Obamacare

GOP Attacks On Obamacare Fizzle In Key Senate Races

Mvknygyrjyzjksu2u2cv

AP Photo / Evan Vucci

TPM LiveWire

Since the law’s botched rollout last fall, Republicans have been licking their chops over the prospect of riding Obamacare failures to victory in the 2014 elections. But now that the law has recovered and is providing insurance coverage to millions of Americans, issue ads involving the health care law are slowly disappearing in key states like North Carolina, Louisiana and Arkansas.

In North Carolina, Obamacare was mentioned in 54 percent of issue ads in April; it fell to 27 percent in July, per data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

In Louisiana, Obamacare fell to 41 percent of top five issue ads in July; in Arkansas it dropped to 23 percent, according to CMAG. The issue dominated the airwaves in both states in April.

Democrats in these Republican-leaning states — Sens. Kay Hagan (NC), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Mark Pryor (AR) all of whom voted for Obamacare — are considered among the most vulnerable this fall. That remains the case whether or not the law is an effective weapon for Republicans. But even as Democratic senators refrain from touting it, due to its unpopularity with conservative voters, Republican strategists are realizing that the issue won’t carry them to victory in the midterm elections.

GOP’s George Costanza moment: The “Moops” doctrine and the war on Obamacare

GOP's George Costanza moment: The "Moops" doctrine and the war on Obamacare

John Boehner, Jason Alexander as George Costanza on “Seinfeld” (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/NBC)

Salon

Republicans gloat over an Obamacare court case that poached its legal reasoning from “Seinfeld.” No joke…

The DC Circuit Court’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell came down yesterday, and in an anticipated but no less galling turn of events, a pair of Republican-appointed judges ruled that a single poorly worded snippet of the Affordable Care Act invalidates subsidies for people who purchased health coverage through the federal exchanges. Those exchanges were set up for the 36 states that declined to build their own exchanges, so the practical effect of the ruling would be to make health insurance more expensive for roughly 4.6 million people spread out across some of the country’s poorest states.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act point out that, the sloppily written language notwithstanding, the full text of the law clearly indicates that its drafters intended for the government to subsidize health plans purchased through the federal exchanges. These two judges, however, argued that a narrow reading of one out-of-context sliver of the bill trumps all, and ruled in favor of eviscerating the ACA and causing massive chaos in the insurance market. It’s the sort of thing that conservatives used to denounce as “judicial activism.” (A separate rulingyesterday from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the legality of the subsidies.)

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best characterize and/or mock the legal reasoning at play behind the Halbig decision, and I think it can be boiled down to one word: Moops.

I’m referring, of course, to George Costanza’s famous game of Trivial Pursuit against the Bubble Boy, in which Costanza tries to cheat his way out of losing by taking advantage of a misprint on the answer card: “Moops” instead of “Moors.”

“That’s not ‘Moops,’ you jerk. It’s Moors. It’s a misprint,” the Bubble Boy explains, accurately presenting the game manufacturer’s intent in spite of the minor technical error.

“I’m sorry, the card says ‘Moops’,  Costanza replies, adopting an absurdly narrow and nonsensical interpretation of the rules that furthers his own interests. It’s a pretty good match on the logic, and the happy coincidence that the situation pits a whiny, lying jerk against a person in need of substantial medical care only bolsters its relevance.

And that gets to the larger point: conservatives and Republicans are celebrating the fact that two judges indulged in some tortured legal logic in order to deny millions of people the subsidies that make their health plans affordable. The plaintiffs’ case in Halbig is a transparent attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and the people cheering on that sabotage are signaling that they’re fine with a whole lot of collateral damage just so long as Obamacare takes a hit too.

That’s a morally dubious position to maintain. It’s also a tough sell politically. For a Republican politician in a red state, refusing to set up a state-based exchange was an easy choice to make – you could be on the right side of argument politically, and the feds would step in to make sure that no one in the state would miss out on the benefits. But if the subsidies were to disappear, those same politicians would suddenly find themselves in the position of having to actually do something to mitigate the damage. Brian Beutler writes at the New Republic:

If you’re a Republican senator from a purple Healthcare.gov state—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and others—you’ll be under tremendous pressure to pass the legislative fix. If you’re a Republican governor in any Healthcare.gov state, many thousands of your constituents will expect you to both pressure Congress to fix the problem, and prepare to launch your own exchange.

