Obamacare Enrollment Surpasses Seven Million

The number of people purchasing insurance under the Affordable Care Act has exceeded seven million. This slightly surpasses initial predictions. This also surpasses the reduced prediction of six million made by the Congressional Budget Office as a result of the initial IT problems, (with more expected to sign up in future years) and shows that conservative opponents of Obamacare were wrong in predicting lower numbers.

Millions more purchased health insurance directly from insurance companies. This also does not include the newly insured due to Medicaid expansion or due to students being able to remain on their parents’ policy until age 26. Even when estimates come in including those covered by Medicaid expansion, the number can continue to grow as there is no deadline for signing up for Medicaid. In Michigan the Medicaid program did not even begin taking enrollments until today. There are also some situations in which people can purchase insurance offered through the exchanges after the deadline, such as in case of loss of job or divorce.

There are not yet accurate numbers nationally regarding the number of people signing up who previously had insurance versus those newly insured.

Conservatives are raising questions regarding how many people have not paid premiums and ultimately will not keep this insurance. Estimates on this are premature as coverage for those signing up in late March does not begin until May and premiums will not even be due until mid April.

These numbers are already out of date in light of the surge of people signing up at the last moment, but The Los Angles Times reported on Monday that Obamacare has led to coverage for at least 9.5 million new people:

• At least 6 million people have signed up for health coverage on the new marketplaces, about one-third of whom were previously uninsured.

• A February survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found 27% of new enrollees were previously uninsured, but newer survey data from the nonprofit Rand Corp. and reports from marketplace officials in several states suggest that share increased in March.

• At least 4.5 million previously uninsured adults have signed up for state Medicaid programs, according to Rand’s unpublished survey data, which were shared with The Times. That tracks with estimates from Avalere Health, a consulting firm that is closely following the law’s implementation.

• An additional 3 million young adults have gained coverage in recent years through a provision of the law that enables dependent children to remain on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26, according to national health insurance surveys from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• About 9 million people have bought health plans directly from insurers, instead of using the marketplaces, Rand found. The vast majority of these people were previously insured.

• Fewer than a million people who had health plans in 2013 are now uninsured because their plans were canceled for not meeting new standards set by the law, the Rand survey indicates.

Conservatives have falsely claimed that due to the cancellations of insurance there is a net decrease in the number insured. Most of those who received cancellation notices have received alternative insurance plans, often from the same insurance company. Those who qualify for subsidies are receiving coverage at a lower rate. Everyone who changed from the old plans to new plans on the individual market benefit from changes such as being safe from losing their insurance if they become ill and their insurance company would prefer to stop covering them to save money. The new policies also have annual limits on out of pocket expenses and do not have lifetime caps on coverage as old plans often did.The above data is consistent with Gallup polling showing a decrease in the number of uninsured:

The decrease parallels a similar drop recorded by Gallup, which found in its national polling that the uninsured rate among adults had declined from 18% in the final quarter of last year to 15.9% through the first two months of 2014. Gallup’s overall uninsured rate is lower than Rand’s because it includes seniors on Medicare.

Gallup Editor in Chief Frank Newport said that March polling, which has not been released yet, indicates the uninsured rate has declined further.

“While it is important to be cautious, the logical conclusion is that the law is having an effect,” he said.

Although estimates vary, about 45 million to 48 million people are believed to have been uninsured before the marketplaces opened last year.

The Courier-Journal estimates that about 75 percent of those signing up through the state-run exchange in Kentucky were previously uninsured.

The goal of the ACA was to help cover 48 million Americans, including 640,000 in Kentucky, who lack health insurance.

Although the state set no official first-year goal, its 360,000-plus sign-ups — 75 percent of whom were previously uninsured — represents a sizable chunk.

Although Obama said that the success of enrollments for the Affordable Care Act means “the debate over repealing this law is over,” Republicans are not likely to stop fighting and spreading misinformation. They know that this will help improve Republican turn out this fall. The Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity has put out additional dishonest ads.

Fox, the propaganda organ for the Republican Party, has generally spread their misinformation, including an attempt to distort interpretation of the number of people signing up. Even Fox has not been entirely consistent in backing the Republicans.  On Monday Jenna Lee asked Senator Lindsey Graham why the Republicans have not offered an alternative to the Affordable Care Act despite repeatedly voting to repeal it.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Democrats Need A Message

One reason that the Republicans get people to turn out to vote in off year elections, often to vote against their economic self-interest, is that they have a message. The message might be based upon dishonest claims and incorrect views as to how the economy and government work, but it is a message. In contrast, many Democratic voters feel less interested in turning out to vote, especially in off year elections. To some degree the Democrats have difficulty in defining a message as they are a big tent party which wins elections by appealing to a wide variety of voters, ranging from center-right to left wing. Issues which appeal to some Democratic voters might turn off others.

