GOP Exaggerates ‘Obamacare Victim’ Story In State Of The Union Response

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Republicans are taking fire for exaggerating the plight of a woman due to Obamacare in the party’s official State of the Union response, delivered by House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington.

The latest: Democrats are demanding an apology from McMorris Rodgers for “lying” after the local paper Spokesman-Review found inaccuracies and lack of context to the congresswoman’s assertion that the woman, Bette Grenier, faced a premium increase of $700 due to the law.

Here’s the quote from McMorris Rodgers: “Not long ago I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, who hoped the President’s health care law would save her money – but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month. No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but this law is not working.”

It turns out the woman’s premium hike was considerably lower than that, and McMorris Rodgers’ office hadn’t spoken to her directly or validated the claim.

Here’s what happened. Grenier was paying $552 per month for a catastrophic, bare-bones plan that was (like many others) canceled because it didn’t meet Obamacare’s minimum benefits standard. A replacement plan cost $1,200 per month — hence the “nearly $700” hike. But that happened to be one of the more expensive policies, and a cheaper one was available for $1,052 per month. In addition, the 58-year-old Grenier admitted to the Spokesman-Review that she could probably have lowered that figure by $100 if she bought from the state-based Obamacare exchange, but she didn’t want to do that.

“I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all,” Grenier told the paper. “We liked our old plan. It worked for us, but they can’t offer it anymore.”

So a more accurate telling of the story is that Obamacare will force Grenier’s monthly premiums to go up by about $400 and improve her benefits. Still a lot of money, but much less than $700, and that extra money will protect her in the event of illness from cost increases and prohibit her insurer from throwing her off her plan. And so the Democratic Party pounced.

“Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers owes the nation an apology for lying in her Republican response to the State of the Union this week, and spreading more misinformation to Americans about their health care options,” said Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

McMorris Rodgers didn’t flinch.

“It’s sad partisan politicians are attacking Bette, whose premiums would’ve skyrocketed,” she said in a statement post on Twitter. “Bette and millions more are being hurt by this law.”

Her spokesman, Nate Hodson, told TPM that McMorris Rodgers’ comment in her State of the Union response simply reflected the information that Grenier provided.

“Bette proactively reached out to the office,” he said, “and the Congresswoman’s description of her premium increase was consistent with the information she gave us. She liked her plan, was told she could no longer keep it, and the alternative was significantly more expensive. Her story is one of hundreds the Congresswoman has heard from her constituents in Eastern WA who are being harmed by the President’s health care law. It is unfortunate Bette is being attacked because of her story.”

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