December 31, 2013

A crucial GOP line of attack against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that millions of people will supposedly lose coverage thanks to shifting requirements on the health insurance exchanges — a flagrant violation of President Obama’s infamous “if you like your plan, you can keep it” proclamation. The truth has always been more complicated, of course. Republicans are constantly blurring the line between people who lose a plan and people who lose coverage. That is, many people might lose a particular insurance plan but immediately be presented with other options.

Fliers promoting the Get Covered Illinois health insurance marketplace sit in a box at the Bureau County Health Department offices in Princeton, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. Today’s deadline for Americans to sign up for Obamacare health coverage effective Jan. 1 was extended until midnight tomorrow as heavy traffic to the online enrollment system caused a queuing system to be activated Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Fliers promoting the Get Covered Illinois health insurance marketplace. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

Now, a new report from the minority staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has destroyed the foundation of that particular GOP claim. It projects that only 10,000 people will lose coverage because of the ACA and be unable to regain it — or in other words, 0.2 percent of the oft-cited 5 million cancellations statistic.

The report starts with an assumption that 4.7 million will receive cancellation notices about their 2013 plan. (Notably it doesn’t endorse that figure, just takes it on for the sake of argument.) But of those, who will get a new plan?

  • According to the report, half of the 4.7 million will have the option to renew their 2013 plans, thanks to an administrative fix this year.
  • Of the remaining 2.35 million individuals, 1.4 million should be eligible for tax credits through the marketplaces or Medicaid, according to the report.
  • Of the remaining 950,000 individuals, fewer than 10,000 people in 18 counties will lack access to an affordable catastrophic plan.

“This new report shows that people will get the health insurance coverage they need, contrary to the dire predictions of Republicans,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the ranking committee member.  “Millions of American families are already benefiting from the law.”

The report is somewhat speculative, of course, since there is no central repository of data on the individual health insurance market. But the methods are clear, and the onus is now on Republicans to explain why it isn’t true.

As we’ve noted, Republicans have had an awful hard time finding people who completely lost coverage because of the ACA. (Think of the man who starred in Americans for Prosperity ads last week and whose story still hasn’t been fully explained.) Perhaps it’s because there just aren’t that many of them.

Of course, there’s no doubt that for those 10,000 people, the health-care law left them worse off than before. And by no means is the rocky political ride over for Democrats — back-end problems still present a serious threat to implementation. But as is sadly too often the case, the arguments made by Republicans simply lack a firm factual basis — and deserve much more scrutiny that they’ve received in many sectors of the mainstream press.

This is my final post filling in for Greg at Plum Line. It’s been a real pleasure. You can follow my regular blog at The Nation here, and follow me on Twitter @gzornick.