The Washington Post describes how Senate Democrats are struggling to define a message:

Senate Democrats’ latest effort in that regard is a 10-point plan for legislation they intend to bring to the floor over the spring and summer.

The issues are familiar ones for Democrats, and poll well among Americans generally.

Yet they are top priorities to narrower slices of the Democrats’ constituency — particularly those who showed up to vote for President Obama in 2012, but who do not have a history or voting in off-year contests.

The first items up for Senate debate will be increasing the minimum wage, from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, and a bill to assure paycheck equity between male and female workers.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said that those are measures that would have their greatest impact on young people, unmarried women, Latinos and African-Americans — all of whom can be difficult to turn out in years when there is no presidential election.

“This doesn’t replace a broader economic message. In the long run, we have to do that. But in the short run, this is very helpful,” said Lake, who has warned that the Democrats face a large turnout disadvantage in a year when Republican voters appear to be more motivated.

GOP pollster Neil Newhouse said the Senate Democrats’ targeted strategy echoes that of Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, where he emphasized a number of “niche group” issues such as the Dream Act, mandatory contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act, student loan expansion and support for same-sex marriage.

Why haven’t Democrats been pushing for legalization of same-sex marriage more strongly in the past? As Michigan and other states saw recent legal victories for marriage equality I thought that, although this is an issue far more associated with Democrats than Republicans, the victories are in the courts and not the result of actions by the Democratic Party.

Perhaps Democratic leaders did not want to be associated with bringing about marriage equality out of a fear of losing socially conservative Democratic voters. Maybe, but I also wonder how many socially liberal people who lean Democratic don’t bother to get out to vote because of not seeing a real commitment from Democratic leaders for liberal causes.

Republicans have learned that people tend to take on the other views of the party they associate with when there is a consistent message. They get social conservatives to back their economic policies by joining these as a common conservative philosophy. If the Democrats were to put out a more consistent message, perhaps those who vote for Democrats for other reasons would also “evolve,” as Barack Obama has, on issues such as same-sex marriage.

Democrats should frame this as a consistent platform of keeping government out of the private lives of individuals, along with support for reproductive rights and ideally an end to marijuana prohibition (or at least a stronger defense of medical marijuana). It is amazing that Democrats have allowed Republicans to take an advantage on issues which should be seen as reasons to vote Democratic, from size of government as it relates to private lives to support for Medicare.

Democrats also think too small on economic matters. Rather than just concentrating on issues such as increasing the minimum wage, Democrats need an economic message showing how Democratic ideas strengthen and grow the economy while Republican economic policies lead to economic stagnation and a concentration of wealth in a small minority. Income inequality is an important issue, but only when placed in an overall economic message of expanding the economy and how extreme income inequality destroys the middle class. An economic message seen as merely dislike for the rich (or the Koch brothers) will never sell.

Of course making a coherent economic message which will not only mobilize their own voters but bring in new voters will take time and cannot be done in only one election year. The Republicans have been working for years at indoctrinating the country in their type of Voodoo Economics. It will also take several years to get out the message on how the economy actually works, but the Democrats might as well start now.

Health care remains one of the strongest reasons to vote for Democrats. Even those who have a negative view of the Affordable Care Act based upon Republican misinformation still prefer to improve it over either repeal or turning to any Republican alternative. As I have written before, Democrats need to go on the offensive on health care reform, not run away from the issue. Joe Conason has the same message again, with numbers now out showing that enrollment through the exchanges has exceeded the projected number of six million:

Success for Obamacare might boost the turnout projections that Republicans have tried so hard to suppress and that Democrats have so far proved unable to resuscitate.

Dominant forces in the Republican Party — including the tea party and its billionaire financiers — have staked everything on the commonplace assumption that Obamacare will drag down Democrats across the country.

Indeed, they make almost no other argument. Bolstering that cynical bet is the Democratic hesitation to mount a powerful counteroffensive on health care, with the impulse to push the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and other vital issues that still feel safer.

But as Clinton warns, they will find no shelter from this storm. They cannot hide from their own history; and the more they pretend to do so, the more they risk contempt. For decades, Democrats have insisted that all Americans must have health coverage — a momentous and admirable goal advanced by the Affordable Care Act.

With the numbers now on their side, they should lift their heads, raise their voices, and lean into the midterm debate. They have no better choice.

