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Monitor Board of Contributors: Bosse’s political spin masks the truth of Anthem plan

In this column I am going to unabashedly criticize Monitor columnist Grant Bosse – let me get that out up front. Specifically, I’m going after him for his “Obamacare continues to crumble” column in the Sept. 8 Sunday Monitor. I’m doing this because I care about Bosse, the columnist, and so should you all. Why? Because we need to work to keep a diligent, fact-oriented, economically sound mind, a quality conservative voice that brings balance to a reliably liberal Monitor staff, from succumbing to the dark side of life in the opinion-shaping industry – the temptation to morph into a party hack.

In taking Bosse to task here, I am not defending Obamacare. I am no fan of socializing the costs of anything if there is some other way to let people sort it out. So just please apply that lens to what I am about to say.

On Sunday, Bosse jumped all over the fact that Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is planning to offer a low-cost plan on the state’s new, Obamacare-funded, health care exchange. To keep the cost of that plan way down, Anthem used only 14 of the state’s 26 central hospital systems – those with costs of service low enough to make a real difference in plan premiums. The result, according to Anthem, will lower premiums by 25 percent or so.

This feature of Obamacare introduces a measure of real market pricing discipline and is taken right out of Republican Party proposals from a decade ago. What Anthem is doing is going shopping, looking for the best deals in the state for health care. This is exactly what many market economists claim has been missing from health care. By shopping in this way in order to obtain lower cost service, Anthem is showing up the high-cost providers and putting pressure on them to react. That is how market forces work – and it is a good thing for us consumers.

Now, to get the best deal on health care, as with any service, you may have to trade off some convenience. You may have to travel some to a more distant place. But again, that is how markets work – that is why Manchester car dealers advertise in the Monitor, or why people drive past local stores to Walmart. How you value any good or service is a combination of price, quality, convenience and personal taste. Here, if you don’t want Anthem’s low-cost plan, you are going to have to pay more to get the service tailored to your preference. No surprise there for any market economist.

But my man Bosse didn’t pitch it that way. Instead, he adamantly crowed that Anthem was “rationing care” by limiting its low-cost plan to low cost providers. Well, duh. That is what a market pricing system does – it rations any good based on ability, or inclination, to pay. Want to drive a Jaguar instead of a Ford, but can’t afford it? Gosh, the market just rationed Jaguars, and you didn’t get one. Same for health care – if you want to pay less, you have to make some compromises.

Anthem, and the exchange feature of Obamacare, has done us all a good thing here: It has highlighted the cost difference (and a big one) between different health care service centers in the state. The folks at Concord Hospital and other higher-cost providers are going to have to react to that public pricing challenge – and I imagine they will do so creatively and soon, which in turn benefits us all.

So I expected Bosse to delight in the power of even a modest market flashlight to shine on the inefficient, show them up, and immediately produce some results in health care – and to advocate for more of it. Instead he cast the Anthem plan as just another failing of Obamacare, something that would forcibly keep you from your doctor of choice, as another example of socialized medicine gone further awry. In doing, that, he was plainly pushing a much more political agenda – he was spinning the Anthem plan into a fear-based bash on Obamacare.

In doing that, Bosse left behind his own high standards for research and logic – and drifted toward the Sarah Palin school of just saying stuff. We need to call him out on it, and call him back to his craft – because the Monitor is made better by his best pieces. We need Bosse to remain an honest broker of facts – not devolve into another spin artist.

(M. Curtis Whittaker heads the Energy Practice Group at Rath, Young & Pignatelli in Concord.)

Legacy Comments28

Again, my post was about you questioning if ITSA even attended a meeting, not what was said in the meeting. I do not see how that is fear mongering and you did not address if you were questioning his honesty. Some folks here who have referred to the ACA as a train wreck have backed it up with many examples of what is going on now in regards to costs, folks being switched to part time work, etc. Often times those points are not addressed by the left. Instead they get mired in which letters are capitalized and questioning folks honesty. That is what I am seeing, and I am also seeing the discussion here becoming nasty, just like it did a few years back with the accusations of racism. Just my take. And I am wondering if the left would prefer that nobody posts on this forum that disagrees with them. Sure looks that way to me.

