According to the saying, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. To that list can be added the unceasing criticism of the Affordable Care Act by those who hate it and plot its demise. They declared the law a train wreck before the train even left the station.
Now the wolves smell blood, and no wonder. The rollout of the law was disastrous, with millions of Americans unable to enroll on a flawed website. Then came the cancellation of policies of those in the individual market — a small fraction of the whole, but still a blow to the credibility of President Barack Obama, who had promised that people could keep their old policies.
Despite what the critics say, these early troubles do not mean that the Affordable Care Act is intrinsically broken. If Americans give the law a fair chance, its advantages ought to become apparent — that is, if the propaganda against the law ever stops.
There’s little chance of that. From the beginning, critics said that death panels and rationing loomed. They said it was socialism and government health care, even though the law deliberately stayed away from a single-payer system and included private insurers.
Propaganda cuts its opponents no breaks — and propaganda is precisely the word for it. But a Republican memo which serves as a blueprint to sabotage the law surfaced in a news report last week and is now public knowledge.
Born of closed-door strategy sessions in mid-October, the memo outlines a series of GOP talking points that emphasize using anecdotal horror stories from people adversely affected by the new law — and never mind that few people have been able to log on to the exchanges and that some previous stories of this sort have been debunked.
Of course, some people will have to pay more, although the poorest will qualify for a subsidy and generally the coverage will be better. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, this month put a section on his website that solicits constituent comments. Although he has featured only negative feedback in the section so far, he says he is seeking all views.
The problem with propaganda based on anecdotes is that the big picture is bound to be lacking. The Affordable Care Act is designed to cover some 30 million uninsured Americans. In the old system, health care premiums went up steeply year after year and one of the biggest reasons for personal bankruptcies was medical emergencies.
So why don’t Republicans work instead on fixing the health care act? Why don’t they move toward the center and draw the Democrats into the kind of congressional collaboration that has been all too lacking in Washington?
Any party can focus on saying no, but pretending that equates to doing the people’s business is the biggest lie of all.