NPR story on ACA frustration doesn’t add up

There’s something not right at all about this morning’s NPR story from Texas in which a Texas family dropped their Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance because not a single one of the 28 obstetricians in their area “took Obamacare.”

  1. Listen Frustrated By The Affordable Care Act, One Family Opts Out

    May 27, 2014

“It was mind numbing,” Rachel Robinson, 30 weeks pregnant, tells NPR, “because I was just sitting there thinking, ‘I’m paying close to $400 a month just for me to have insurance that doesn’t even work. So what am I paying for?'”

“The United States government has set this up. It’s this whole big deal; there are commercials everywhere saying we need to use this. And they’re just saying, ‘No, no, no,’ and that just made me so mad!” her husband, Nick said.

But then there’s this part of the story that goes unexplained:

Louis Adams, a spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, says he went down that same list a month after Rachel had checked. He says most of the 28 obstetricians do take the HMO insurance.

“We’re committed to helping our new members understand how to get the most from their coverage, and also [are] working with doctors and hospitals to inform them of the range of coverage options we have available,” Adams says.

So someone is either misinterpreting what they were told 28 times, or someone is withholding important details for some other reason.

What could the story be? A commenter fills in the possible blanks the story should’ve covered.

At 30 weeks she would be lucky to find a doctor that would see her as a new patient. Did she not have any form of regular checkups in the first 75% of her pregnancy? She wants a “personal relationship” with a doctor that couldn’t possibly plan for any sort of eventuality after only seeing her for the final 5-10 weeks of her 40 week pregnancy? That is pushing it anywhere. She didn’t like the rotating doctor staff but neglects to realize after already having two children that the likelihood of actually getting the one doctor you’ve been seeing is 50/50 at best. Perhaps it’s a Texas thing but when people make these sorts of bad decisions in a place where the government does not like the working poor it makes me think the entire thing is made up.

These stories get portrayed — as this one did — as a systemic failure. But there are far too many questions that weren’t asked for such a conclusion. At the least, the reporter should’ve talked to the doctors involved.

It’s a good story for the NPR ombudsman to investigate how it got past the NPR editors.