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Obamacare exchange, truth or fiction? Part 2

Hoekstra_Blog_picIt seems there are fish stories on both sides of the Affordable Health Care Act’s exchange saga.

I wrote a few days ago about an online fish tale of Obamacare proportions – a person who claimed he successfully applied for health insurance in a state exchange, only to find out that the penalty for not signing up would be 10 times his income, a driver’s license suspended, a lien placed on the home and other torments.

With help from the government’s own website, a little elementary school math, and Google, it was not difficult to conclude the story was concocted to put the entire health coverage program in a bad light.

Now, it appears we’ve got a similar tale on the other side, this time from a real person.

As noted by yours truly and Bloomberg’s Megan McCardle, it seems no one was able to successfully sign up, including network television and newspaper reporters  (one of which was directed to a vacant building).

That is, until Chad Henderson emerged from the exchange ether. He’s a 21-year old college student and part-time day-care worker who reportedly got himself and his father signed up for an exchange “bronze” plan  (the tier with the lowest premium cost and highest cost-sharing). His boasted of his success on his Facebook page:

I’ve now been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post,Chattanooga Times Free Press, The Huffington Post, Enroll America, and POLITICO!! Those stories will be published in the coming days. I have a press conference call with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services later tonight. Also, local folks . . . my interview with Kimberly Barbour Wrcb-tv will be aired TONIGHT at 5:30pm on WRCB Channel 3 Eyewitness News so be sure to check it out thanks for all your support!

Ms. McCardle and a close associate dug deeper than the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, et al, and discovered his story, like the one I discussed, did not quite add up. In addition to some squishy premium calculations based on the income reported by Henderson, there’s a little matter of chronology:

In the run-up, many reports said that the exchanges were going live at 8 a.m. on Tuesday — how was it that the only person anyone could find who had bought insurance managed to get in five hours early? Not impossible — the servers could have been brought up early, or the reports could have been wrong — but lots of people had been trying to log in starting at midnight, and no one else had gotten through. Yet Henderson had apparently created not one but two accounts. And why, if he had gotten insurance at 3 a.m., did he wait more than half a day to tweet about it?

Leaving aside the reports that among his political rabble-rousing for Democrats, he was also a former Obama campaign volunteer, and it’s pretty clear Henderson had a pretty good motive for fabricating such a story: From the second the exchanges went live, the Obama administration has been lambasted for their unpreparedness and dysfunction by the media, a public relations horror for a prickly White House mostly unused to such treatment.

While it is good to see such a bad fish tale sniffed out, it is just as shameful some of the nation’s elite media folks took the smelly bait.

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