Five Myths about Obamacare The GOP Wants You to Believe, And Why They Are Wrong.

For the past three years, the GOP conservatives have been best known for their destructive tactics in their efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Whether by attempting to kill it in a legislative approach, or damaging its reputation and public image among many Americans who are not well familiar with its anticipated consequences. The law that was passed in 2010 with no single Republican vote, aims to provide 30 million uninsured Americans an access to affordable, quality healthcare, and eventually help the skyrocketing medical costs to cool-off and stabilize. As good as it sounds, the law sparked a controversy among politicians that never ended till this day, facing a major obstructionism, and opposition from the right-wing conservatives who claim the law is “un-American” and “unconstitutional” despite the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law. We have always discussed and criticized the republicans for using their political power as a majority holders in the house of representatives in attempting to repeal the ACA (Obamacare) for 46 times, which every single attempt has failed to do so, even their last standoff when they shutdown the government, costing the taxpayers nearly $24 billion dollars, over defunding the law has made Ted Cruz, the plan’s master, a sore loser.

However, even though the law has survived the GOP in congress, the threat is not over. What Obamacare needs for its success is millions of people signing up for health insurance through the exchange website, mainly young adults and healthy individuals who will help balance the law’s costs with their monthly premiums. The problem here is that the public is overwhelmingly uninformed about the law, and the GOP is taking advantage of this fact by spreading false or exaggerated information and numerous rumors about the healthcare law. The key for Obamacare’s success is informing as much Americans as possible, realizing what is true and what is false about the law. To do so, we need to take a look on what type of false information we hear from the conservatives. So, here is a list of what the GOP loves to hear and say about Obamacare.

First Myth: Americans don’t want Obamacare.

The Republicans’ hostile rhetoric regarding the law is driven from the belief that Obamacare is unpopular among Americans, but is that true?. Well, it is true that more Americans are opposing the law than supporting it as many polls have shown, but those are not the majority. The Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows that 43 percent of Americans oppose the law versus 39 percent who supports it. While 17 percent are either unsure or unfamiliar with the law. This margin is even closer among uninsured Americans as 39 percent support, 35 percent oppose, and 26 percent remain unsure. According to these numbers, we can’t really say that Americans are opposing the healthcare law as we have nearly half of the nation supporting it. Another point that is worth to mention is the fact that other polls find Americans to be overwhelmingly unfamiliar with the law as Gallup poll found that nearly 7 in 10 uninsured Americans are not familiar (%47 are not familiar “at all”)  with the law changes, precisely the exchanges provision. How can we decide and speak for the public’s will against the law, if the public is overly uninformed, and in many cases, misinformed.

Obamacare v.s. Affordable Care Act.

There is one fascinating fact about the public views on the overall law. It seems there is less opposition to the Affordable Care Act than “Obamacare”. A CNN poll found that attaching the president’s name to the law would both increase the opposition and support for the law. While using the law’s official name, the Affordable Care Act would decrease the opposition to only 37 percent and the support to just 22 percent. What about the rest?. Surprisingly, 30 percent of respondents don’t even know what is the Affordable Care Act. The disconnect between what Americans hear and what they actually think does not stop here. When the ACA (Obamacare) provisions are broken down, they are actually popular, way more popular than the whole law, gaining support from a real majority (more than 51 percent). Every provision, except the individual mandate, is quite favorable by the public. The graph here was created by Third Way, to illustrates how Americans really feel toward the ACA. The data are also from the Kaiser Family Foundation poll on March of 2012.

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As it shown here, 11 out of 12 provisions are favorable by at least 51 percent. Expansion of Medicaid is favored by a super-majority of of 70 percent. Yet, almost every Republican-run state refused to expand the Medicaid to their poorest residents. The graph also explains who will be affected the individual mandate, and what portion of the population would be required to purchase a health insurance without any assistance from the government which is only 2 percent. Whenever the term “Obamacare” comes up, people directly think about the individual mandate, and think of it as a large government-run insurance plan that requires everyone in the nation to sign up for, otherwise they would pay a fine. This is not true at all, there is no government-run insurance company, nor there is a government plan, and not everyone is required to pay a fine, people with low income who live in a state that refused to expand Medicaid, and cannot afford affordable insurance rates even after subsidies are exempt from paying the penalty.

Second Myth: Insurance Premiums Will Increase under Obamacare. 

The ACA was designed to help lowering the annual medical costs by enrolling 30 million new customers to health insurance companies, many of them are healthy, young individuals. Also, by creating a sense of competition among the health insurers through the exchange marketplace. However, it is estimated that rates will continue to rise for the coming years, it is not necessarily due to Obamacare provisions, in fact, healthcare premiums have been rising for more than two decades now, way before the Affordable Care Act, reasons can be blamed for inflation, or the profit-motivated market, and covering the medical costs of the millions who are unable/unwilling to pay their medical bills. There is, however, an increase in premiums for one portion of the population, the young adults. The law was designed to raise the young adults premiums –  according to their income – to help lower/balance the costs of older patients who need a constant medical care.

