Thursday, March 13, 2014

AFP (Koch Funded?) Invests in Blatant Anti-Obamacare Propaganda

Last month Americans For Prosperity, funded who knows to what extent by the billionaire conservative Koch brothers, released an ad calling on voters to speak out to Senator Mary Landrieu about how much Obamacare is hurting Louisiana families. 

The ad starts with a middle class Mom on the porch and two gorgeous middle class kids running out to the post box, laughing. A very sad, kind voice over says “Dear Mrs. Kelly; your family plan is no longer available under the Affordable Care Act.” as the kids pull the letter out the box. Cut to a young middle class African American woman coming into her apartment, opening up her letter box. The same voice says “Dear Ms. Davis, we can no longer offer you the same policy; your doctor is no long in the network due the Affordable Care Act.” She looks devastated.

Cut to a father and his daughter on a farm standing at the letter box. She’s adorable. He’s the poster boy for responsible, down to earth Dad. The same voice says “Your monthly premium has increased…” at which point Dad looks at adorable daughter with great distress, “…no longer covered due to the Affordable Care Act”. One more shot of a woman opening her letter box and the final message is “send Senator Landrieu a message. Obamacare is hurting Louisiana families.”

When Americans for Prosperity was pinned down on the veracity of the ad a spokesperson admitted the characters were all actors. There wasn’t any truth in even a second of that footage.

In February the AFP made another ad and they used a real person for this one: a Julie Boonstra who was diagnosed with leukemia 5 years ago. Ms. Boonstra speaks directly to the camera,  looks sincere and her words are heart stopping. 

“I was diagnosed with leukemia. I found out 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 a 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... This is serious. It’s not a game…”

The Washington Post runs a fact checker blog written by journalist Glen Kessler which grants a Pinocchio rating from one to four. One is a few errors, four is a whopping lie. When Kessler first reviewed this ad he had been told by the AFP that Ms. Boonstra had a Silver individual plan through Blue Cross Blue Shield but they didn’t give details of the actual plan. Still, Kessler was able to expose ‘contradictions’ so he gave Ms. Boonstra two Pinocchios. 

Why? Because Ms. Boonstra not only has a plan that saves her $571 a month, but she keeps that wonderful doctor she found. Kessler discovered also that the Silver plan doesn’t cover out of pocket (OOP) expenses, as her previous plan did, but it puts a cap on them of $6,350. The money she saves comes to $6,852.  Until they reach the cap those OOP expenses are unpredictable; they may be more than $571 a month, they may be less. When the lie that she’s lost her lovely doctor and that she’s going to die was exposed, Ms. Boonstra was forced to resort to saying, in another ad, that the unpredictability is the real problem and it’s making her life a nightmare. It didn’t have as much punch.

But that isn’t the end of the story. The Detroit News subsequently discovered that Ms. Boonstra has a Premier Gold Plan which has an OOP cap of $5,100. So in fact Ms. Boonstra saves $1,200 because of Obamacare. The lovely Ms. Boonstra’s reaction was to say “I don’t believe it”. Blue Cross Shield’s reaction was to say that they are available to help their clients understand policies; clients just have to pick up the phone. 

Kessler reviewed his first rating of the ad and now gives three Pinocchios. The end to this sad tale is that in fact Ms. Boonstra isn’t going to die or to lose her doctor, or lose anything at all  because of Obamacare. In fact she’s going to gain. Is she grateful? Nope. And millions of previously uninsured people are going to gain healthcare, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Many who are as sick or worse than Ms. Boonstra now have a chance at treatment and survival. Many who have previously been bankrupted or whose children have never been able to see a doctor now have medical care.
Not if Ms. Boonstra has anything to say about it, though. The AFP spent $30 million on ads attacking Democrats and Obamacare for the Senate races. The first ad has had over 400 000 views on YouTube and the second has had over 98,000 views.  

The constant Republican warcry that the ACA is unpopular and destroying people’s lives is believed by many because of ads like these. The frightening part of it all is that these believers don’t ask themselves why, if so many people’s lives have been destroyed, doesn’t the AFP show footage of them, and instead chooses to resort to actors and people whose stories can so easily be exposed as lies. The truth is clearly that nobody cares about the truth. 

Republican politicians and their backers and supporters know by now that as soon as they put out anything masquerading as information about Obamacare/ACA it’s going to be rigorously checked. They don't care. They know that they're exploiting an unreasoning, atavistic fear of an African American president. This kind of propaganda works on Republican voters. Last year a Public Policy Polling found that 29% of [polled] Republican primary voters in Louisiana blamed President Obama for the disaster in relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina struck and levees broke. 

Katrina happened in August 2005. Barack Obama took office in 2009.