How we make the call
Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:
|Who||Americans For Prosperity|
|What||Julie's Story: It's Time to Listen|
|The call||Flagrant 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 call||Flagrant 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.