Rabbit - you are making valuable points. For the record, I was not questioning Itsa's honesty, just the reliability of the facts he was presenting. As for the tone of the comments, I don't want this comment to begin an argument about who does it more, but suffice it to say that there is plenty of nastiness on both sides. Speaking for myself, I find it incredibly frustrating when opinions are presented as incontrovertible facts, when opposing ideas are ridiculed rather than challenged, and when rather than substance, people offer invective and insult. In fact, it has gotten so bad that we almost expect such a response. It is that kind of expectation that results in what happened here - what I thought was a legitimate challenge to a series of facts was misinterpreted as me questioning the character of the original poster. It's just an example of how polarized these comments have gotten. It would be good if that could change.

I am sorry if I took the expression you used "claimed to have attended a meeting" the wrong way, I just took it as you were questioning his honesty. I do believe you that you were not. The discussion here on some posts has sunken to very low levels. Gives new meaning to the phrase "attack the messenger". The only way to avoid it, is to not respond to folks who get too nasty. I seem to recall we had a poster here a while back that was pretty nasty and eventually folks just stopped taking the bait and did not respond. The poster left. Some folks just do not have the capability of discussing anything without being nasty. And it is a waste of time to try to have a discussion with them. Their minds are made up and they have no desire to see all sides of any issue. The idea that they may be incorrect is something they cannot accept. Thus they learn nothing and stay uninformed.

A meeting he claims to have attended Publius. I see you have bought into the paranoia that the opposing party are fear mongers. History proves that the govt cannot run or manage anything. yet you trust them with your health care. That to me is a huge leap of faith. Those of us that are involved in business have had to hire lawyers to get through how to manage the ACA. The list of taxes, Insurance costs etc is unbelievable. What is the best way to fool the public if your a pol, the answer is to give them as little info as possible. Get the media to help you by getting folks to judge you on the size of your wallet, pit folks against each other. That is why there is no compromise. The Libs did not want compromise. And they will do what they can to keep folks from knowing what is going on. They count on you being uninformed. And it is working. A good economy benefits everybody. We will not be seeing that for the next 4 years. We will be seeing stagnation, more part time jobs, and a whole lot of folks who will finally start to realize the damage the ACA will do.

History proves no such thing except to those whose reality originates inside their own heads. Social Security and Medicare operate effectively AND efficiently, more so than any commercial institution. There are plenty of other examples, but why bother until the scales have fallen from their eyes?

They are so efficient that there is no "trust fund" money in the lock box. So efficient that we have to borrow to pay for both programs.

I have no idea where you get the idea that I'm exhibiting paranoia simply because I don't think that when someone says they heard something at a meeting, that constitutes reliable information. It might have helped if Itsa had said who the meeting was with, for example. Was it the NH Insurance Commissioner? The president of Anthem BC/BS NH? His own corporate counsel? Or some anti-ACA group trying to rouse opposition? It makes a difference regarding the credibility of the information he's proposing. I also think it's clever of you to tag me with paranoia about the other side being fear-mongers, then you immediately turn around and monger fear. Nice touch.

My post was in regards to you stating a meeting he claims to have attended. That came off for me that you were not sure he even attended a meeting. He was just claiming he did. That is how I read it. And that said to me you were questioning his honesty. Why would you want more info? You would dispute it anyway. It is fine to question, but we are not seeing a lot of that here. We are seeing folks deny what it is going on no matter where the source comes from. The thought that the ACA is a train wreck, poorly written and will result in a lot of problems, is something the left refuses to address.

Rabbit - that was quite a stretch. I was pointing out that the information was not made more credible because he heard it at a meeting. The point is that I can be persuaded by reliable facts, properly presented. The trouble is, of course, that that sort of information is rarely presented by commenters on this page. Simply calling the ACA a train wreck over and over again does not make it so. Since the ACA is not even close to fully implemented, it is a bit premature to pass judgement on it.

