Misleading Seattle Times Headline Spins Obamacare Win into Obamacare Fail

Oh no! “Insurers propose up to 26% increase in health-plan rates,” the headline on the front page of the Seattle Times website warns. Goddamn Obamacare ruining everything! Except, read the actual article and…

The proposed rate changes range from a decrease of 6.8 percent — from Molina Healthcare of Washington — to an increase of 26 percent from Time Insurance, a national company with relatively few Washington policyholders.

Most rate-change requests, particularly from larger insurers, were in the middle ground, with most asking for increases from about 2 to about 11 percent.

To anyone who has had individual insurance, premium increases are not surprising: Records show that, on average, insurers have proposed rate increases for individual plans from about 9 percent to more than 18 percent every year from 2007 to 2013.

So that one 26 percent rate hike proposal was an outlier—almost double the next highest request—that affects few Washingtonians, while the average rate hike request is actually lower than that during the previous six years! Yay for Obamacare! But you wouldn’t know that from the incredibly biased and misleading heading.

I mean, they could’ve written their headline to read “Insurers propose up to 6.8% cut in health-plan rates,” and been just as accurate. But they didn’t.

This is actually a really important election year story. Republicans have been looking to the rate hike requests as an election year opportunity to spin Obamacare into a disaster for consumers. But if the rate hike requests are actually coming in lower than in previous years, then that is at least preliminary evidence that the exchanges are pulling in enough healthy Americans to balance the costs.

So thanks, Seattle Times editors, for attempting to spin relatively good news on one of the first post-Obamacare rate hike requests into an anti-Obamacare national headline.

UPDATE: So how do other headline writers interpret the news? “A Washington State Health Insurer Plans to Cut Rates in 2015,” declares the Wall Street Journal, taking the opposite (and arguably sexier) spin. Pretty embarrassing for the Seattle Times.

UPDATE, UPDATE: As Richard points out in the comment thread, the editors updated the article at 10:35 am, changing the headline to the far more neutral: “Most state health insurers seek rate boost: Proposals compared.” Score another victory for Seattle Times Voluntary Ombudsman David Goldstein!


  1. 1

    Travis Bickle spews:

    I was unable to determine whether any changes in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses were factored into these increases, or whether that is a separate calculation. Any one know?

  2. 3

    czechsaaz spews:

    I’m just curious how this free market thingy works. if you have two companies offering the exact same item with the exact same quality and company A decides to raise their price %26 and company B doesn’t, other than people with a particularly rabid sense of brand loyalty, what does the free market theory suggest will happen to customers of company A?

    Why isn’t the government stepping in and stopping company A from doing whatever the hell they want. I mean, that’s what Obamacare is all about right? Controlling the medical industry and death panels and killing consumer choice? I thought we were all pissed about this government takeover and price setting thing.

  3. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The fact the Republican Times is “biased and misleading” isn’t incredible anymore. Most of us are used to it.

  4. 5

    Lack Thereof spews:

    That’s never been included in the calculations. But insurers can’t do too much cost-shifting by those methods any more, now that the out-of-pocket maximum is limited to no higher than $6350/$12700 individual/family across the board.

  5. 6

    Richard Pope spews:

    It was a headline editor problem, I would think. Thanks to Goldy’s constructive criticism, the headline was modified at 10:35 a.m. to read:

    “Most state health insurers seek rate boost: Proposals compared”

    With a synopsis of:

    “Proposed rate changes for 2015 individual health plans are all over the map, but most companies are keeping up with tradition by requesting increases in premiums.”


  6. 7

    Piddles spews:

    This website is terrible now. I can’t find my way around. For I am a conservative and when I see change I get scared. Even if the whole HA community likes it I do not and if you don’t agree with me, the whole country is being run by socialist and we’re doomed if we don’t go back.

  7. 9

    Dave spews:

    Obamacare? What Obamacare?… I thought the website problems caused Obamacare to fail? Just like Obama’s economic policies have worsened the free-falling economic catastrophe of 2008.

    Speaking of websites: I’ve been trying to book tickets on the American Airlines website the past few days and have been encountering “Internal Server Error” messages all over the place–even just viewing the main page. I guess they’re having problems on the backend getting their servers working with the servers of their merger buddy, USAirways.

    Too bad the “new” American Airlines has proven to be an abject failure. I guess it’s time to dismantle their counters at the airports and sell-off their airplanes.

    Hmm… Ticket prices have increased recently too. I wonder… Damned ObamaAIR!!

  8. 10

    phil spews:

    I see Group Health is in the lead again for shafting their customers with increases. So much for it being a co-operative, it’s just another insurance company now.

  9. 11


    @10 As some one who recently bought a Group Health policy through the exchange, I can attest that I did so because they offered the best value in terms of deductible for the price of the premium on a silver plan. In general, those plans that started with higher prices have requested smaller rate hikes. There was a lot of educated guessing that went into pricing the 2014 rates.

  10. 12

    Dave spews:

    Hehe… The American Airlines website finally has a banner across the top proclaiming:

    We are experiencing temporary technical issues which may impact your ability to login or complete your reservation. Please try back later or for immediate assistance, please contact AA Reservations.

    Seriously! Slow website, “Internal Error” pages, and if I want to sign-up for a ticket, I’ve gotta use the phone…

    Sound familiar?

    I can’t wait to turn-on Fox News to hear the reporting on this failed company, their failed policies, and their socialist CEO.

  11. 14

    correctnotright spews:

    This just means that republicans will have to run on:
    The recently passed Immigration bill (oops, take that back)
    Climate change (oops, deny that one)
    Their own health care plan (oops, that does not exist)
    The republican jobs bill (oops, no such thing)
    Benghazi (24 hours a day – ’cause there ain’t nuthin’ else)