 3:05pm
Thank you Gus for the facts that you presented simply. The ACA is not affordable for a majority of Americans. We don't get to hear about the people who didn't have health insurance and do they now have it? When purchasing health insurance that encompasses such extras that aren't needed by a subscriber, the "affordable" part goes out the window. The ACA does not accomplish the goal of every American to obtain health insurance. The commercial should have added that there is a federal tax per month on the premium paid monthly. Ms. Boonstra was correct in sharing her story. I also agree with Bill V. For the Bridge evaluators, please publish their' names so the truth can be owned.
Mike R
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 4:32pm
Gus, please clarify: is your son eligible for any subsidies? Has he applied for any?
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:13am
Eric, my son probably would be eligible for Medicaid. He is probably also eligible for Disability since he has not been able to work in 10 years. However, since he lives at home, we would have to fudge any applications for Medicaid or Disability, because our "household income" (my wife's and my income) would probably disqualify him. At the same time, my wife and I do not feel others (taxpayers) should support our son when we are able to do so. We have been paying for his health insurance since he lost his job due to the effects of MS.
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 2:39pm
Gus...that's an awful lot of "probably" when you seem so certain of other "facts" you've expressed. It seems that the ACA's negative impact to your son's care or the expense of it "probably" has a lot to do with deliberate choices you or he are making, no? And, Ellen, I hope you realize you were thanking Gus for simple facts that, it turns out, were not all that simple, or completely factual. I'm not a big fan of Obamacare, and have had to change my insurance as a result, but it's far from the first time I've had to do that for various reasons. The Bridge is being fair, and factual, here.
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 3:43pm
Chris, no, you are wrong. The facts are factual, as I have presented them. We paid my son's healthcare insurance premiums before the ACA, and we are paying his healthcare premiums post-ACA. The costs have gone up as a result of the ACA and the coverage is not as good. The fact that we chose not to apply for Disability for him, or have him go on Medicaid, has nothing to do with anything. We could have done this before the ACA, so it is irrelevant. Obamacare has forced health insurance rates higher, lessened coverage, and added unneeded coverage. The word "probably" was used only in regard to his eligibility for Medicaid and Disability. He may be eligible, or he may not be. I have not checked and have no intention of doing so. But again, this is irrelevant because I was comparing apples to apples -- his pre-ACA insurance plan with his post-ACA insurance plan.
Judy Schwab
Fri, 03/07/2014 - 1:57pm
Gus, Unless you claim your son as a dependent on your tax returns, he is considered a household of one on the ACA market place. Only HIS income is considered when determining subsidies or eligiblility for Medicaid.
Linda P
Thu, 03/13/2014 - 12:06am
Thank you, Judy (and Cris) I am tired of people not checking on options in an honest manner. If one is really concerned about costs for their son, they would throw away their PRIDE and really check on options. Seems Gus cares more about proving the ACA is hurting them than making sure his son is taken care of. It is just sickening. I know more than a few people who have cried about how their insurance is not affordable, until I asked them if they actually went on the site to shop. They had not. Seems maybe Gus did not either, as the old policy and new policy were with the same carrier. Shop for it Gus, and remember what Judy said. Stop being a prideful right winger and take care of your son.
Bill Vajk
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:50am
The fact that Bridge has decided to participate in partisan political disputes has severely diminished the value of the entire operation for me. Too bad.
Dot P B
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 1:21pm
Bil, since when does telling the truth become partisan politics? Bridge has debunked both sides -- that is why it is fair and balanced.
Bill Vajk
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 10:38am
Getting at "the truth" is not such a simple matter. Take the time to watch the TV series "Mind Games" to discover just how much our own minds fill in where there is missing information. If you really want the truth, you'd have to have a full audit of Julie Boonstra's financial records, something you're not likely to ever see. If you look at the comments to the article you'll notice that they're all "fair" in their "opinions." My criticism of Bridge is for broaching an insoluble partisan political topic instead of disseminating information that is potentially beneficial. This stuff distracts from topics that could yield benefits, thus the value of the entire operation is diminished for me. I take neither side in the discussion at hand, that's not what I'm about. Similarly there's a statement alleged to be "quote of the century" attributed to Vaclav Claus of the Czech Republic all over the internet does similar things. Whether we like a particular point of view or not, we all need to take a step backwards and decide, much like a "Fair Witness" in Heinlein's _Stranger in a Strange Land_, what it is that we really know. Partisan politics never allows that to happen, it being a faith based organism spreading its tentacles through a society. Much has been written in the "on point" discussions about "memes" and I commend that reading to you. I am of the school that believes we should fix what we can, and let the rest sort itself out as best it will. I had, till now, hoped for better from Bridge. Perhaps my comments will have an impact, perhaps not. I'll just have to wait and see.