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These two charts shows the average annual increase in premiums throughout the decade. Apparently premiums were skyrocketing each year at a faster rate than the average growth of wages, even before President Obama was elected as a senator from Illinois in 2005, and an entire decade before his presidential inauguration in 2009.

A survey from Kaiser Family Foundation published by the New York Times found the climb in insurance rates for this year were the modest in a decade. An average of 4 percent increase, compared to roughly an average of 10 percent a decade ago. However, the Kaiser Family Foundation stated that its unknown whether the ACA was behind moderate increase or not.

Third Myth: Marketplace glitches indicate the law’s failure. 

Now this is the right-wing’s new favorite. They’ve been citing the website’s technical problems as a failure of the whole law, and an example of the federal government’s “inefficiency”. The website is having a problem, that is a fact, but why did this happen in the first place? Simply, this is what happens when millions of uninsured from states that refused creating their own exchange website flow at the same time to the federal- facilitated website. If this is a sign for anything, then its a sign of long anticipation for the law. Unlike the federal website, the state-run marketplace are a success story. Despite few glitches that were fixed quickly, the websites are fully-operational, Young Progressive Voices have already covered a story on California’s exchange marketplace, discussing the ease of use, and the affordable options for families that could cost as little as $1. In the first week of their launch, from Oct 1 to Oct 5, nearly 28,000 Californians, 41,000 New Yorkers completed their sign-up process despite the glitches. However,  those two very-liberal, Democratic-run states are not the best success story of the law. Surprisingly, the red, bible-belt state of Kentucky is. Yes, the home state of Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, the Tea Party members and strong opponents of the law is seeing its residents sign up in a rate of more than 1,000 application per day, in the first week of open enrollment, about 8,500 Kentuckians have applied, and another 7,000 application that have not been submitted yet. Kentucky is a great reflection of the law’s success, thanks to its Democratic governor, Steve Beshear, who used his political power to fight the GOP controlled state-senate. Kentucky is the only Southern state that expanded medicaid and opened a state-run exchange marketplace.

Fourth Myth: Obama is exempt from the ACA.

Anyone who believes this apparently knows nothing about the law. First of all, people who are already covered through employers are exempt from the individual mandate, or in other words, they have already satisfied the individual mandate requirement since they have a health insurance, and President Obama already has a health insurance through the federal government. Secondly, everyone, including the president, is essentially participated in the ACA. The law has more provisions than just the individual mandate. No one can be denied of coverage for pre-existing condition, children can stay on their parents’ plan up to the age of 26, and preventative care is mostly free. These benefits are applied for all Americans, with no exception.

Fifth Myth: Obamacare is killing jobs and bad for small businesses.

They are so confidant about this scenario that they repeat saying it over and over to frighten the business owners. Not only projecting, but Congressman Rodney Davis from Indiana has actually stated Obamacare is costing Americans jobs, mainly small businesses jobs. Well here is a fact, the business mandate has been delayed to 2015, so businesses with more than 50 employees are not required to purchase a health plane for their employees until 2015. So, companies do not have cut workers’ hours, stop hiring new workers because they have a whole year to figure out how to insure their employees. Also, one provision of the ACA is tax credits for small businesses that provide insurance for their employees, how is that a bad thing? I thought what Republicans care the most about is tax incentives and breaks to businesses.

Moreover, many are claiming the law is hurting the health insurance industry, an industry that is vital in our economy, affecting thousands of jobs. Well, investors always seems to know where the market is heading, if this claim was true, then investors would neglect the healthcare stocks in the market, but instead they are soaring 30 to 40 percent since the healthcare reform was signed into law. If it was a government takeover, a socialist law that is designed to bankrupt the industry, would investors continue buying shares in healthcare companies? What they actually see is a 30 to 40 million extra customers who will gain access to doctors and hospitals, and thus, a booming sector with all the dollars these new customers will bring in.

There are tremendous other lies, myths, and rumors that are circulating the Internet, television, and radio shows. From the death panels to funding abortion and granting illegal immigrants healthcare access.  They might have lost the legislative war, but they are still fighting the law with these rumors. Ironically, during the 16 days of federal government shutdown over the healthcare law, the Republicans approval ratings sunk to record low, while Obamacare’s popularity soared 7 points from its last poll. The uptick in the law’s support comes a week after the open enrollment day, despite the glitches, people might be finally judging the law by what they see, not what they hear.