But because the ruling dealt with Obamacare, and because Republicans are ideologically bound to be in opposition to the law, there was no shortage of GOP legislators putting out statements supporting the Halbig ruling and, in effect, higher health costs and reduced access to health care. Some of them, like Ted Cruz, just put it right out there and said hooray for the end of “insidious” healthcare tax credits: “This decision restores power to Congress and to the people and if properly enforced, should shield citizens from Obamacare’s insidious penalties, mandates, and subsidies.”

Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that didn’t make any actual sense. “Today’s ruling is also further proof that President Obama’s health care law is completely unworkable.  It cannot be fixed,” Boehner said, referring to a law that could be easily fixed by a small legislative tweak and is actually doing a pretty good job of providing health insurance subsidies. “Republicans remain committed to repealing the law and replacing it with solutions that will lower health care costs and protect American jobs,” Boehner continued, gliding right past the fact that the Republican Obamacare replacement “solutions” don’t actually exist.

The bottom line is that there are millions of people are newly and affordably insured courtesy of the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits, and they are generally happy with your coverage. And Republicans are celebrating that they could lose it all because two judges ruled that the card does, in fact, say “Moops.”

BREAKING: Two Republican Judges Order Obamacare Defunded

Ted Cruz |CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALEX BRANDON

Did the Tea Party finally find two lower court judges to sign these orders?  Do they know that millions of people could lose Obamacare.  Do they even care?  The good news about this is that the appeals court is unlikely to uphold their decision…

Think Progress

Near the end of 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led a final crusade to defund the Affordable Care Act, eventually announcing on the Senate floor that “I intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare, I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to stand.” Cruz did succeed in goading his fellow Republicans into shutting down the federal government, but his effort was ultimately doomed. The American people’s elected representatives voted not to defund Obamacare, and the shutdown ended.

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal.

Ted Cruz is undoubtedly smiling today. Two unelected Republicans just voted to erase his most embarrassing and most public defeat, and they voted to take away millions of Americans health care in the process.

Meet The Republicans

It’s important to understand just who these two Republicans are. Judge Randolph is a staunchly conservative judge who spent much of the oral argument in this case acting as an advocate for the anti-Obamacare side. Randolph complained, just a few weeks before President Obama would announce that the Affordable Care Act had overshot its enrollment goal, that the launch of the Affordable Care Act was “an unmitigated disaster” and that its costs “have gone sky-high.” At one point, Randolph also cut off Judge Harry Edwards, the sole Democratic appointee on the panel, to cite an editorial published by the conservativeInvestor’s Business Daily to prove the argument that Obamacare should be defunded.

The Investor’s Business Daily is not known as a particularly reliable source on health policy. In 2009, for example, it published an editorial arguing that Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who is an Englishman from the United Kingdom, “wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”

Judge Griffith has a reputation as a more moderate judge, but it is not clear that this reputation is deserved. In 2012, Griffith’s colleague, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, published a concurring opinion suggesting that all labor, business or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect. “America’s cowboy capitalism,” Brown claimed, “was long ago disarmed by a democratic process increasingly dominated by powerful groups with economic interests antithetical to competitors and consumers. And the courts, from which the victims of burdensome regulation sought protection, have been negotiating the terms of surrender since the 1930s.” Later in her opinion, Brown suggested that the Court went off the rails when it “decided economic liberty was not a fundamental constitutional right.” In the early Twentieth Century, conservative justices relied on ideas of “economic liberty” that were discarded in the 1930s in order to strike down laws protecting workers’ right to organize, laws ensuring a minimum wage and laws prohibiting employers from overworking their employees.

