The chatter continues today about the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity’s misleading anti-Obamacare ads. But there’s another dimension to this story that deserves more attention: While AFP is spending huge sums of cash on ads that hype or even invent stories about the law’s supposed victims, the group is actively working to block health coverage under Obamacare from reaching untold numbers of real people.
This is now unfolding in two states: Nebraska and Louisiana, where the question of whether the states will accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars to cover their residents under the Affordable Care Act remains unresolved.
In Nebraska, a GOP lawmaker is trying to move forward with a plan that could expand coverage to over 50,000 people who fall into the “Medicaid gap,” over the opposition of the state’s GOP governor. Proponents argue beneficiaries would get private insurance and would pay up a bit in premiums — conservative tweaks apparently designed to achieve some distance from hated Obamacare — while bringing in federal dollars that would increase the state’s health and help local hospitals and the economy. Passage is in doubt, but it’s not over yet.
The Dem group Americans United for Change announced today that it is launching radio ads pressuring Nebraska state legislators to agree to the expansion, which will get a vote soon. Expanding coverage in a deep red state would be a win for the law — and this battle will draw more attention in coming days.
Meanwhile, the Nebraska chapter of Americans for Prosperity opposes the expansion, as part of a broader campaign to block it in states where an expansion still remains possible. AFP’s Louisiana chapter is pressuring state lawmakers there to oppose that state’s Medicaid expansion, which will be debated by state legislators this spring and could expand coverage to as many as 300,000 people — ensuring that the expansion gets even more attention in the midst of a fiercely competitive Senate race.
The key point is that here’s an area where AFP’s activities can actually prevent Obamacare’s benefits from reaching large numbers of real people. Repeal will remain out of reach even if AFP succeeds in helping secure GOP control of the Senate. But the fates of the Medicaid expansion in Nebraska and Louisiana actually are up in the air. There are two interlocking parts to this anti-Obamacare campaign: Even as AFP is running a massive, multi-state ad campaign populated by Obamacare victims whose stories are hyped, distorted, or even played by actors, it is doing everything possible to block positive stories about the law helping people from ever coming into being.
This neatly captures the real dimensions of the GOP’s broader strategy, which is explicitly about gathering as many horror stories as possible, whether real or fake — and certainly there are real victims here, though for some reason Republicans continue to mainly push hyped and distorted tales — while pretending that the untold numbers of people benefitting from the law simply don’t exist.
* OBAMACARE STORIES KEEP FALLING APART: Paul Krugman runs through all the ways the Obamacare “horror stories” being pushed by AFP and Republicans keep turning out to be bogus, and offers this explanation for why opponents can’t seem to find real horror stories:
The most likely answer is that the true losers from Obamacare generally aren’t very sympathetic. For the most part, they’re either very affluent people affected by the special taxes that help finance reform, or at least moderately well-off young men in very good health who can no longer buy cheap, minimalist plans. Neither group would play well in tear-jerker ads.
No, what the right wants are struggling average Americans, preferably women, facing financial devastation from health reform. So those are the tales they’re telling, even though they haven’t been able to come up with any real examples.
Meanwhile, AFP and its allies are making it known that any factual scrutiny of their ads will get you accused of insensitivity to Obamacare’s victims.
* WHY IT’S HARD TO GAUGE OBAMACARE’S SUCCESS: Politico’s David Nather has a fair piece that explains the technical reasons why it is hard to tally up just how many people are gaining coverage due to Obamacare, and runa through all of what we know so far about potential indicators of how well the law is working and what we may know in a few months and how.
The big story here, as always, is that it’s going to take time to reach any real conclusions about its performance. Opponents of the law, of course, will continue to insist the law is already a failure, even as they rage at the Obama administration for not supplying them with the numbers necessary to render an actual judgment along these lines.
Relatedly, Glenn Kessler catches Obama inflating the number of people who have been helped by the Medicaid expansion.
* MITCH McCONNELL UNDER FIRE FROM RIGHT: ABC News reports that Mitch McConnell’s Tea Party challenger, Matt Bevin, is airing a new ad slamming the Senate GOP leader for agreeing to raise the debt limit, which he falsely claims constitutes giving Obama a “blank check.” As always, it’s amusing to watch McConnell wrestling with a monster he helped do so much to create.
The key questions are whether Bevin’s challenge can gain real traction — it appears very unlikely — or if it doesn’t, whether these attacks will weaken McConnell in the general election by depressing conservative turnout.
* BILL CLINTON TO PLAY BIG ROLE IN KENTUCKY: Philip Rucker looks at the big role the former president will play in the Kentucky Senate race, and notes this interesting factoid:
During Bill Clinton’s first-inaugural festivities, a 14-year-old girl from Kentucky presented the new president with an honorary bouquet of red roses at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. Two decades later, that girl, Alison Lundergan Grimes, is a candidate to become Kentucky’s first female senator. And Clinton — an uncle figure whom Grimes counts as a friend, mentor and adviser — is playing a starring role in her campaign and will appear at a sold-out Grimes fundraiser Tuesday.
* OBAMA SHOULD DO MORE, NOT LESS, BY EXECUTIVE ACTION: E.J. Dionne makes the case that if anything, Obama has done little on this front by historical standards, and given the realities of GOP obstructionism, he should be thinking bigger.
* MEDICAID EXPANSION ON BALLOT THIS FALL? Dylan Scott reports that Dems are working to get the Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Louisiana and in Montana, partly in hopes of boosting turnout among core Dem groups that tend not to come out in midterms. This will be key to watch. It’s another way in which the Medicaid expansion has taken on a political life of its own, aside from Obamacare overall, even in red states.
* STILL MORE ANTI-OBAMACARE ADS: The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that Americans for Prosperity is up with still more ads targeting House Dems in the state with stories of two real people who claimed to have lost coverage due to Obamacare. There is no indication from the story whether these victims were made available for interviews so their stories could be subjected to factual scrutiny.
* AND THE AFP’S SCAM IS EXPOSED: Related to my lead item above, an important point from Brian Beutler: The cancer victim at the heart of the controversy over Americans for Prosperity’s much-discussed ad in Michigan could actually be worse off if the ACA is repealed:
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, this woman is saving about $6,350 this year on premiums, which coincidentally is the most an insurance company can require an individual beneficiary to pay annually in out-of-pocket expenses. In other words, the worst-case financial outcome for her is a total wash. Almost to the dollar. But that doesn’t account for everything else the law has put in place to protect her from past insurance company practices, which will ultimately redound both to her personal and financial health…Now take the Affordable Care Act away. All of those stabilizing mechanisms disappear…There’s no guarantee that our hypothetical patient’s old healthcare plan will be available to her anymore.