 

Why Obamacare Is Making Republicans Look Wise Beyond Their Years

During the public debate over health care in 2009 and 2010, no matter how tightly you may have shut your door, there was one piece of information it was impossible to avoid: the president’s promise that if you liked your doctor and your health care plan you would be able to keep it. So it was a surprise to many people to get a letter like the one Independence Blue Cross sent its customers weeks ago. It said that as a result of the Affordable Care Act, “your current plan will be discontinued effective January 1, 2014, and you will need to select a new plan by the end of December to avoid any interruption in coverage.” 

That wasn’t what the president promised. But wait, the president can explain. It’s not what we think. People won’t have the same insurance—they will have better insurance, administration officials assure. That’s not the way some of the people receiving these letters see it. The president’s original promise was so ironclad and repeated so often that any explanation now sounds like dissembling. 

When healthcare.gov launched with the fanfare and success of a North Korean missile, the president insisted that Obamacare was more than a website. The website might be a mess, but the underlying product was sound. Now, it’s Republicans who are using this exact phrase. Like the president, GOP leaders want people to focus on the larger law. You can fix a website, they say, but you can’t improve the law.

What started as a website debacle is growing into a relitigation of the underlying operation. The Affordable Care Act passed with cracks and inconsistencies that are now re-emerging in the context of the website’s bad launch. In some cases that simply gives Republicans new lines of attack. In others, like this argument over keeping your old health care, the failure of the site is weakening the administration’s ability to engage in those old debates. 

The matter at issue here only affects the 5 percent of the population that buys health care in the individual market, compared to the 80 percent who get health care through their companies. The president’s press secretary, Jay Carney pointed this out several times in his daily briefing Tuesday to put the controversy in perspective. “You would think in some of the coverage over the last several days we were talking about 75 percent,” he said. Fair enough, but the president’s claim about keeping coverage was always about more than a sliver of people signing up for Obamacare which is why it has the ability to resonate beyond the audience directly affected by it.

Let’s go back in time. During the debate over the law, the president had a difficult balancing act. He had to argue that the status quo in health care was a disaster while at the same time not threatening the status quo for those people who were happy with their health care or who feared it would get worse under his changes. A CBS poll at the time showed that people were quite afraid that whatever the president did, it would hurt their plans. Sixty-nine percent worried that the ACA would affect the quality of their care. Almost three-quarters thought it would limit their access. There was a lot of pressure on the president to send the message that nothing would change.

In the summer of 2009, the president began to tailor his message to assuage these very people. If you liked what you had, it wasn’t going to change. That was a broad and simplified claim and the press called him on it. The president could never make that promise. He didn’t have the power to keep insurance companies from changing their policies in response to the law. Nevertheless, the president continued to make the claim in the desperate attempt to sell his unpopular plan.

This was a time bomb embedded in the legislation. It might have been mitigated if the website had worked. If it had been humming as administration officials so fervently hoped, there would be no broader context for debates about whether the president is living up to his promises. And in this specific instance, the flourishing of the site might have offered loads of examples of people in that individual market whose plans had only changed for the better. Of course, that’s not what happened.

The president’s message about his signature law has always been: It gets better, I promise. That was always an uphill battle. The benefits of the law were strung out over time, making it harder for people to recognize a payoff. “Trust me” claims clash with people’s mistrust of politicians and government programs. 

When the website doesn’t work and the promises of 2009 and 2010 are revised, questions of credibility infect everything the administration says. This can lead to a death spiral as administration officials make bold assertions to distract from the current challenges. White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted Monday night: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.” Of course the insurance companies wouldn’t have had to change plans if it hadn’t been for Obamacare. This is spinning—which is to be expected from a president’s defender—but its legalistic dissembling that seems particularly weak in light of the president’s initial promises. (It isn’t the only time the administration has claimed a FACT recently about health care that isn’t one).

For congressional Republicans, these credibility challenges help obscure their recent flirtation with utter collapse. It’s not just that Republicans benefit when the president’s signature legislation falters. This debate over his initial claim lends credibility to their longstanding opposition to the law. House Speaker John Boehner’s office quickly provided reporters with a quotation from the GOP weekly radio address from September 2009, delivered by Rep. Tom Price: “On the stump, the president regularly tells Americans that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.’ But if you read the bill, that just isn’t so. For starters, within five years, every health care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage—one that your current plan might not match, even if you like it.” A key critique of the Republican Party’s recent attempt to defund Obamacare was that it was a strategy born of limited vision. They couldn’t see that it was doomed to fail spectacularly. Four years ago, with the Affordable Care Act, they saw this moment coming.

How the Healthcare.gov Failure Will Morph Into Obamacaregate

On Thursday, when contractors who helped build healthcare.gov come back to Congress, you will hear a lot more about CGI Federal. The Canadian-owned company built the website, and in testimony from Sept. 10, it told the skeptical House Energy and Commerce Committee that things were going just great.