Griffith did not join Brown’s opinion, but his explanation for why he did not do so is instructive — “[a]lthough by no means unsympathetic to [Brown's] criticism nor critical of [her] choice to express [her] perspective, I am reluctant to set forth my own views on the wisdom of such a broad area of the Supreme Court’s settled jurisprudence that was not challenged by the petitioner.” So Griffith is “sympathetic” to Brown’s argument that much of the Twentieth Century is unconstitutional, but he did not want to join her opinion because the arguments she made were not raised by the parties in that case. Halbig, by contrast, presented Griffith with a much more direct attack on supposedly “burdensome regulation” brought by the forces of “cowboy capitalism.”

Punishing Millions For A Proofreading Error

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

The Supreme Court of the United States, however, has long recognized that a law’s clear purpose should not be defeated due to an error in proofreading. As the Court explained in 2007, “a reviewing court should not confine itself to examining a particular statutory provision in isolation” as the “meaning—or ambiguity—of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context.” It is indeed true that a single phrase of the Affordable Care Act, if read in isolation, suggests that Congress intended only state-run exchanges — as opposed to federal exchanges — to offer subsidies, but this provision is contradicted by numerous other provisions of the law.

One provision of the Affordable Care Act, for example, indicates that any “exchange” shall be an “entity that is established by a State” — language which indicates that federally run exchanges will be deemed to be “established by a state.” This may seem counter-intuitive, but Congress has the power to define the words that it uses in any way that it wants, even if those words are defined in ways that are unusual. Another provision of the law provides that, when a state elects not to run an exchange, the Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall . . . establish and operate such Exchange within the State and the Secretary shall take such actions as are necessary to implement such other requirements.” Thus, the law not only authorizes the Secretary to stand in the state’s shoes when it runs an exchange, it also empowers her to implement the law’s “other requirements.”

Nor is this is the full extent of the problems with Randolph and Griffith’s conclusion. Indeed, in order to accept their decision, a person reading the Affordable Care Act must ignore the following facts:

  • The subtitle of the Affordable Care Act which contains the provisions at issue in this case is titled “Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans.” If Randolph and Griffith are correct, Congress would have named that subtitle “Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans Except For Those Americans Who Live In States With Federally-Run Exchanges.”
  • The Affordable Care Act says that it will “achieve[] near-universal coverage.” If Randolph and Griffith are correct, Congress would have said that Obamacare “achieves near-universal coverage except in states with federally-run exchanges.”
  • An amendment to the Affordable Care Act requires the federally-run exchanges to report various information that they would only be able to report if they were providing subsidies, such as whether taxpayers received an “advance payment of such credit”; information needed to determine individuals’ “eligibility for, and the amount of, such credit”; and “[i]nformation necessary to determine whether a taxpayer has received excess advance payments.” Congress would not have imposed this reporting requirements if they thought that the federal exchanges would not offer subsidies.
  • The Affordable Care Act also provides that the only people who are qualified to purchase insurance at all on a federally-run exchange are people who “reside[] in the State that established the Exchange.” Thus, if federally-run exchanges are not deemed to be “established by the State,” that means that no one at all is allowed to purchase health insurance on the federally-run exchanges, and there would be no purpose whatsoever to their existence. As the trial court explained in this very case, this interpretation makes no sense, because “courts presume that Congress has used its scarce legislative time to enact statutes that have some legal consequence.”

Shifting Positions

Virtually no one, apparently including at least one of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit, actually believes that these propositions are true. Indeed, as the government points out in its brief, one of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit also was a plaintiff in the last lawsuit seeking to gut Obamacare, the challenge to the individual mandate that was rejected by the Supreme Court. In that lawsuit, this plaintiff argued that the subsidies were an integral part of every exchange’s’ very design — “[w]ithout the subsidies driving demand within the exchanges, insurance companies would have absolutely no reason to offer their products through exchanges, where they are subject to far greater restrictions.” Now, however, he expects the courts to believe that these subsidies were entirely optional, and that Congress intended federally-run exchanges to get along without them. Notably, the exact same lawyer represented this plaintiff when he made both of these mutually exclusive claims.

