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!