Jessica Sanford and the Power of Math

Jessica SanfordDanny Westneat wrote a most amazing article over at The Seattle Times, Debunking Obamacare Sob Story. It is about Jessica Sanford, a single mother who has gone 15 years without health insurance. She was able to get it for just $169 per month and the administration used her as an example of an Obamacare success story. And then things went wrong.

The state made a mistake calculating her income and the insurance was going to cost more. But really, not that much more. It was going to cost her $237 for a “bronze” plan for herself and $30 for full coverage for her son. That’s a total of $267, or $98 more per month. That’s a shame, but for a woman making almost $50,000 per year, it doesn’t seem unreasonable. Regardless, Sanford now says she can’t afford insurance.

Of course, this caused the right wing press to go absolutely crazy. Rush Limbaugh published, Another Lie: The Story of Jessica Sanford. And you can well imagine the rest. But here’s the thing: the numbers don’t back up the story that Sanford is being harmed.

Sanford’s son suffers from ADHD and she spends $250 per month on medication for him. That medication should be covered by his $30 policy. So Jessica Sanford should have to pay only:

$237 + $30 – $250 = $17

It could be that the new plan will not pay all of the cost of the medication, but even if it pays 50%, her insurance will be only $142. Or it could be that she is exaggerating about what she now pays for medication. Or it could be that the only way she thinks she can afford insurance is if the government pays her $81 per month ($169 – $250).

But I think the most likely case is that she just hasn’t thought about the savings that the insurance will provide. The whole thing is very frustrating because we hear about these terrible injustices in Obamacare. They are widely reported. And when everything is factored in, people end up with at least reasonable deals. But that isn’t reported. And for an old scientist like me, I don’t appreciate the whole anecdote game anyway. But if we are going to talk anecdotes, we should at least be sure they are true.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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