The unsuccessful legal argument claiming that the individual mandate was unconstitutional was a major prong of the Republican attack on the law as early as 2009. Yet, even after the GOP decided that defeating Obamacare in court was their number one policy priority, afterRepublican officials in numerous states brought a high-profile lawsuit seeking to kill this law, and after they hired one of the best lawyers in the country to drive this litigation, no one noticed the alleged flaw in the statute that Randolph and Griffith rely upon today. The reason why is obvious. Not even the many Republican officials who filed briefs seeking to kill this law the first time around actually believed that the law was intended to deny subsidies to people who buy insurance in federal exchanges.

To get around this fact, Randolph and Griffith spin an alternative history of the Affordable Care Act’s passage. A major prong of this alternative history claims that Congress wanted to deny subsidies to people in states with federally-run exchanges because that that would provide states with an incentive to start their own exchange — in Randolph and Griffith’s words, Congress “us[ed] subsidies as an incentive to gain states’ cooperation.” Thus, in this narrative, Congress viewed getting states to run exchanges as an all-encompassing goal, trumping even the law’s stated goals of providing “Affordable Coverage Choices for AllAmericans” and achieving “near-universal coverage.” Needless to say, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Congress actually viewed the administrative question of which set of government bureaucrats would run a particular state’s exchange as a question of such superseding importance that they were willing to deny health coverage to millions of people in order to ensure that the right set of bureaucrats run the exchanges in each state.

An Opinion That Kills

Should Randolph and Griffith’s decision be upheld on appeal, which, for reasons explained below, is unlikely, it would send destructive shockwaves through much of the American health care system. As ThinkProgress previously explained, suddenly removing federal subsidies from insurance markets that expect them to continue being paid would force health insurers to jack up their premiums in order to cover their costs. Higher premiums, however, would cause many healthy individuals to drop their coverage. Which will force insurers to raise their premiums even more, which will cause even more individuals to lose their coverage. Indeed, according to a brief filed by several economists, the resulting death spiral would render insurance “unaffordable for more than 99 percent of the families and individuals eligible for subsidies” within the federal exchanges.

This economic problem exposes yet another flaw in Randolph and Griffith’s opinion. In order to accept their reasoning, one has to believe that Congress buried a hidden time bomb within the arcane provisions of the Affordable Care Act that, when it detonated, would render much of the act a nullity. As the economists explain in their brief, Randolph and Griffith’s decision presumes that “Congress sought to legislate into existence a massive new social program that it understood would immediately fail.”

So Randolph and Griffith’s opinion would be comic if its result were not so tragic. And make no mistake, if this opinion is upheld on appeal, it will be a tragedy. According to one Harvard study, nearly 45,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 died in a single year because they lacked health insurance. Randolph and Griffith’s decision would ensure that many of these deaths resume. That’s tens of thousands of wives who will never hold their husbands again, and tens of thousands of fathers who will never kiss their daughters again, all because two unelected Republicans hunted through an ocean of language indicating that Congress intended to end these needless deaths in order to find a single piece of flotsam suggesting that the law should be defunded.

This is not how judges typically behave in a democracy. And it is not a decision that is rooted either in Congress’ intentions or in Supreme Court precedent.

An Opinion That Is Unlikely To Survive

We live in interesting times. And we live in times where judges and justices can not longer be expected to rely on established law, especially when they are presented to an opportunity toundermine Obamacare. Nevertheless, there are several reasons to be optimistic that Randolph and Griffith attempt to defund Obamacare will not survive contact with a higher authority.

For starters, under the Supreme Court’s Chevron Doctrine, courts typically defer to a federal agency’s reading of a law so long as “the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.” Randolph and Griffith get around this doctrine by claiming that the law “the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance” purchased on state-run exchanges.

If you truly believe that the only possible interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s language is the one adopted by Randolph and Griffith on Tuesday, then you may want to go back to the top of this article and start reading it all over again. In any event, two federal judges previously concluded that Obamacare is unambiguous in the other direction — that is, it unambiguously offers subsidies to people who purchase insurance through federal exchanges. That alone demonstrates that, even if the law isn’t completely clear, its meaning is at least uncertain enough that the courts should defer to the agency’s reading underChevron.