Cross Posted at The Moderate Voice

Republican Candidate And Pro-Republican Ad Both Making False Claims About Obamacare

Brian Buetler points out that the conservative claims of people not signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act are falling apart as we reach the end of the open enrollment period:

Charles Gaba — an ACA supporter and data Hoover — has been documenting the March surge, state by state on his Twitter account and his site, ACAsignups.net. Gaba has the best numbers out there, and has been accurately forecasting official enrollment statistics for weeks. He currently projects total exchange enrollment will hit 6.2 million by the end of the month, not counting enrollment in off-exchange plans, and puts the grand beneficiary total (including Medicaid beneficiaries and “young invincibles” on their parents’ plans) at 11.9-15.6 million as of Saturday. Conservatives are thus, to no one’s surprise, furiously attempting to “un-skew” his figures.

And, as Vanderbilt health policy and med school professor John Graves notes in Health Affairs, turnover is a major hallmark of the insurance market. People who lose or change jobs, and thus become temporarily uninsured, will be eligible for ACA enrollment, even after March 31. Medicaid, isn’t bound by open enrollment. As such, enrollment numbers will continue to grow throughout the election season. Exchange beneficiaries might even reach the elusive 7 million total this year, a few months late, but before the midterms.

He also noted a “glaring error” regarding the Affordable Care Act in a conference call for Michigan Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land. Such errors are quite common whenever Republicans talk about health care. He pointed out that Land’s proposal (an idea commonly promoted by Republicans) could lead to anyone whose coverage lapses being permanently denied insurance coverage.

Just as incorrect and claims about Obamacare are common from Land and other Republican candidates, Glenn Kessler points out that the latest ad from the Koch financed Americans For Prosperity is making more misleading claims:

“Millions of people have lost their health insurance”

We’ve repeatedly written about this claim, most recently when House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) incorrectly claimed that so many people have lost insurance that there’s even been “a net loss” of people with insurance. Actually, there has been an increase in the number of people with insurance, though not as much as the Obama administration had hoped.

The Associated Press estimated that nearly 5 million Americans had their insurance canceled, but a large percentage of the people whose old plans were canceled were automatically moved to new plans offered by the same insurance companies. These people may not be happy with their new coverage, but they got a plan without going through HealthCare.gov. Precise figures are not available, as the insurance market is private and fragmented, but insurance company officials say a majority of people could move to new plans they were offered.

The White House last year ordered an administrative fix that, depending on the actions of individual states, allowed as many as 2.3 million people with “canceled plans” to simply stay on their old plans for at least another year. (In early March, the White House extended that deadline to 2016.) The administration in December also announced a new catastrophic exemption to fill any remaining gaps in coverage — estimated to affect as many as 500,000 people.

In other words, only in a narrow sense have “millions” lost their health insurance.

“Millions of people can’t see their own doctors”

This sweeping statement could just as well describe the world before implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Most Americans get their insurance through their employers, and those plans could be changed at any time. Moreover, when people change jobs, they often also change health plans, which could also force changes in doctors. Of course, most plans do not prevent you from seeing a doctor who is not in a network; instead, your co-pays would be higher.

AFP in the past has run ads that feature people upset at losing their doctors, but this line is misleading because it presumes that everything was perfect before the Affordable Care Act became law.

“Millions are paying more and getting less”

This is another sweeping statement, and the most misleading. (Advocates could argue back that “millions more are paying less and getting more.”)

In terms of premiums, there is a fierce dispute now among policy experts about the impact of the law on the cost of health care. When we previously looked at this issue, after President Obama claimed that the law “has helped the cost of health care grow at its slowest rate in 50 years,” we settled on a “verdict pending.” It’s still difficult to compare premiums from before the law with premiums after the law — or to determine how much the law has to do with health-care costs today.

One big reason why it is difficult to compare premiums, before and after, is because the law mandates a comprehensive package of benefits — benefits that many plans in the individual market previously lacked. That increase in insurance coverage, according to a Congressional Budget Office study in 2009, was expected to boost the premiums of nongroup plans by about 30 percent, but the impact would be negligible for large group plans, which already provided many of those benefits.

But, wait, there’s more: Other factors were expected to reduce premiums in the individual market, so the total difference (before subsidies) was an increase of 10 to 13 percent per person. For people receiving subsidies, the cost of premiums in the individual market would actually decline nearly 60 percent, CBO calculated.

In other words, the insurance premiums may be slightly higher for some — or significantly lower for many — but the plans are also more robust.

So how does AFP justify that people are getting “less”? Levi Russell said the ad is referring to narrower health-care networks. He pointed The Fact Checker to an article in The Wall Street Journal on a McKinsey & Co. report that found that the percentage of plans with “ultranarrow” or “narrow” hospital networks had increased — though that also meant lower premium costs. In fact, many people apparently would happily pay less to get less.