Well. In announcing this new hearing, Republicans complained that “[f]or months, administration officials and contractors alike assured committee members that implementation was ‘on track‘ for the October 1 rollout, but the first three weeks of open enrollment have been defined by significant systems failures.” There’s a contradiction here, and there’s a party remaining silent. What do HHS staffers think of the mess? How much did they know before Oct. 1?

If the investigations into Fast and Furious and the IRS scandal tell us anything, the next phase of GOP sleuthing into Obamacare will probably be subpoenas and other requests that produce awkward communication (emails, mostly) from HHS and contractors. There will be lower-level bureaucrats who get caught out for saying the wrong thing, or encouraging others not to say the wrong thing. It’s incredible that HHS et al. built this system for years with nary a leak about possible glitches in the system. 

 

Shutdown Polling Terrible for GOP, as Party Pivots to Obamacare

Those unloved men and women who make up the Republican “establishment” warned against shutting down the government or using the continuing resolution to defund Obamacare. It wasn’t that they were falling madly in love with the socialist takeover of our health care; it was because they expected the rollout of healthcare.gov to turn into a goat rodeo, and they feared a shutdown would distract from this.

They were right. Among the disaster points for Republicans in the latest tranche of the ABC/WaPo poll:

– By a 24-point margin (53–29), voters blame Republicans, not the president, for the shutdown. That’s about even with the numbers vis-à-vis Bill Clinton and Republicans after the last shutdown, although at least the Gingrich-Dole regime had some idea of what policy changes it wanted to win next.

– By an 11-point margin (49–38), voters say they’d prefer to vote for a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2014. Generally speaking, the Democrats need to win the popular vote for the House by 6–8 points if they want to win control. 

– A majority of people, 54 percent, say they agree with Obama and the debt limit should “not be used as a tool in budget negotiations.”

All bad news, but hey, at least the squishes are being proved right. Also in theWashington Post today:

– An editorial tut-tutting the rollout of healthcare.gov, advising that “the administration is not going to restore confidence through secrecy and damage control.”

– A Dana Milbank column mocking the president’s press appearance about same.

– A plaintive item by Greg Sargent arguing that Americans still want to give Obamacare a chance.

Here we go—it’s the debate Republicans should have been having two weeks ago, as they argued that these glitches made the one-year delay of the individual mandate not just popular but necessary.

The “Tea-Tards” Guy and the Failure of Fake Shutdown Outrage

For a few minutes on Tuesday, everybody hated David Roper. The U.S. Army veteran showed up at an Organizing for America rally against the shutdown, an event that wasn’t destined to get a ton of coverage. He unveiled a sign, white type on red, that screamed, “THANKS TEA-TARDS.”

Immediately, he was condemned by the House Disabilities caucus, with Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry insisting that “President Obama needs to call out his supporters at the DNC and OFA for condoning this insensitive and hurtful message during their protest.” Roper called it a non-story.

“I made the sign as a joke,” he wrote in an email. “As I have said (and has been documented on the internet etc) my ‘real’ sign was the one I was holding at the WWII Memorial this morning, which said, ‘VETERANS AGAINST INSANI-TEA.’ The second sign was supposed to be a humorous play on the words ‘Tea Party’ and ‘retards’ and I took it out for a few minutes on the Capitol steps before going home.”

He explained himself with these citations: “It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what?” – Stephen Fry “Do you want me to apologize after every joke? If it doesn’t offend somebody it’s probably not a joke. It’s probably an observation that’s not funny.” – Jeff Ross

Having once indulged in a similar misuse of portmaneau-fu (I ironically used the term “Paultards” to refer to how Fox News covered Ron Paul’s movement), I saw where Roper was coming from. In my mind, he became the last icon of the shutdown’s many, many bouts of false outrage. This ranged from the Republican sputter-and-point at an anonymous quote in the Wall Street Journal to the appearance of a man holding a Confederate flag at Sunday’s rally outside the White House. Roper’s position: Everybody, chill out about these pointless distractions.

“I wasn’t at the White House on Sunday so I don’t know what message [flag guy] was trying to send, but he’s got a right to hold whatever flag he wants. Both of our demonstrations were pretty innocuous yet have been blown out of proportion, so we’ve got that in common I guess.”

But it was all blown out of proportion. That Sunday rally began as a protest against the closure of the World War II Memorial, something that prevented exactly zero veterans from seeing the thing. Republicans, who expected to “win” the shutdown as voters outside D.C. learned that it wasn’t so bad, ended up playing an inside game and hyping day-to-day outrages, day-to-day “piecemeal” bills, to win back the storyline. It didn’t work for Mitt Romney. Why did they think it would work for them?