Sue Harvey
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 2:50pm
Seems to me it's partisan political dis-information!...... As a nurse and a cancer survivor I'm appalled that this info is being used to suggest this woman is being left to die or go broke. When the truth, is she had to do what many of us do which is look at what is the best option for us. Some people who are hard working but were uninsured now have some coverage for the first time. Those are newsworthy stories too.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 5:27pm
While recognizing the need to provide affordable access to health care for the people of this country, I can state unabashedly that ACA is the worst possible solution to the problem. The ACA is nothing more than an insurance industry driven law to provide them with additional profits. Let me be very specific. We currently have an insurance policy that meets our needs. It costs $4,900 per year with a maximum out-of-pocket of $20,000 for our family. The equivalent ACA-approved plan, from the same company (which actually provides us with less benefit than the existing policy) costs $11,800 per year with a maximum out-of-pocket of $12,600. What this means that that every year I am forced to pay an additional $7,000 to offset the slim chance of saving $500. ACA should be scrapped and they should start over.
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 6:03pm
Blaming Obama and Obamacare are the only avenues for Republicans in a State that has a Republican governor, a Republican-controlled House, a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled Supreme Court. This state will not move forward until their regressive ideologies promoted by Fox News are changed to progressive policies on the minimum wage, prisons, education, transportation, term limits, unemployment and housing to name a few. However, you get the politicians you deserve and Michigan has done just that.
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 11:30am
Joe, the Dems pitch "fairness." The fact of the matter is that life is not fair and never will be. The dream of Utopia on earth is a pipe dream. Fox news is not the problem. I watch both Fox and CNN. One leans right, the other leans left. Objectivity in reporting died many years ago (my degree is in Journalism, so trust me on this). The media today aims at "improving society," not reporting the news. This is called propaganda. The problem is that each side (Left and Right) each have their own ideas of how to improve society. Today there are more Independents than either Republicans or Democrats. There's a message there.
Barry Matthews
Tue, 03/04/2014 - 8:54pm
Wisconsin just lowered the maximum income level for those eligible for Medicaid (their legislature turned down the expanded medicaid), thus throwing my hard working, just over minimum wage daughter off the rolls. She is on the liver transplant list and some of her medications are $1000 plus per month. We are desperately trying to find an affordable policy that will cover her expenses either through her employment or ACA. So far, things are not looking good. She is in her early forties, has worked all her life (since age 14) and has contributed more to the betterment of society that the Koch brothers with all their money. Yes there is the out of pocket limit but at $6000 out of a $20,000 annual salary, that is not really an option. She was just getting her bills paid down when the State dropped this on her. It appears that the society we so espouse is determined to make permanent slaves of the poor. Her only recourse may be to declare bankruptcy and go on permanent disability. She would rather die than do that and that may just be the case.
Thu, 03/13/2014 - 2:01pm
Barry, Your daughter should be eligible for a subsidy to offset the cost of insurance purchased from the ACA market place. Has she gone on to see? She can check out what's available without making a commitment. There is a live chat option available that may be helpful.
Wed, 03/05/2014 - 9:47am
If you read the fine print, you'll see that not one of these AFP adds are factual, all paid actors. Reminds me of Fox News.
bob oneal
Mon, 03/10/2014 - 1:41pm
Fair and balanced analysis by Bridge. Provides an important service. What amazes me in all the discussion hardly any mention is made about the fact for the first time in our history the Affordable Care Act is trying to provide universal health care. That is certainly commendable and we must expect there may be a few snags. There were with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and they all have survived.