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Obamacare exchange: Truth or fiction?

OCare_Welcome_ScreenWith the online launch of the Obamacare Health Insurance exchanges, HealthCare.gov, this week came a predictable flurry of news stories about signup problems.

It seems hardly anyone was able to sign up thanks to a host of technical glitches. News folks on CNN and MSNBC documented their unsuccessful efforts, revealing how unprepared the system is despite three years of preparation.

One person, however, did it. And related the entire experience in an online post:

I actually made it through this morning at 8:00 A.M. I have a preexisting condition (Type 1 Diabetes) and my income base was 45K-55K annually I chose tier 2 “Silver Plan” and my monthly premiums came out to $597.00 with $13,988 yearly deductible!!! There is NO POSSIBLE way that I can afford this so I “opt-out” and chose to continue along with no insurance. I received an email tonight at 5:00 P.M. informing me that my fine would be $4,037 and could be attached to my yearly income tax return. Then you make it to the “REPERCUSSIONS PORTION” for “non-payment” of yearly fine. First, your drivers license will be suspended until paid, and if you go 24 consecutive months with “Non-Payment” and you happen to be a home owner, you will have a federal tax lien placed on your home. You can agree to give your bank information so that they can easy “Automatically withdraw” your “penalties” weekly, bi-weekly or monthly! This by no means is “Free” or even “Affordable.”

Given that I’m no a fan of Obamacare – and I have an 11 year old who, like this person, also has Type 1 Diabetes – I wished to spread the story. However, my journalistic instincts took over and I set out to find  the original post.

A quick Google search finds the anecdote spread like wildfire, copied and posted in the comment sections of the Healthcare.gov facebook page, Hot Air, Free Republic and Breitbart.com.  But after an hour and a half, I could still not find an original, much less an author. Which left me thinking one of two things happened:

1) The anecdote is real, was originally posted somewhere, but was subsequently yanked down in order to protect the “good name” of Obamacare.

2) The anecdote is fake and an effort to ruin the “good name” of Obamacare.

A little more research revealed that whoever wrote the post got the math wrong. According to the government’s own website, the fine for not buying insurance is one percent of annual income. This would be in the $440-$550 range, not $4037 as this person claims. Even if the author plugged in 2016, the penalty is still a much lower,  2.5 percent of income.

Unless someone can steer me to the originator of this post, I’m going with scenario #2.

Kathy Hoekstra
Kathy is Senior Manager for Communications for an employee education advocacy organization. Prior stints include media relations for a political consulting company, former presidential candidate Herman Cain and a Michigan think tank. She also spent 15 years as an radio and television news anchor and reporter. Kathy graduated from the University of Michigan, is a lifelong Michigan resident and calls Saginaw County home. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter at @Khoekstra