Mr. Whittaker should know better. A most popular rhetorical trick is to offer false equivalency, in his case: "Want to drive a Jaguar instead of a Ford, but can’t afford it? Gosh, the market just rationed Jaguars, and you didn’t get one. Same for health care...." Health care is not like a Jaguar, and we all know that Mr. Whittaker knows it. People don't sicken and die or toss themselves and their families into bankruptcy for not having a Jag. The Jaguar may represent boob jobs, Botox injections or costly hair transplants, but only in the most figurative sense are those things "health care." Whittaker also ignore the elephant in the room - the demonstrable fact that the real way to improve outcomes for the greatest number of people AND reduce costs is to create a truly universal system with significant public sector participation. If he could get over his free market religion, he might (at least in a private moment) acknowledge that the correct reply to Bosse is to advocate Medicare for all.

Sorry Publius, I do not see Mr. Whitaker as promoting anything but his side. Nor do I see many on this forum promoting a come together attitude. What I see is a bunch of folks who have no clue what the ramifications of the ACA are. They have no clue what is even in it. They are doing the same thing with narrowing networks. They have no clue what Anthem is offering. And they believe that hospitals bowed out. Many were not even asked to come into the network Anthem wants a monopoly. Kind of like Cable Companies. Lure you in with low price at first. Then change the packages they offer so you have to pay more to get the channels you want. The same thing will happen here with Anthem. Your putting your faith and trust in an Insurance Company. You know the same folks you accuse of being greedy and screwing over everybody. You actually believe they have changed their ways?

Huh? When did I accuse anyone of being greedy and screwing everybody over? Look - I'm not convinced that anyone who posts on here is an expert on the health insurance market or the terms of the ACA. In fact, those who claim to be absolutely certain of how it is all going to ruin us have the least credibility and speak with little or no authority. I'm OK with waiting to see how it all works out, because I'm pretty sure it will.

Sometimes you get what you pay for. Narrowing choice is not just about how far you live from your health care, it is also about the quality of care you get. The idea here is dependent on the volume of folks who sign up for this narrow network. And this idea could turn out like Medicaid coverage works for health care. They can do the old bait and switch on you also. We have no idea what the deal is with the govt. Anthem might have been given a waiver in regards to how much out of pocket you have to pay to get more services, or given a waiver on the % they can raise the premium next year. Truth is none of us know what Anthem's plan will cover. And if you have a lot of Employers dumping Anthem, then the plan will not work for Anthem's Profit Margin.

I really liked this column, facts and accuracy is far more important than spin. I would like to see several diligent, fact-oriented, economically sound minded, quality conservative voices added to balance the reliably liberal Monitor staff. Here is what the author fails to tell us: That the reliably liberal Monitor staff is constantly succumbing to the dark side of the opinion-shaping industry. The Monitor makes it well known that they are the loud voice for democrat party hacks and that is well demonstrated on editorial page today.

Not going to happen. Why have balance when you hold all of the cards?

Congratulations! A new phrase for Van to overuse to the point of making it meaningless: "...democrat party hacks...." And once again, note the childish failure to use upper case D for the proper name and to use the adjective form "Democratic."

when democrats grow up and behave as Statesmen then the Responsible Republicans will give them proper acknowledgement. Keep up the great work Van

Wow! Republicans are sooooooo good that not only is Republican capitalized, so is "Responsible." Your continued selective use of upper case indicates how truly empty the underlying statements (not worthy of the rhetorical term "arguments") are.

Talk about childish glad to bring you back to your diaper days. Time for a changing graccus.

So graccus hair rises up when the phrase democrat party hacks is used. Looks like I hit too close to home.

Sorry, buddy-boy, no rising of hair. Rather mourning at the depths to which the once-noble art of argument has descended. Just for once, I challenge you to try to make a point using correct spelling and capitalization and answering material issues without gibberish.