“McKinsey found that nearly two-thirds of about 150,000 consumers surveyed since 2011 said they were willing to trade provider choice to lower their premium costs,” the article said.

Insurance companies have also been going to more restricted panels of physicians for several years, and this likely would have increased with or without the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act also increases the chances people can keep their own doctor as consumers will have more choices in health care plans, giving them greater opportunity to sign up for a plan which their doctor is in.

Update: Lack Of Information And Misinformation Suppressing Enrollment In Insurance Plans

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Lying About Obamacare Not Working Out That Well For Republicans

Republicans, lacking any real policies they can campaign on,  have been relying on ads based upon lies about the Affordable Care Act. One ad which has received a lot of attention in the Michigan Senate race centered around a cancer patient who claimed her health insurance was unaffordable under Obamacare.  Several fact-checkers found that her new policy through the Affordable Care Act was actually saving her at least $1200 per year. The Koch brothers have been funding a number of similarly dishonest ads through Americans for Prosperity. They may have been wasting their money. A new poll has Democrat Gary Peters with a narrow lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land despite a barrage of dishonest ads from Americans for Prosperity.

Talking Points Memo ran a story earlier today claiming that Americans for Prosperity is giving up on these ads but later in the day a spokesman for AFP denied a shift in strategy:

“We are currently on-air with many different types of ads, including personal testimony of Obamacare impact,” AFP spokesman Levi Russell told TPM. “This is the same strategy we’ve been using for 6 months. This does not represent a shift in strategy.”

I’m not surprised. Take away the lies, and the right wing has no argument left. The old system was such as disaster, harming both millions of people and causing harm to the economy. The Republicans have no meaningful alternative. Claims made by the right wing are repeatedly being shown to be false, as with the ads from Americans for Prosperity.

The Affordable Care Act is turning into a major success, providing millions with health insurance coverage and ending the ability of insurance companies to abuse the system by finding ways to sell policies and then avoid paying out. Five million Americans have purchased health coverage through the exchanges, and this number will continue to increase. Millions more are purchasing higher quality coverage directly from insurance companies, benefiting from the expansion of Medicaid, or are now able to be covered on their parents’ insurance until age 26. No longer are people denied coverage, or have their coverage taken away, due to becoming sick or losing their jobs. In addition,  Obamacare frees people from the “insurance trap” which forced people who otherwise do not need to work to continue working for insurance coverage, along with other overall benefits to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office Report, frequently distorted by Republicans, showed that the Affordable Care Act will reduce unemployment, help decrease the deficit, and allow more people to leave large corporations to start small businesses, further stimulating the economy.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Tying Republicans To The Koch Brothers To Campaign Against Plutocracy

Republicans often do a better job of messaging than Democrats, but they make their job much easier by making things up. They don’t care that the economic theories they promote have no relationship to how the economy really works or if the “facts” they use to justify their policies with are frequently false. Democrats have a tougher time explaining the problems caused by an economic system which has increasingly been rigged to transfer wealth to the top one tenth of one percent at the expense of the middle class. Those who do not understand the dangerous degree of concentration of wealth in a tiny plutocracy, and how this harms the entire economy, easily fall for bogus Republican economic arguments and false cries of socialism.

Republicans succeed with phony elevator pitches that they stand for capitalism and limited government. Democrats must stop letting Republicans get away with these misrepresentations. Republicans who promote plutocracy are no more supporters of capitalism than Republicans who support the agenda of the religious right are supporters of limited government. Of course I mean a main street form of capitalism in which people who work can profit from their efforts, as opposed to the Republican false-capitalism of using government to rig the system for the benefit of the ultra-wealthy.

As I noted recently, Democrats have recently been trying to make their case by standing up to the Koch brothers. Besides financing many of the dishonest ads spreading misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, the Koch brothers have made their fortune by taking advantage of government, and then come out with faux cries for libertarianism to protest needed regulations on their business. Greg Sargent explained the Democratic strategy:

As I noted the other day, this is all about creating a framework within which voters can be made to understand the actual policy agenda Republicans are campaigning on. This is what the Bain attacks on Mitt Romney were all about: Dem focus groups showed voters simply didn’t believe Romney would cut entitlements (per the Paul Ryan plan) while cutting taxes on the rich. The Bain narrative made Romney’s actual priorities more comprehensible.

The Koch attacks are designed to do something similar. They aren’t really about the Kochs. They are a proxy for the one percent, a means through which to tap into a general sense that the economy remains rigged in favor of the very wealthy. Placed into this frame, GOP policies – opposition to raising the minimum wage; the Paul Ryan fiscal blueprint, which would redistribute wealth upwards; opposition to the Medicaid expansion, which AFP is fighting in multiple states –  become more comprehensible as part of a broader storyline. In that narrative, Republican candidates are trying to maintain or even exacerbate an economic status quo that’s stacked against ordinary Americans, while Dems are offering solutions to boost economic mobility and reduce inequality, which are increasingly pressing public concerns.