More importantly, Randolph and Griffith’s own colleagues are unlikely to allow this opinion to stand for long. The federal government may now appeal this decision to the full United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where Democrats enjoy a 7-4 majority among the court’s active judges. It is unlikely, to say the least, that a Democratic bench will strike down President Obama’s primary legislative accomplishment based on the highly doubtful reasoning contained in Randolph and Griffith’s opinion.

Should the full DC Circuit intervene, of course, their decision can ultimately be appealed to the GOP-controlled Supreme Court. But we’ve already seen this story play out once before. The last time conservative lawyers brought a case to the Supreme Court seeking to gut Obamacare, Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold the bulk of the law.

Roberts cast this vote a year-and-a-half before much of the law would actually be implemented, meaning that, if he had chosen to struck down the law then, he would have been able to do so at a time when the constituency for upholding the law was relatively small. Now, however, millions of Americans stand to lose their health insurance if Roberts signs on to Randolph and Griffith’s reasoning — and Roberts would be personally responsible for the subsequent loss of health coverage and needless deaths that would result. If Roberts was unwilling to trash the law at a time when the impact would have been relatively small, it is unlikely that he will do so under circumstances that are likely to inspire the masses to storm his castle while wielding pitchforks.

 

Ted Cruz calls to repeal ‘every blessed word of Obamacare’

Sen. Ted Cruz addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, La., May 31, 2014.

Sen. Ted Cruz addresses the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, La., May 31, 2014. Bill Haber/AP 

Did this idiot not get the memo?  It’s working around the country.

Only those states which refused the Medicaid Expansion are having problems with their chronically ill poor people dying, which is a travesty in and of itself…

MSNBC

“Today, liberty is under assault,” declared conservative firebrand Ted Cruz before an adoring audience Friday at the Republican Party of Texas State Convention.

The GOP senator and Tea Party darling left virtually no red meat unthrown, calling for a return to the Constitution – “the most extraordinary document crafted in history” – a resurrection of American leadership abroad – where “bullies and tyrants are laughing at [us]” – and a rebuilding of jobs and economic growth at home, through adhering to free market principles, supporting “the American energy renaissance,” abolishing the Internal Revenue Service, and repealing “every blessed word of Obamacare.”

On the subject of the Constitution, Cruz declared that religious liberty was under fire, and blasted the recent controversy over the IRS’s alleged targeting of conservative groups that applied for nonprofit status. In one instance, an Iowa-based anti-abortion group was asked to provide information about its members’ prayer meetings, according to documents sent by an IRS official to the organization.

“You know what, the federal government has no business asking any American the content of our prayers!” said Cruz to roaring applause.

The Texas senator also touched on a high-profile federal case, in which the Colorado-based Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged is suing the Obama administration over an accommodation under the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance cover contraception without a co-pay. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court affirmed a compromise that allows the religious nonprofit to sign a form certifying its objection to contraception, before sending it to an insurer who can then provide the coverage directly.

“Let me give you a simple rule of thumb,” said Cruz. “If you’re litigating against nuns, you’ve probably done something wrong.”

Cruz, of course, reaffirmed his commitment to defending the Second Amendment, calling the right to keep and bear arms “the Palladium of the rights of the Republic.”

“In the great state of Texas,” he continued, “gun control means hitting what you aim at.”

On the subject of privacy rights, Cruz took a jab at the recent NSA surveillance scandal, instructing everyone in the audience to leave their cellphones on, so that President Obama could hear “every word we have to say today.”

But the most important Amendment Cruz identified as in need of protection was the Tenth, “or as President Obama calls it, ‘The What?’” he joked. Calling for a repeal of Common Core, the Obama-backed education standards that a growing number of states are deserting, Cruz stressed the importance of that “basic protection that limits the authority of the federal government and says that sovereignty resides in the states and ultimately with we, the people.”

In other areas, however, federal officials needs to step it up, said Cruz. First, to defend the nation from threats abroad, the government should secure the borders, he stated, pushing party orthodoxy on immigration. At the same time, he continued, the U.S. needs to seize a stronger leadership position on the world stage.

And so began the Reagan-worship.