Why is it that attorney's are so progressive in their thinking. Most are super wealthy and they just don't realize or they don't care that most of the pain for Obamacare will come from people who can afford it the least......real workers, hard working NH families. Perhaps the cost from their wealth perspective is small but ask folks earning $60,000 to $100,000 what $5000-$7000 extra in premiums, co-pays, deductibles will do to their family budget. Moreover, they will have to wait in lines behind people who they will be paying for AND they might lose their primary care physician. Of course the high minded folks who work for big law firms can afford any plan that they want. Progressives always talk about the "wealthy", they need to take a look at lawyers (aka liars). Moreover, the Anthem plan is not really "affordable". I worked hard for 35 years to insure my health, often taking positions because of the benefits including insurance.......now most of us who have done so will have to 'chip in' and help those who made different choices. That is not America.

Attorneys, Itsa, no apostrophe. Republicans do not seem to do will in basic English. They definitely do not know when to use a capital letter on a proper noun.

Excuse me, I meant well.

Mr. Whittaker describes in painful detail what happens when politics and ideology cause intelligent, analytical people to abandon reason and embrace polemics. Unfortunately, in the current political environment, it is simply unacceptable for the party out of power to admit that the opposing party's policies may be working. We see it all the time, especially in this context, with frequent comments that predict with absolute certainty that "Obamacare" will be a "train wreck" and subsequent grasping at straws to show that to be true. It also shows in the vehement denials, all counterfactual, that there was any Republican content in the PPACA. In truth, this is how it works when market forces are at work. And those opposed take joy in spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about how we are going to lose our doctors, have to travel miles and miles for treatment, etc. Stories like the Anthem decision fit nicely into that plan. I share Mr. Whittaker's hopes that we can again have thoughtful, factual discussions from both sides of the political spectrum, without the hyperbole and FUD.

I am sorry Publius but you really do not have first hand knowledge of what "Obamacare" will do. I happen to have sat in on meetings of what it will cost companies, employees and what it will cost everyone. Let's start with cost to companies which already offer insurance. Those costs will double and there will be a "tax" added for them to continue to offer insurance for their employees. Next, the employees will pay 1.5 to 2 times their current premiums. A family of four now paying $400 per month for insurance will pay, through their employers, $600 to $800 per month or $2400 to $4800 more per year. Deductibles will also double. I will take mine for an example which is not even typical as my insurance is pretty good. It is going from $600 to $1000 per person on the plan. That family of four will now pay $1600 more for insurance. Co-pays for drugs will also go to the next tier. Co-pays at $10, $15 and $20 will now cost $15, $20, $25 or more. Now, these are real time, on the ground, facts and others in my industry have been to similar meetings. The average family of four will now pay between $4500 to $6900 for the same doverage that they have now. How is that affordable. Obama is running around the country making disingenuous statements that Obamacare is working. What he is referring to is that a small segment of the population who might be self employed are paying less or people are getting something for nothing. If I was in an exchange, I would certainly lose my doctor as my provider will not be participating. Progressives are so worried about voter ID and how that will disenfranchise people, well, Obamacare is about to disenfranchise those who have provided for their insurance needs throughout the years and penalize them so that others can have a subsidized ride. Moreover, healthy 18-30 year old young folks will be soaked with an expense that few can afford.

You have no idea what I know. And I have no idea what your "meetings" were, so I have no way to judge the credibility of the figures you are quoting. I'm not inclined to take your word for it just because of some meeting you claim to have attended.

Itsa, you cannot say that your situation will be a representation of what will happen to millions of other Americans. Nobody truly knows how things will shake out. Not me, not you, not the Monitor not even the president. That is why Republicans are spreading fear and uncertainty and trying to block federal money from being used to educate and help people sign up for the ACA. I am willing to give this program a shot because SOMETHING has got to be done with our health care system. It is unsustainable. Of course, according to sail and other conservatives, there is nothing wrong with it! But what really seems to burn you about this program is the thought of poor people getting something for nothing. The thought of you subsidizing someone else's care. Gasp! Well, that's exactly what's going on now with uninsured people being treated in ER's.

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