By Paul Chesser
HE LIKES IT: Mark Bearden is rging his fellow citizens to sign up at Healthcare.go.
An email message sent out Friday by the White House warned of the impending March 31 deadline to enroll in Obamacare for 2014 health insurance coverage, and highlighted support from an unusual source: A registered Republican who said he is not a fan of the president.
The endorsement claimed to come from “staunch Republican” and “self-proclaimed Fox News addict” Mark Bearden, a retired psychologist living in Monroe, NC, a town about 20 miles southeast of Charlotte. Urging his fellow citizens to sign up at Healthcare.gov, Bearden explained his personal health situation and the changes in his insurance under the new law.
“I’m a chemotherapy patient, and was previously paying $428 a month for my health coverage,” read the message that attributed authorship to Bearden. “I was not thrilled when it was cancelled.
“Then I submitted an application at Healthcare.gov. I looked at my options. And I signed up for a plan for $62 a month.”
Conservatives around the country immediately were suspicious of the message’s origins and authorship, especially since it originated from the White House. But Bearden is a registered Republican, according to the State Board of Elections, which shows that has been the case since March 2005. He voted a GOP ballot in the primary elections of 2008, 2010, and 2012, and voted in each of the even-numbered years’ general elections of 2006 through 2012, plus the 2011 election. Odd-numbered years only feature municipal races in North Carolina.
And Bearden validated his role in the message’s creation, if not entirely its wording. He wrote a fairly thorough explanation of his experience in corresponding with the president, how he heard back from him, and then worked with the administration on the message that was emailed last week. Bearden posted the account on his Facebook page, but since the weekend he either deleted the post or moved it under stricter privacy settings.
“Months ago I wrote President Obama letting him know I am a staunch Republican, never voted for him, lost my insurance because of Obamacare,” Bearden explained in his Facebook post on Thursday, March 27. “I went through the nightmare signing up for the healthcare plan.
“But I finally got through and got incredible insurance at an incredible price,” he continued. “Though not a fan of him, I am so happy with the Affordable Care Act. It works.”
Bearden then wrote that he received a phone call in response to his letter to the White House.
“It was President Barack Obama…,” Bearden wrote. “He asked if he could use my letter in the Healthcare.gov website and a television commercial. Of course I agreed.”
Bearden explained that the executive to the president emailed him asking to go over details of the letter that would be used for the Obamacare promotion, “so she can forward a final draft to the president.” Thus began the editorial process, which Bearden recounted in subsequent Facebook entries:
- “I just got off the phone with the White House with a first draft of my letter which I made changes to,” he wrote at 7:10 in the evening on March 27. “And they also warned me that I may become a target whether positive or negative to the media.”
- “…Final draft has been sent to the president for approval,” Bearden wrote at 7:51 p.m. “There were three changes that we agreed upon. None changing my view on the president which is not positive. Just minor wording. I am supposed to get a call back from the White House in the morning sometime.”
- “…Going back and forth with the staff at the White House by email and phone,” he informed a Facebook friend at 12:19 a.m. on Friday, March 28.
The White House email that was sent, and Bearden himself, endured sharp criticism and biting mockery from both the author and hundreds of commenters at the Ace of Spades HQ weblog. Many ridiculed the fact that Bearden was identified as a “Fox News addict,” arguing that only a progressive trying to “think like a conservative” would use such a superficial characterization.
“A conservative would say something like: ‘I’m a genuine conservative who believes in unleashing the power of the individual to make his own choices and own fate as his conscience and talent might dictate…,” contended “Ace,” the site’s main blogger. “What would a progressive say, if he were trying to ‘think like a Republican?’…What he’d say is ‘I’m a Fox News addict.’ He would make his Krazy Konservative Kredentials on the basis of a trivial consumer choice….
“If you asked me to write down ten things that make me a conservative, Fox News would not be on the list.”
Certainly a “staunch Republican” doesn’t necessarily mean “conservative,” and political ideology isn’t always what motivates voters about their choices. In the case of Bearden, his explanation sounds like a plausible economic choice in which he is paying only 14 percent of the monthly premium he would have paid under his previous plan. If, as he explained, he is a chemotherapy patient, then his glee – despite his politics – would be understandable.
However, while his insurance premiums may be cause for joy, there are several other factors that Bearden may have overlooked, according to Katherine Restrepo, a health care policy analyst for the free-market John Locke Foundation, based in Raleigh. She said Bearden may discover some unpleasant aspects such as losing his network, his doctor, or the access he wants. She also noted that many specialty prescription drugs – especially for cancers – are not covered.
“You can’t just take the premiums at face value,” she said.
An effort to reach Bearden via Facebook message was not returned. But despite his happiness with the outcome, the episode did reveal negatives that have been the subject of criticism from President Obama’s political opponents: Bearden’s insurance was cancelled because of Obamacare, and he “went through the nightmare” of signing up at Healthcare.gov. As the deadline struck Monday, thousands more who tried to enroll ran into delays and blockades at the government’s Web site.
But perhaps the strongest disparagement of Obamacare came from one of Bearden’s friends, who commented on his Facebook posts about his White House experience.
“What an amazing experience, Mark!” the friend wrote. “We however are that population in the country who were not able to keep their current insurance. Our rates increased $600 per month with a $12,000 deductible. We are NOT happy.
“Oh, but as grandparents we now have the required maternity coverage and pediatric dentistry!”