“I agree with President Reagan that America believes in peace through strength,” said Cruz. “All across America, our hearts have been breaking as we’ve seen America recede from leadership in the world. It’s created a vacuum, into which have stepped nations like Iran, and Russia, and China. And the world has become a much more dangerous place.”

Cruz invoked the 40th president several times during his half-hour speech, likening today’s political climate to that seen during the Carter administration. At one point, Cruz even seemed to compare himself to the conservative icon, perhaps hinting at a potential 2016 presidential bid.

“In 1980, Washington, D.C., despised Ronald Reagan,” said Cruz, often cast as an outsider and extremist within Congress. In fact, at the beginning of the speech, Cruz opened with: “I spent all week in Washington, D.C., and it is great to be back in America.”

If there were any key issues left untouched during Friday’s speech, it would have to have been marriage equality and gay rights – as though capturing the GOP’s confusion in that area. While many Republicans are taking their own advice prescribed in an RNC-commissioned report last year, which credited the 2012 loss with a failure to connect with younger, more LGBT-tolerant voters, national party leaders haven’t budged. None of the GOP’s potential 2016 candidates – including Cruz – publicly support same-sex marriage.

But just because it wasn’t in Cruz’s speech doesn’t mean the issue hasn’t come up during Texas’s convention. Indeed, if the full acquisition of civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans could lately be described as a sprint toward the finish line, the Lone Star State has opted for more of a two steps forward, one step back approach.

After removing decades-old platform language that states, “Homosexuality tears at the fabric of society,” the Texas Republican Party on Thursday advanced new anti-gay language – this time, endorsing so-called “reparative therapy” to turn gay people straight. The full 10,000-delegate convention will vote on the platform Saturday.

“I really beg my social conservative colleagues to let this issue go,” said Rudy Oeftering, a Dallas businessman and vice president of the gay Republican group Metroplex Republicans, to the Associated Press. The Metroplex Republicans were one of two groups of gay conservatives who were blocked from setting up a booth at the Texas convention.

“It’s your opinion. It’s your belief,” he continued, “but it’s my life.”

GOP denies going mum on Obamacare

Zipped lips emoticon

attribution: Dreamstime/Yayayoyo

Daily Kos

What happens when eight million people sign up for private insurance under Obamacare and millions more get coverage under the law’s Medicaid expansion? This:

House Republicans have no scheduled votes or hearings on ObamaCare, signaling a shift in the party’s strategy as the White House rides a wave of good news on the law.

Not a single House committee has announced plans to attack the healthcare law in the coming weeks, and only one panel of jurisdiction commented to The Hill despite repeated inquiries.

GOP campaign committees also declined to say whether they will launch any new efforts on the law.

But according to Senate Republicans, the notion that Republicans are running from their attacks on Obamacare is a load of bunk:

“There is absolutely zero evidence that any Republican is talking about ObamaCare less,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen in a statement.

Oh yeah? Well, then what do you call this?

Chart showing Fox turns attention to Benghazi as Obamacare's success grew.

Chart showing Fox turns attention to Benghazi as Obamacare’s success grew.

attribution: Daily Kos

I mean, I guess you could argue that the only reason that Republicans are talking about Benghazi and not Obamacare is that Benghazi is the biggest scandal in American history—butonly if you’re delusional. If you’re grounded in reality, the real reason couldn’t be more obvious: Even the GOP understands that repealing health care coverage for millions of Americans is a terrible campaign message, and Benghazi is a shiny object with which to distract their gullible base.

This Was The Week The GOP’s Anti-Obamacare Circus Came Crashing Down

Sifvaoa3rscgdutn1b4q

AP Photo | J. Scott Applewhite

TPMDC

Both incidents marked seismic shifts from the days of HealthCare.gov’s disastrous launch, when Republicans readily grilled Sebelius and other officials over the law, taking as many shots as they could while Obamacare’s future was uncertain.

The first Senate confirmation hearing Thursday for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, tapped to succeed Sebelius, would have seemed a natural opportunity for the Republican members to flex their opposition to the law. And while many of the usual talking points made appearances — canceled health plans, lost jobs and HealthCare.gov’s miserable launch — the tone itself was strikingly cordial.