In many ways this strategy is born of necessity. The 2014 fundamentals are stacked heavily against Democrats, who are defending seven Senate seats in states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 that are older, whiter, and redder than the diversifying national electorate. This is made even worse by the midterm electorate, in which core Dem groups are less likely to turn out.

GOP attacks on the health law in red states are not just about Obamacare. They are, more broadly, about casting Senate Dems as willing enablers of the hated president and blaming the sputtering recovery on #Obummer Big Gummint, to channel people’s economic anxieties into a vote to oust Dem incumbents. With the law and its author deeply unpopular in these states, Dems can’t really run on any Obama accomplishments. So they need to make these campaigns about the fact that Republican candidates don’t have an actual agenda to boost people’s economic prospects, and indeed are beholden to a broader agenda that has made the problem worse, even as Dems offer a concrete economic mobility agenda of their own. The goal is to boost turnout among Dem constituencies while minimizing losses among the older, blue collar, and rural whites that predominate in these states.

Adding such a framework may help, but there are limitations to the comparison to how Mitt Romney was harmed by the attacks for his actions at Bain. Romney was directly responsible for the actions he performed at Bain. Republican candidates are not directly responsible for the actions of the Koch brothers, and most people have no idea who they are. Democrats need to both explain why voters should oppose this type of policy and make the case that the Republican candidates are also promoting these ideas. I suspect that this might be too complicated for many of the voters the Democrats hope to attract, especially the low-information non-college educated white working class males who I recently discussed here and here, along with others brainwashed by Fox and right wing talk radio. If strategy helps, it will more likely help by motivating more Democrats to turn out as opposed to attracting additional voters.

Maybe this will work, and perhaps the wisdom of this approach will be clearer after it plays out. Unfortunately simpler elevator pitches typically prevail–an explanation of a position which can be explained in the span of an elevator ride. Explain how Republican economic policies are bad for the middle class and lead to economic stagnation. Democrats need to counter trickle down economics with trickle up economics. The rich don’t need any more special favors from government. They are doing quite fine on their own, and when more wealth is given to them, they are less likely to spend it. Instead concentrate on stimulating the economy and keeping more money in the hands of the middle class. The poor and middle class are far more likely to spend a higher percentage of their money, further stimulating the economy.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

More Information Comes Out On Republican Misinformation As Democrats Stand Up To Koch Brothers

The Affordable Care Act is bringing about considerable reductions in health care expenses for millions of Americans. Republicans opposing health care reform have tried to undermine support for the law with a series of false ads in which  they falsely claim people such as cancer patients have to pay more than in the past for health care coverage. Whenever these claims are actually examined, it has turned out that the claims are false. Considering the subsidies for coverage, the increased protections for those with medical problems, the elimination of limitations on coverage, and the caps on out of pocket expenses, it is generally not possible for anyone to really come out behind who had previously been purchasing coverage on the individual market. The only “losers” are those of us who don’t qualify for subsidies and are healthy enough to not have significant health care costs. Even the “losers” under the Affordable Care Act, who are affluent enough to pay the higher premiums for better coverage, will come out ahead if we develop major medical problems.

The case of Julie Boonstra was already covered when newspapers and fact checkers revealed that the ad, paid for by the Koch brothers, was spreading incorrect information. Previous reports revealed that her claims of paying more were untrue. As more information has become available on her policy, the facts show that she benefits even more than initially reported. The Detroit News has updated the facts on this case with this information:

A Dexter cancer patient featured in a conservative group’s TV ad campaign denouncing her new health care coverage as “unaffordable” will save more than $1,000 this year.

Julie Boonstra, 49, starred last month in an emotional television ad sponsored by Americans for Prosperity that implied Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters’ vote for the Affordable Care Act made her medication so “unaffordable” she could die. Peters of Bloomfield Township is running for an open U.S. Senate seat against Republican Terri Lynn Land.

The Detroit News and fact checkers last month cast doubt on the accuracy of the TV ad. On Monday, Boonstra acknowledged which health plan she chose, offering the first evidence of cost savings..

Boonstra said Monday her new plan she dislikes is the Blue Cross Premier Gold health care plan, which caps patient responsibility for out-of-pocket costs at $5,100 a year, lower than the federal law’s maximum of $6,350 a year. It means the new plan will save her at least $1,200 compared with her former insurance plan she preferred that was ended under Obamacare’s coverage requirements.

