February 21, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Facts presented by Dexter cancer patient in anti-Obamacare ad inconsistent

Washington— A new Americans for Prosperity television ad highlighting a Michigan cancer patient who is critical of Rep. Gary Peters is making representations that aren’t consistent with what she told The Detroit News three weeks ago in an interview.

The $750,000 anti-Obamacare ad launched this week in Michigan features Dexter’s Julie Boonstra, a leukemia patient who received a cancellation notice last year from her health insurer. It’s the most emotional attack ad yet against Senate candidate Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, as Boonstra implies Peters’ vote in favor of the health care law threatens her life.

“Now, the out-of-pocket costs are so high, it’s unaffordable,” Boonstra, 49, says in the ad. “If I do not receive my medication, I will die.”

The Detroit News interviewed Boonstra Jan. 28 when she was the guest of Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Tipton at the State of the Union address in Washington. The one-minute ad makes no mention that Boonstra successfully enrolled in a new Blue Cross plan where she’s able to retain her University of Michigan oncologist and continues to receive the life-saving oral chemotherapy.

The ad also does not mention that Boonstra’s health care premiums were cut in half when she enrolled in a new Blue Cross plan, to $571 a month from $1,100. The new plan, however, increases out-of-pocket costs, such as doctor’s visits going from $20 to $50, she told The News.

Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said he stands by the ad’s claim that Boonstra’s new plan is “unaffordable.”

“If you look at the script and she says they’re so high they are unaffordable and we know the out-of-pocket costs are not what they were — by definition they were almost nonexistent in the old policy. We feel very comfortable with that,” Phillips told The News.

Phillips declined to offer documentation on the costs, citing privacy concerns. Boonstra wasn’t available for an interview Wednesday or Thursday with The News. Phillips and AFP spokesman Levi Russell said the out-of-pocket costs are unpredictable now for Boonstra and it’s fair to highlight that uncertainty even though the overall cost of the health care plan may be less.

At least one fact-checking organization is crying foul. The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave the ad two out of four Pinocchios.

Reasoning: The savings alone from the premium is $6,348 for Boonstra. Plus, Obamacare caps out-of-pocket costs for individual plans at $6,350, so feasibly Boonstra would be paying at most $2 more this year for her health plan.

“It is one thing to say there are higher out-of-pocket costs ... but another to assume that those higher costs are not offset in some way by the significantly lower premium,” fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote. “The reality is that eventually Boonstra will hit the maximum and no longer pay anything. So over the course of the year, the difference in the costs could well even out.”

Boonstra clarified on Fox News Thursday night the new plan is unaffordable because she cannot control her monthly expenses like she could previously.

“It suited it me better,” Boonstra said of her old high-premium plan. “I do not care for not knowing what my expenses will be month to month.”

Boonstra was one of an estimated 225,000 Michiganians who were notified last year their insurance would be discontinued for not meeting new Affordable Care Act standards. Boonstra says she felt betrayed by President Barack Obama’s pledge that if you like your health plan, you can keep it.

During an interview in Walberg’s office, Boonstra was frustrated about having to give up the plan she liked. She said she was panicked her former plan would be lost and rattled by the process of finding a new one — including the problems with the healthcare.gov website. She expressed less concern about the overall cost of the new plan.

Boonstra said then she believed investing in her health care is important, which is why she chose the high-premium plan that carried no out-of-pocket cost for chemotherapy. Boonstra told The News she wasn’t clear how much her overall costs would compare with last year’s, but she was preparing to pay more under the new plan.

“I just want my plan back, I really do,” Boonstra said at the time. “It was extremely expensive and there are things as far as oral chemotherapies that need to be done to reduce the cost. ... But I was covered and I made having a great health plan a priority for me and that was taken away from me.”

mschultz@detroitnews.com
(202) 662-8736

The $750,000 anti-Obamacare ad launched this week in Michigan features Dexter's Julie Boonstra, a leukemia patient who received a cancellation notice last year from her health insurer. / Youtube