Only ranking member Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) actually interrupted Burwell in an effort to pin her down on an answer to a question about the administration’s “keep your health plan” fix, while Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) made a guest appearance to introduce and endorse her to the committee.

“Regardless of my objections to the Affordable Care Act, the Department of Health and Human Services needs competent leadership,” McCain said.

A few GOP members, like Sens. Johnny Isakson (GA) and Richard Burr (NC), ignored Obamacare altogether. Isakson focused his questioning on a port project that he wants approved, while Burr inquired about public health preparedness. Burr then gave Burwell his full-throated support.

“I support her nomination and I will vote for it. She doesn’t come with a single experience that would make her a good secretary. She comes with a portfolio of experience,” Burr said. “I look forward to her confirmation being quick.”

That notably tame Senate hearing followed a House hearing the day earlier during which House Republicans became visibly agitated when the insurance executives they called to testify refused to deliver the bad news that they were hunting for.

It was easy to see coming. At least one industry source had already dismissed the Republican report that served as the basis for the meeting as “incredibly rigged,” and the testimony prepared by the hearing’s witnesses thoroughly debunked the GOP’s findings.

So committee members at the hearing went fishing for other bad headlines instead — perhaps the prospect of significant premium increases in 2015. “I can’t say for certain,” one of the witnesses said of next year’s rates. “I don’t have the exact numbers yet,” another offered.

Things got so bad that, at one point, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) effectively chastised industry executives for not producing any information on the 2015 rates, which Republicans have warned could skyrocket.

“You have done no internal analysis on what the trend line is for these premiums? None?” Blackburn said, clearly exasperated. “It is baffling that we could have some of our nation’s largest insurers, and you all don’t have any internal analysis of what these rates are going to be.”

It was that kind of week for the GOP.

Tennessee Republican compares Obamacare to the Holocaust, and means it

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart: Stewart with image of Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield

“Oh right! That guy.”   |  The Daily Show With Jon Stewart: Stewart with image of Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield

 

Here’s the thing about the internet, some people who may not be very bright tend to say the boldest things for a variety of reasons.  Mostly,  just hoping they get noticed.

Case in point…

Daily Kos

Tennessee State Sen. Stacey Campfield, who we have heard from before due to his status as athundering moron, blogs his “Thought of the day.”

Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory sign ups for “train rides” for Jews in the 40s.

Campfield says he will not be apologizing, though “it was never my intent to insult anyone.”

“I think Jewish people should be the first to stand up against Obamacare,” Campfield said. “If government is controlling people’s health insurance, they are potentially controlling people’s lives….letting the government choose who lives and who dies.”

That’s Republican State Sen. Stacey Campfield, America, a man who is pretty sure a plan to give Americans health insurance is like the Holocaust. And this, America, is why looking for the Republican Party to become less batshit insane in the near future is a fool’s quest. That bench is too deep.

House GOP Leaders Take Up The Banner Of Obamacare Trutherism

China-currency-boehner

AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

Anything to cast aspersion on the POTUS’ signature achievement.  Looks like a simple case of ACA envy to me…

TPM DC

“After two delays by the Administration, on March 31st Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges ended open enrollment with a purported 7.1 million signed up,” McCarthy’s release begins. “President Obama declared that ‘the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.’ But this is hardly the end of the story.”

McCarthy’s office then outlined five data points it wanted to know about, alleging that the Obama administration “has refused to provide key information that would shed light on the true number of enrollees.” Those are:

  • How many effectuated enrollment (signed up and paid a premium)
  • How many paid their first month’s premium but not their second or third
  • How many were previously uninsured
  • How many young and healthy signed up (affecting rates)
  • How many received a subsidy (raising concerns about fraud)

At least two of those have been explicitly explained in the enrollment reports released by the Obama administration — and updated data will presumably be included in the March report expected Thursday.The February enrollment report included information on the last two: the demographics of enrollees and data on how many were eligible for financial assistance. First, 25 percent of the 4.2 million people who had enrolled through February were ages 18 to 34, the crucial “young and healthy” group. Second, 83 percent of those who signed up for a plan were eligible for financial help.