Glenn Kessler reevaluated his report on this ad writing, “one cannot claim that a plan is ‘unaffordable’ when over the course of the year it will provide you with substantial savings. Thus we are changing the rating on this ad from Two Pinocchios to Three Pinocchios.”

Boonstra, and others claiming to be losers under Obamacare, might very well believe what they are saying, even if wrong:

When advised of the details of her Blues’ plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.”

“I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra said.

The Republicans are spending a tremendous amount of money spreading false misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, and an alarming number of people believe what they hear on Fox, right wing talk radio, and from other portions  of the right wing noise machine.  They have no idea that what they hear from right wing outlets is propaganda to promote a political agenda and is not actual news. Therefore we see pe0ple like Boonstra who are better off under the Affordable Care Act but do not look at the facts and do not believe this. Others have listened to “warnings” from the right wing and have not purchased coverage on the exchanges, and then complain about higher premiums because of not receiving the subsidies they would receive if they purchased coverage on the exchanges. Many have no idea that their old policies had limitations on how much would be covered while the new policies under the ACA have caps on what they would have to pay which usually greatly reduce what they will have to pay out of pocket compared to their previous policies.

Many people are harmed by the deliberate misinformation being spread by the right wing, including many who are now failing to sign up and take advantage of the benefits under the Affordable Care Act. Many of these dishonest ads are funded by the Koch brothers through Americans for Prosperity (a poorly named organization for one pursuing an agenda which would impoverish the middle class and turn the United States into a banana republic).

The New York Times has been reporting on how the Democrats are staring to stand up to the Koch brothers for their misinformation on health care and other actions to rig the system to benefit a small oligarchy. They summarized this in an op-ed today:

Democrats have for too long been passive in the face of the vast amounts of corporate money, most of it secret, that are being spent to evict them from office and dismantle their policies. By far the largest voice in many of this year’s political races, for example, has been that of the Koch brothers, who have spent tens of millions of dollars peddling phony stories about the impact of health care reform, all in order to put Republicans in control of the Senate after the November elections.

Now Democrats are starting to fight back, deciding they should at least try to counter the tycoons with some low-cost speech of their own. Democrats may never have the same resources at their disposal — no party should — but they can use their political pulpits to stand up for a few basic principles, including the importance of widespread health-insurance coverage, environmental protection and safety-net programs.

The leader of this effort has been Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, who has delivered a series of blistering attacks against the Kochs and their ads on the Senate floor over the last few weeks. In addition, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has set up a website, www.kochaddiction.com, to remind voters of just what the Kochs stand for, and why they raised $407 million in the 2012 election. And individual candidates are making sure voters know who is paying for the ad blitz.

“The billionaire Koch brothers,” says one of the people quoted in an ad released Monday by Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, who has been the object of one of their blatantly false television barrages. “They come into our town, fire a refinery, just running it into the ground, leaving a mess.” Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina reminds voters that the Kochs and their allies have pressed for high-end tax breaks that burden the middle class.

Mr. Reid’s comments have gone to the heart of the matter. In his most recent speech, he pointed out that the fundamental purpose of the Kochs’ spending is to rig the economic system for their benefit and for that of other oligarchs. They own an industrial network that ranks No. 14 on the list of the most toxic American air polluters, and got their money’s worth in 2010 by helping elect a Republican House majority that has resisted environmental regulation…

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Fake Right Wing Claims Of Losers Under The Affordable Care Act

Last week I looked at the right wing’s inability to present losers under Obamacare. There certainly are some losers in a major overhaul of the healthcare system, however they just don’t help the Republicans with their line of attack. The losers, i.e. people paying more in premiums, are affluent Americans who don’t qualify for subsidies but, as I pointed out in the previous post, we still receive significant improvements in coverage to offset higher premiums which we can afford to pay. The types of people the Republicans portray as losers to gain sympathy for their argument have repeatedly been shown to not be losers under Obamacare once the facts are revealed. Anybody with serious medical problems such as cancer is far better off since the Affordable Care Act was passed, regardless of how the Republicans try to twist the facts.

Paul Krugman revisited this issue today, comparing the false claims of losers under the Affordable Care Act to the right wing claims of non-wealthy people being losers under the “death tax.” Krugman wrote:

I’m not sure whether conservatives realize yet that their Plan A on health reform — wait for Obamacare’s inevitable collapse, and reap the political rewards — isn’t working. But it isn’t. Enrollments have recovered strongly from the law’s disastrous start-up; in California, which had a working website from the beginning, enrollment has already exceeded first-year projections. The mix of people signed up so far is older than planners had hoped, but not enough so to cause big premium hikes, let alone the often-predicted “death spiral.”

