Read the Fine Print: What “Less Than Expected” Really Means

September 26th, 2013

Today, President Obama continued his push to encourage young people to sign up for Obamacare (which is the only way this whole house of cards can stand) with yet another speech to college students.

Addressing students at Prince George’s Community College, part of his pitch included a phrase you’re hearing a lot lately from administration officials.  Touting a report issued by HHS yesterday, Obama proudly noted that projected premiums for insurance plans in the exchanges are coming in “less than expected.”

As that phrase first enters the aural reaches of your being, initially it sounds quite good.  It’s when that phrase germinates in the cerebral cortex that you run into problems. That’s when you realize that although it sounds like good news it really isn’t.

Basically, the president is actually saying the following:

When many smart people finally had the opportunity to figure out what the Affordable Care Act says, they started crunching numbers on what this whole monstrosity is going to cost.  Initially, they thought the premium costs would be really high.  After reviewing the numbers further, however, it turns out the real numbers aren’t quite as high as those initial frightening projections.

What he won’t tell you is that these new numbers are still higher than what a lot of people are currently paying.

The way the president is approaching this sales pitch isn’t new.  I’ve seen the “less than expected” ploy tried a number of times in many different settings.

For instance, the National Weather Service lives by this phrase.  For a good week, the local weatherman will do his best Chicken Little routine predicting a monsoon is coming or a Category 4 hurricane is on its way.  Rarely, he’s right.  So the monsoon turns into heavy rain which may cause horrendous damage all over town but the “good news” is that the rainfall totals turned out to be “less than expected.”

And that Category 4 hurricane?  It totally fizzled out to Category 2 proportions.  Sure it blew the roof off your house and you’ll be staying at that Motel 6 until the blue tarp arrives, but the good news is that the overall damage was “less than expected.”

Sportscasters also find this to be a useful term.  When the local football team gets beaten by its biggest rival by two touchdowns instead of the predicted four, the easiest way to soften the blow is to announce to the TV audience that at least the beating was “less than expected.”

Doesn’t that make you feel better?

When you really think about it, “less than expected” is a wonderful feel good kind of term.

The problem, of course, is that “less than expected” isn’t necessarily good.  That’s likely true for most people when they start paying premiums and deductibles under their new health insurance plans under Obamacare.

So when you’re writing that monthly premium check, just repeat to yourself these wonderful words, “At least it’s less than expected.”  If you tire of that phrase, you can always call on the other words with a similar meaning but which might be more appropriate for this situation, “Oh well, it could have been worse.”

There now . . . don’t you feel better already?


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