I first became interested in Massachusetts Healthcare Statistics when I read a claim something along these lines:
“individual premiums decreased 40% in Massachusetts after Romnyecare.”
It was in a column by Ezra Klein of the Washington Post in December 2010 (about half way through the linked article). Or it was in a similar column by David Leonhardt of the New York Times (about 15th paragraph down), I can't remember which. I would have thought any reasonable non-Massachusetts-based journalist, pretending some knowledge of the healthcare insurance debate in the United States, would ask:
“If (individual) healthcare premiums went down at all (not to mention went down 40%) after Romneycare, how come people are not dancing in the streets in Massachusetts given what is happening to insurance rates where I live?”
It turns out that the source of the Klein/Leonhardt claim is a memo from Jonathan Gruber -- an MIT professor and self-proclaimed architect of Romneycare -- that was released in November 2009. Gruber’s 2009 memo seems to be the unquestioned source for the journalists. The journalists, plus the author of numerous factcheck.org-like Democratic Party white papers, did not independently deal with or analyze the source of Gruber's claim.
That's what you get for your $1.00/day newspaper today. Unfortunately Gruber's source is the flawed 2007 and 2009 research from the American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) trade association that I blogged about in Feb. 2011. What a tangled web we... It certainly appears that Klein depended on Gruber, Leonhardt depended on Klein. But what Gruber wrote in the 2009 memo – and hundreds of other places -- is strange because he must have been aware of
- the seminal Gorman report on this subject commissioned by the State of Massachusetts in 2006 – because of his board membership on the Massachusetts Healthcare Connector Authority – and
- the implications of the 2009 AHIP report’s warning about interpreting its data in context with the “Massachusetts merged market.” Both tell the story behind the story.
I think the “40% decrease” claim is the trifecta of Romneycare deceit: it’s irrelevant, misleading, and not true as well as being irrelevant and misleading. But I’ve beat that horse to death. Even WaPo, has stopped using the 40% claim, publishing more misleading data the week of April 9, 2012. Now WaPo simply shows premiums for people buying insurance individually in Massachusetts flat before and after RomneyCare kicked in. Of course that does not take into account Massachusetts insurance premium rating system but none of these propagandists/journalists are ever going to let the facts get in their way.
-- Dennis Byron