And conservatives don’t really have a Plan B — in their world, nobody even dares mention the possibility that health reform might actually prove workable. Still, you can already see some on the right groping toward a new strategy, one that relies on highlighting examples of the terrible harm Obamacare does. There’s only one problem: they haven’t managed to come up with any real examples. Consider several recent ventures on the right:

■ In the official G.O.P. response to the State of the Union address, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers alluded to the case of “Bette in Spokane,” who supposedly lost her good health insurance coverage and was forced to pay nearly $700 more a month in premiums. Local reporters located the real Bette, and found that the story was completely misleading: her original policy provided very little protection, and she could get a much better plan for much less than the claimed cost.

■ In Louisiana, the AstroTurf (fake grass-roots) group Americans for Prosperity — the group appears to be largely financed and controlled by the Koch brothers and other wealthy donors — has been running ads targeting Senator Mary Landrieu. In these ads, we see what appear to be ordinary Louisiana residents receiving notices telling them that their insurance policies have been canceled because of Obamacare. But the people in the ads are, in fact, paid actors, and the scenes they play aren’t re-enactments of real events — they’re “emblematic,” says a spokesman for the group.

■ In Michigan, Americans for Prosperity is running an ad that does feature a real person. But is she telling a real story? In the ad, Julia Boonstra, who is suffering from leukemia, declares that her insurance has been canceled, that the new policy will have unaffordable out-of-pocket costs, and that “If I do not receive my medication, I will die.” But Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post tried to check the facts, and learned that thanks to lower premiums she will almost surely save nearly as much if not more than she will be paying in higher out-of-pocket costs. A spokesman for Americans for Prosperity responded to questions about the numbers with bluster and double-talk — this is about “a real person suffering from blood cancer, not some neat and tidy White House PowerPoint.”

Even supporters of health reform are somewhat surprised by the right’s apparent inability to come up with real cases of hardship. Surely there must be some people somewhere actually being hurt by a reform that affects millions of Americans. Why can’t the right find these people and exploit them?

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.

Even the healthy young people are able to buy catastrophic insurance policies which, once subsidies are considered, will often cost less then their current minimalist plans.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Democrats Fight Back On Affordable Care Act

Those of us who are concerned about the threat from the radical right are often frustrated by the Democratic Party as it often stands by allowing the Republicans to spread their propaganda without adequate response. Conservative groups spend fortunes to promote the goals of special interests while there is often little response in defense of the national interest. We are seeing the Koch brothers spending $20 million to attack members of Congress who supported the Affordable Care Act. The Koch brothers certainly do not have to worry, as far too many Americans did in the past, about being denied health coverage and going into bankruptcy because of developing medical problems.

It is good to see that the House Majority PAC is taking out ads defending members of Congress who supported the Affordable Care Act, such as with the commercial above. The text is:

Ann Kirkpatrick listens and learns. It’s why she blew the whistle on the disastrous health care website, calling it “stunning ineptitude,” and worked to fix it. She fought to hold insurance companies accountable, so they can’t deny coverage for preexisting conditions, or drop coverage when you get sick. Ann Kirkpatrick. Seeing what’s wrong. Doing what’s right.

That is a good start. By this fall, the problems with the website should no longer be an issue. People will see that we have no death panels. Most of those who were worried about receiving letters saying that their policies were canceled will have received better coverage at a lower price months before the election. Millions will benefit from coverage which they could not have received in the past.

It is a start, but unfortunately Democrats are still playing defense. They need to take the offense on health care. The majority of Americans have consistently supported the policies in the Affordable Care Act, even if opposing it by name when unaware of what the law contains. Democrats need to more actively promote their support their these policies. Then they need to actively go after Republicans who want to bring back the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage for preexisting coverage and drop the sick from coverage. It is Republicans who have voted for repeal of the Affordable Care Act 47 times who should be placed on the defensive. The politics at the time led to passing the Affordable Care Act with some adjustments needed in the law. Republicans who will only vote for repeal and not for fixing the law should also be held accountable. Fixing ObamaCare is far more popular than the Republican alternative of repeal and replace with nothing.

Another Right Wing Fantasy About Liberalism And The Economy

It is amusing to see how the right wing tries to rationalize facts which differ from the false narrative they spread about the left, falsely claiming that most liberal groups are anti-business and pro-socialism. If they act this shocked about the policies of the Obama administration, when corporations are seeing record profits and the stock market is at record levels, imagine their shock if someone who really is far left was ever elected. Powerline has posted a rather bizarre attack on the Center for American Progress and their blog Think Progress.

