Too Good to Check? Obamacare Poster Boy Has Not Purchased Anything

(UPDATE: See Chad's response to Washington Post's Sarah Kliff at the end of this post.) If what Reason's Peter Suderman is reporting is correct — and he certainly appears to have done the kind of digging you would expect conscientious journalists to do — the establishment press's lionization of Chad Henderson the Fantabulous Obamacare Enrollee is about to fall apart.

Suderman spoke at length with Chad Henderson's father, Bill Henderson, and uncovered a litany of contradictions, inconsistencies, and what should have been red flags to journalists who apparently decided that the story was too good to check (links are in original; bolds are mine):


... (Chad) Henderson, a 21-year-old student and part-time child-care worker who lives in Georgia and says that he successfully enrolled himself and his father Bill in insurance plans via the online exchange administered at healthcare.gov.

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But in an exclusive phone interview this morning with Reason, Chad's father Bill contradicted virtually every major detail of the story the media can't get enough of. What's more, some of the details that Chad has released are also at odds with published rate schedules and how Obamacare officials say the enrollment system works.

The coverage of Chad Henderson has been massive. He was featured in The Washington Post Thursday as “the Obamacare enrollee that tons of reporters are calling.” He was also profiled in The Huffington Post as someone who “beat the glitches to sign up for Obamacare.” He was interviewed by Politico, multiple local news organizations, and, according to his Facebook feed, was asked to be part of a conference call hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Chad's story was tweeted out by the official Obamacare Twitter feed.  It was promoted to the media by Enroll America, a health-care activist group headed by a former White House communications staffer, as a sign of Obamacare’s success.

... Henderson’s story was promoted as proof that the new health law can work for individuals. That was exactly how Chad intended it. He was a volunteer with President Obama’s campaign last year, and his LinkedIn page still lists him as an active volunteer with Organizing for Action, the former campaign organization which now advocates for the president’s legislative agenda.

... Bill Henderson told me that both he and his son were interested in getting coverage, but that he had not enrolled in any plan yet, and to his knowledge, neither had his son. He also said that when they do enroll, getting the most coverage for the least money would be the goal, and that he expects that he and his son will get coverage under the same plan.

... Other details from Chad’s story were also difficult to verify. He said his premium was unsubsidized, and cost around $175 a month for the cheapest Bronze coverage plan available. He told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he got his coverage through Blue Cross Blue Shield. But the cheapest unsubsidized Bronze exchange plan at Blue Cross Blue Shield’s online Quick Quote system offers for a 21-year-old in Flintstone, Georgia is $225.09 a month.

Additionally, Chad could not have purchased a separate plan for his father from his own login to HealthCare.gov, the website for the federal exchanges. A customer assistance representative on HealthCare.gov’s LiveChat system told me that purchasing separate plans for a son and a father in Georgia would require two separate logins. Which means that Chad would have had to successfully create two different accounts, and complete enrollment twice, at a time when almost no one was able to get through on the system.

Well, I guess our good buddy Chad could just have a bad memory and could have entered his father's information in separately without his permission. Last time I checked, that's a form of identity theft. Apparently admitting to that is a necessary condition for his story holding up.

Chad Henderson has apparently been a major spotlight-seeker. At 1:24 p.m., Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post, home of Janet Cooke, the Pulitzer Prize winner of made-up stories, questioned the story's legitimacy, called Chad "Obamacare's celebrity enrollee," and noted that "Either somebody is lying, or the Henderson family needs to work on its communication skills." That's not a good sign, bud.

Hopefully celebrity Chad will be available to answer all the questions the too-good-to-check press hasn't been interested in asking to this point.

How about doing the work you guys should have done in the first place?

UPDATE: Part of Sarah Kliff's WaPo update:

Update: I spoke with Chad over the phone about this situation. He told me that he has indeed not purchased coverage but doesn't believe he was lying. He said he told reporters that he completed an application for coverage and knows what plan he would like to purchase, but has not, as of yet, enrolled in that insurance plan.

Chad Henderson: Here’s my response. Most reporters, I’m not calling anyone out especially you, they haven't had access to the web site. They weren't very clear as to how the process went. Most people have no understanding that it’s a two step process. One is you fill out an application. It sends you a notification received successfully.

The next step is comparing the prices, comparing all the plans. And that’s when you purchase the plan. I said I enrolled in the marketplace. I never said I chose a specific plan. But the number I gave you, the $175 or $200 or whatever, that is the plan I am choosing. My dad is choosing a different plan. So, enrollment meant that my application was sent and approved. That’s what I meant by enrollment. I have not purchased a specific plan. That’s what’s confusing people.

So setting up a profile while not buying anything is the same as "enrolling." Sure, guy.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.