A losing battle in defense of Obamacare

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"Obamacare is on a winning streak,” wrote Sam Baker in the National Journal April 16, the day the administration claimed 8 million people have signed up for it.

Good news is “snowballing,” he said. “Enrollment has surged beyond expectations. Costs are coming in lower than predicted.”

The fact that enrollment has exceeded the goal of 7.1 million the administration set last fall means the debate over Obamacare is “over,” President Barack Obama said.

There are three rules of thumb for evaluating things politicians say to which journalists ought to pay more heed:

When a politician proclaims debate on an issue “over,” what he means is his side is losing it. The president wants to change the subject because Obamacare is killing Democrats.

Of 50 Democrats in competitive races surveyed by The Hill newspaper, only 11 mention the healthcare law on their campaign web sites; half don’t mention it at all.

No one has been more effusive in his praise for Obamacare than Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich, who is running for the Senate.

“I actually got the bill, and the more I read it, the more I liked it,” he told an audience in Harrisville last August.

Now that he trails Republican Terri Lynn Land in polls and fundraising, Mr. Peters is waffling.

“The law is not perfect,” he says. “You have to go back and constantly refine it.”

Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., is running an ad which claims, falsely, the leading GOP candidate supports Obamacare too.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., got snippy with a caller on a radio talk show who complained his health insurance premium has doubled, his deductible tripled.

“There’s a lot of misinformation about what’s happening with the health care law,” Ms. Shaheen said. She should know. She told constituents Obamacare would lower health insurance premiums.

If a politician has to lie to make his case, it isn’t as strong as he claims it is.

The 8 million figure is bogus. To actually be insured, the first month’s premium must be paid. Around 20 percent of those who’ve filled out forms haven’t, industry experts estimate. The gap may be larger. Only 59 percent of applicants in South Carolina and 49 percent in Georgia have paid their premiums.

There is a 2.7 million gap between the national signup number and the enrollment numbers HHS provides for each state, Investor’s Business Daily noted.

To subsidize insurance for those older and sicker, so-called “young invincibles” must comprise at least 39 percent of the Obamacare risk pool.

Thirty-five percent of enrollees are “under age 35,” the president said. This was an effort to deceive, because not many kids under 18 will be paying health insurance premiums. Only 28 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34.

Politicians don’t conceal good news.

How many of those who’ve signed up for Obamacare had health insurance before? The administration says it doesn’t know. The government ought to — and probably does — know this and many other pertinent facts it says it doesn’t. The inability or unwillingness of the administration to supply hard data to back up its claims should be a red flag.

(Only 27 percent who signed up for personal insurance policies were previously uninsured, according to a McKinsey & Co. survey in March.)

To regard the overall signup number — whatever it is — as a sign of Obamacare’s popularity is preposterous.

Nearly 5 million Americans have had their insurance policies canceled because of Obamacare. Forced to choose between a lousy policy that costs too much, and no health insurance, many chose to buy the lousy policy. That doesn’t mean they’re happy about it.

It is beyond preposterous to declare debate “over” on a law whose most controversial provisions — the personal and employer mandates — have yet to be implemented.

Two “seismic jolts” have been delivered in midterm elections for the House of Representatives in the last 30 years — the 54 seat gain in 1994 that gave Republicans control of the House for the first time in many years, and the 63-seat GOP gain in 2010.

The “pivot point” for the 1994 takeover engineered by Newt Gingrich was opposition to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plan to nationalize health care, recalled Rich Galen, who’d been Mr. Gingrich’s press secretary.

The key to the 63-seat Republican gain in 2010 was opposition to Obamacare.

Democrats and their allies in news media know this, which is why they are trying so desperately to change the subject.

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (jkelly@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1476).


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