Think Progress is a center-left blog which concentrates on accumulating multiple links and facts to support liberal positions. They have had a number of posts recently on problems faced by the working poor, but regardless of where one stands on this issue, it is hardly an all-out attack on capitalism. A relatively centrist support for continuation of most aspects of our economic system, while promoting some reforms, is not surprising in light of the donors to the organization. John Hinderaker’s spin:

The Center for American Progress is a left-wing organization that is closely associated with the Obama administration. Its principal product is a web site called Think Progress. Think Progress is part of the internet cesspool that modern liberalism has become. Written by hack left-wing bloggers, it is bitterly hostile to free enterprise. It is a low-rent site that traffics in the most absurd smears and conspiracy theories. Many have wondered for some years who finances far-left web sites like Think Progress. As of today, we know at least part of the answer, as CAP released its corporate donor list for the first time.

CAP says that individuals and foundations account for more than 90% of its funding, and corporations only around 6%. It would be interesting to see the individual and foundation donor list; my guess is that left-wing foundations, most of which spend money left by dead conservatives, would loom large. But what corporations fund Think Progress’s anti-free enterprise propaganda? The full list is here; it includes:

* Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists.
* American Iron and Steel Institute
* America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP
* Apple Inc.
* AT&T
* Bank of America
* Blackstone, one of the largest multinational private equity firms
* Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
* Citigroup
* The Coca-Cola Company
* Comcast NBCUniversal
* CVS Caremark Inc.
* Eli Lilly and Company
* Facebook
* GE
* Goldman Sachs
* Google
* Japan Bank for International Cooperation
* Microsoft Corporation
* Northrop Grumman, defense contractor
* PepsiCo
* Samsung
* Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States
* Time Warner Inc.
* Walmart
* Wells Fargo

There are some far left blogs which actually are a cesspool, are hostile to free enterprise, contain smears, and/or contain conspiracy theories. In other words, in many ways some far left blogs are comparable to blogs of the far right (except that far more blogs on the far right are a cesspool of irrationality). Think Progress hardly fits into this category, but as most conservatives are unlikely to do any fact-checking or read Think Progress, I imagine Hinderaker can get away with writing whatever he wishes on his blog.

A reasonable person might see this list and conclude that the American left is not really hostile to either free-enterprise or corporate America. Hinderaker’s interpretation is that “CAP’s disclosure is a timely reminder that large corporations are not, in general, supporters of free enterprise. Many of them love to partner with government to suppress innovation and competition.” There is certainly some truth to this. Corporations, along with most people in the real world, realize that many aspects of the far right’s view of the economy do not work in the real world. To a certain degree it is also likely a case of corporations contributing to both sides of the political spectrum in the hopes of getting what they want from government. Amusingly, Hinderaker promotes the Koch brothers as some sort of exception, buying their public statements in support of laissez faire capitalism while ignoring how the Koch brothers, like most businessmen, have taken advantage of government to boost their profits. For the right wing, where rhetoric trumps both principles and facts, it is commonly how you say something or who you are aligned with as opposed to what you really support which counts.

Scary High Number Of People Support Tea Party

The headline at Gallup is Tea Party Support Dwindles to Near-Record Low. I don’t think that’s the real story. First, here is what Gallup reports:

Americans' tea Party affiliation

In November 2010, days after the Republicans recaptured the majority in the House of Representatives, 32% of Americans pledged support for the Tea Party, or 10 percentage points higher than in the latest survey, conducted Sept. 5-8.

Opponents of the Tea Party now outnumber supporters 27% to 22%, which is similar to their edge in 2012. However this differs from most of Gallup’s earlier measurements, in 2010 and 2011, when supporters and opponents were either equally matched, or Tea Party backers had the slight edge.

Fully half of Americans, 51%, currently say they are neither a supporter nor an opponent of the Tea Party, or they have no opinion about it.

Strong Tea Party Opponents Outnumber Strong Supporters

In addition to their overall advantage in numbers, opponents of the Tea Party also lead supporters in intensity. The majority of Tea Party opponents call themselves strong opponents, while supporters are evenly divided as strong and not strong supporters. The net result is that 17% of Americans consider themselves strong opponents of the Tea Party, contrasted with 11% who are strong supporters, similar to the balance seen in 2011.

Yes, it is good that the number of supporters is on a downward trend. It is still scary that over one-fifth of the country supports a group which opposes the basic tenets of self-government which this country was founded on with their hysterical hatred of government (especially when there is a black president) and unquestioning support for plutocrats like the Koch brothers. Americans should know better, and far fewer should support the Tea Party insanity. Having half the country not taking a position isn’t reassuring either.

The last time we faced a vote on the debt ceiling (which allows the United States to pay its bills, not increase spending), the Tea Party created a show-down which led to a downgrading of the credit rating of the United States and slowed economic recovery.

Now that we face a comparable crisis, we need far more than twenty-seven percent opposing this extremist and dangerous group.