Today, officials from the major insurance companies are set to testify before House Republicans, and it looks as if they will make it clear that the latest GOP attack on Obamacare is a crock.
House Republicans, you will recall, recently released a report claiming only 67 percent of enrollees had paid their Obamacare premiums. This was widely hyped by the law’s opponents: All these claims that the law is on track just have to be cooked! But the insurers themselves are set to testify today that here in the real world, 80-90 percent of people have paid:
As many as 90 percent of WellPoint customers have paid their first premium by its due date, according to testimony the company prepared for a congressional hearing today. For Aetna, the payment is in the “low to mid-80 percent range,” the company said in its own testimony. Health Care Service Corp., which operates Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states including Texas, said that number is at least 83 percent. [...]
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee invited insurers to testify on enrollment after publishing a report last week claiming only two-thirds of people who signed up had paid their first premium.
“That was just foolishness on the part of the committee to even publish that number because it was completely out of context,” Bob Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant in Alexandria, Virginia, said in a phone interview.
That last quote is interesting, because Laszewski is an Obamacare skeptic, yet he’s charging Republicans with “foolishness” for trying to make a political point with the 67 percent number (it only tallied up payments through April 15th).
The question, is, how many of those who madly hyped the 67 percent report as the latest evidence that the law’s proponents are covering up catastrophic failure – the ACA just can’t work, because it just can’t — will even acknowledge the very existence of today’s insurance industry testimony?
By the way, Republicans are raising an absolutely legitimate point when they ask what percentage of people have paid premiums. Because it’s true that the enrollment numbers by themselves don’t tell us too much. Not only is there the total who paid; the sign-up numbers also don’t tell us much about the law’s long term prospects, which turn on the demographic mix and the success of the individual exchanges. They also don’t tell us how many people previously had insurance; various metrics suggest the ranks of the uninsured are shrinking, but we simply cannot know yet by how much. And some uncertainty remains about the industry’s latest payment-rate claims, too.
But the point is that many Obamacare proponents acknowledge these uncertainties. And they acknowledge that some people are getting harmed by the law; they just argue that the trade-offs are worth it. By contrast, as Jonathan Cohn details, ACA opponents frequently don’t bother engaging with empirical evidence that it may be working (how many will engage with today’s insurance industry testimony?) or that it may be helping lots of people. Many foes remain in thrall to an October 2013 storyline — the emotional pull of that glorious moment of Obamacare reckoning last fall apparently remains very powerful — in which the law’s only impact has been to create an enormous victim class.
* MORE BOGUS OBAMACARE VICTIMOLOGY: Here are two more examples of this. Glenn Kessler takes apart a particularly silly Rand Paul claim: In Kentucky, the number of people who lost insurance due to Obamacare is 40 times higher than the number who gained coverage. But even better, Kessler also notes the sad case of GOP Rep. Lee Terry of Nebraska, who continues to run an ad featuring an Obamacare victim, even though it has since emerged that the woman in question did not, in fact, lose her coverage. Kessler comments:
Given the circumstances, her tale of woe from November seems rather out of date. Indeed, one has to ask: Isn’t there any other “victim” in Nebraska?
Good question. It’s the Incredible Shrinking Obamacare Sob Story, once again. Also: Can we move on from last fall, already? (links fixed)
* TILLIS CRUISES TO VICTORY IN NORTH CAROLINA: State House speaker Thom Tillis easily surpassed the 40 percent he needed to avoid a runoff, suggesting the GOP establishment may have more successes ahead in blocking the Tea Party from saddling the party with unelectable general election candidates. He wasted no time in tying Kay Hagan to Obamacare, which should mean (theoretically at least) more scrutiny will now fall on his own absurd gyrations on the issue.
Even if this outcome was expected, Republicans caught a big break in avoiding a runoff — Tillis now has six months to train all his fire on Hagan.
* HAGAN GEARS UP TO FACE TILLIS: Meanwhile, Hagan’s campaign is out with a memo making the broad case against Tillis, citing his opposition to a minimum wage hike, his harsh anti-middle-class fiscal policies on the state level, and various ethical travails as evidence that he is not the sterling general election candidate Republicans think he is.
Because of the sharp rightward turn of state government in North Carolina, this race will provide a stark contrast in priorities in a state whose demographics are shifting.
* TILLIS IS NOT A MODERATE: The Charlotte Observer has a tough editorial running through all the ways that Tillis is not a moderate by any reasonable measure, and noting that this presents him with a dilemma for the general election:
Among the stances and accomplishments of which he’s most proud: Denying federally funded Medicaid to a half-million North Carolinians; helping pass a discriminatory constitutional amendment that was instantly on shaky legal ground; passing one of the most voter-unfriendly laws in the nation; and cutting taxes by more than $2 billion while giving teachers not a penny in raises. His House passed a bill to let people carry guns in bars and another that put tough restrictions on legal abortions. He said…climate change was not a fact, there should be no federal minimum wage and the Department of Education should be abolished.
As Steve Benen puts it, Tillis
would immediately become one of the Senate most right-wing members if elected, but in his primary, he was nevertheless perceived as the “mainstream” GOP candidate backed by the party establishment. What was once the fringe element of the party is now simply the party itself.
* DEMS SLAM PLANNED BENGHAZI PROBE: House Republicans yesterday announced that the new select Benghazi committee will have seven Republicans and five Dems, and Dem leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are out with a new letter ripping the planned committee as rigged:
“If you truly want this new select committee to be bipartisan and fair — and to be taken seriously by the American people — we call on you to reconsider this approach before bringing this measure to the House floor for a vote,” Pelosi and Hoyer wrote.
Still uncertain: Whether Dems will go through with boycotting the committee if and when Republicans don’t reconsider.
* BENGHAZI CARRIES RISKS FOR REPUBLICANS: Politico spells it out:
The risks for House Republicans are numerous — especially in the middle of an election year in which they’re all but certain to expand their majority in the House and have a real chance of taking control of the Senate. The panel could overreach, underperform or degenerate into the partisan witch hunt that [John] Boehner so desperately wants to avoid. Other scandals that seemed to be gold for the GOP, such as the IRS debacle, fell into this trap. Furthermore, there’s no clear sense of what Republicans expect they will learn from the investigation.
As Politico also notes, though, this shows Republicans are willing to talk about a topic other than Obamacare. Progress!
* AND OBAMACARE DERANGEMENT SYNDROME IS IMPERVIOUS TO FACTS: Jonathan Chait offers a very useful guide to all of the specific predictions of doom for the law that have now turned out to be factually falsifiable, and concludes:
I am not asking opponents of the law to abandon their philosophical opposition to national health insurance. I am not even asking them to concede that the law is certain to work generally as intended. They still have many predictions of doom that cannot be falsified for years and years to come. And some parts of the law will continue to go wrong, just as the launch of the website did. But if they truly believe the arguments they have made — that the law not only should not but cannot work — shouldn’t they be expressing, at minimum, some serious doubts?
No, because the fallback position is that Obamacare cannot work by definition.