On the premium question, the administration has insisted that, because people pay insurance companies directly, only insurers have that information. Outside estimates have put the number at 80 to 90 percent of enrollees have paid. As for how many enrollees were previously uninsured, HealthCare.gov and most of the state websites didn’t collect that particular data point. Independent estimates put the number at one-third or so, although it seems that the uninsured comprised a bigger share of the late enrollment surge. They were also covered via Medicaid, which isn’t included in the 7 million number.

The question about whether people paid their second and third premiums appears new, and it’s unclear why that has now become a concern for the GOP.

Some of these questions are not wholly without basis. The demographics of Obamacare enrollees are important for the law’s long-term fiscal sustainability. People do need to pay their premiums for their coverage to take effect. One of the law’s stated goals was covering the uninsured.

But the framing of the House GOP’s release — “Debunking Obamacare’s 7 million Enrollees ‘Success’ Story”, insinuating that “the true number of enrollees” isn’t known — makes clear that its goal is to undermine the law’s unexpected patch of good news since open enrollment ended.

TPM raised these issues with McCarthy’s office, which still asserted that the administration “cannot let the American public know how many were previously uninsured, how many actually signed up for coverage they need, and how many weren’t kicked off of coverage they previously enjoyed.”

“Just because they gave us some data two months ago does not mean they gave us any clear and final data on enrollment when the President trumpeted the law as a success in the Rose Garden on live television,” Mike Long, a McCarthy spokesman, said in an email. “To proclaim ‘Mission Accomplished’ based solely on the number of clicks, without regard of knowing how those 7.1 million were affected, makes light of the seriousness that is health coverage of Americans.”

“House Republican leadership and various Committees have requested this information through hearings and by passing legislation. We’ve been stonewalled each time.”

Very Bad News For Obamacare Opponents In The Government’s Latest Report

shutterstock_obamacare money

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Think Progress

Premiums for health care insurance in the Affordable Care Act are lower than the federal government had anticipated, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Monday when it revised its cost estimate for the health care law. The nonpartisan office now believes that the ACA will cost the government $5 billion less than projected in 2014 and $104 billion less for the 2015-2024 period. It also found “no clear evidence” that premiums will surge in 2015, noting that “enrollees in the future will be healthier, on average, than the smaller number of people who are obtaining such coverage in 2014.” The agency estimated that the national average premium for individual silver policy plans would increase by $100 that year.

The CBO attributes the additional savings to government, relative to the CBO’s last assessment from February 2014, to lower-than expected premiums, which in turn lowered the cost for exchange subsidies, and higher-than expected revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans.

“Despite projecting that slightly more people will receive insurance coverage through exchanges over the 2015–2024 period than they had anticipated previously,” the report says. “CBO and JCT project that costs for exchange subsidies and related spending will be $164 billion (or 14 percent) below the previous projection, mainly because of the downward revision to expected exchange premiums.” The office also predicted that plans offered in the exchanges will provide wider provider networks and higher reimbursement rates to providers as enrollment increases. “That pattern will put upward pressure on exchange premiums over the next couple of years, although CBO and JCT anticipate that the plans’ characteristics will stabilize after 2016,” it found.

The office also concluded that the law’s so-called shock absorbers — reinsurance payments that are distributed to insurers that attract high-cost enrollees — “reduced exchange premiums this year by approximately 10 percent” and will “reduce premiums by smaller amounts in 2015 and 2016.” CBO found additional savings in Medicaid, revising downward government spending per adult enrolled in the program.

Ultimately, 12 million more nonelderly people will have health insurance in 2014 as a result of the law. Twenty-six million more “will be insured each year from 2017 through 2024 than would have been the case without the ACA,” the CBO concluded.

 

UPDATE

This post initially suggested that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) supports repealing the ACA’s reinsurance program. A spokesperson for the senator notes that the senator’s bill only targets the risk corridor provision of the law. Rubio has voted to repeal the ACA in its entirety, however, which would include the reinsurance provision. We regret the error.