The GOP’s March Disaster: Obamacare worked, and people like it

Paul Krugman was wrong about one thing, the media is actually covering the success of the Affordable Care Act. Not on nearly the sale scale they gave attention to the exchange problems, but that’s status quo. Disasters are entertaining which make for ratings, successes are boring.

Today is the final day you can register on a health care exchange and the end of the first enrollment period.** Now is the time we can begin making serious judgments about the success of Democratic health care reform, although final judgement (which Republicans came to before the law even passed) won’t be appropriate for several years.

It took several years for Romneycare to get where it needed to be and Obamacare is very much the same program on a national scale.

That said, the verdict is good news for just about everyone except Republican politicians. Private enrollment will land somewhere near original projections, about 7 million people. That’s about a million more people than the CBO projected after making regular revisions and exactly in line with what they thought would happen back in 2010.

That’s also with almost every insurance exchange website malfunctioning for the first two months of the six month period enrollment period. If not for that, signups would have exceeded original expectations.

The facts are simple. The number of uninsured Americans has dropped from 18% to 15.9% in less than a year. Between 6.9 and 7 million people have signed up just on the public exchanges. 2.5 to 3.1 million young adults were able to join or remain on their parents’ insurance policies. 4.7 million poor and struggling individuals joined the Medicaid rolls only because of reform. (Had states with legislatures controlled by Republicans expanded Medicaid, that number could easily be double or even triple that figure.)

In total, as many as 16.8 million Americans gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act in its first six month period. In some states only 25% of those people were previously uninsured, in others it’s as high as 75%. States that embraced reform have seen significant numbers of people gain insurance they couldn’t previously afford. States that fought reform have seen very little progress and still have a tragic number of people who can’t afford insurance.

Anyone who has followed enrollment data gathered and published by Charles Gaba knew this was coming for some time now. Enrollment was very slow in October and November of last year, but once the exchanges started working, there was a surge in signups in December of 2013 and another surge this month to the point where more than a million people per day were visiting the federal exchange website. HealthCare.gov reported more than 1.2 million visits just today and that was by noon. Nevada’s call center is being flooded with last minute signups.

The big surprise may be a just-out poll from ABC News/The Washington Post showing a plurality of Americans now support Obamacare, 49-48. Alone, it’s an outlier outweighed by other polls and should be judged accordingly. It’s neither absolute proof that the ACA is now popular, nor should it be dismissed as meaningless. It’s value is somewhere in between and is just another point of information to consider along with many others.

The question from ABC/WaPo is different from what you’d expect, instead of asking if the respondent supports or opposes Obamacare, it asks if they support or oppose “the federal law making changes to the health care system”. We’ve seen before that merely asking about the “Affordable Care Act” instead of “Obamacare” can increase support, and this may be one of those bits of noise where what you ask changes the response.

That’s certainly possible. But it’s also possible that with nearly 7 million Americans getting insurance on the exchanges, with many of them seeing lower premiums thanks to subsidies, with nearly 17 million Americans directly benefiting, word is spreading that the ACA is helping a lot of people. Based on overall numbers, about 1-in-18 Americans has benefited from the ACA in some way which is bound to punch through partisan information filters eventually.

What’s sad to see is that politics is dampening the good news. More than just a few Republicans are denying evidence that the ACA worked just like they believed all polls from 2012 were skewed and biased.

I’m sorry to taint this newsy post with such, but I think that’s pathetic. The data is in and the data says that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t a disaster, and that it did exactly what it was supposed to do. If Republicans can’t deal with that reality then they should just get out of politics and find something else to do with their lives. Lying about good news that rubs their ideology the wrong way is unacceptable behavior from elected officials and the American people deserve better treatment than that.

If the GOP is going to be this partisan and this ugly about being wrong, it’s only fair then that Democrats have earned a few bragging rights. The ACA isn’t perfect and a lot more could have been done — should be done still.

But nobody should forget that health care reform was solely a Democratic priority. Republicans did everything they could to stop it from happening and have done everything they can to undermine it. Democrats have won every battle of that war, and the result is nearly 17 million Americans are in a better health care situation today because Democrats said this was important and it was the right thing to do, consequences to their political futures be damned.

Democrats were right, and there should be some small reward for that.

**Some states are extending the first enrollment period beyond March 31st.

Romney-Ryan 2016?

One of the better newsletters out there is from HuffPollster, which isn’t from Huffington Post so much as it is from Pollster, which HP bought a while back. I understand that most people won’t be interested in a polling newsletter but I feel there’s always at least one thing that should grab most people as interesting. I’m going back through some old newsletters (most of March) and here are a few of those things I’ve picked out for you.

Gay marriage opponents don’t know they are a minority
From Wonkbog (Washington Post), 41% of Americans oppose same-sex marriage but nearly two-thirds of them wrongly think they are in a majority. From the newsletter itself, public opinion on same-sex marriage as tracked by the Post has reversed itself from 55-37% opposition in 2003 to 59-34% support this month.

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538’s climate science data problem compounded by legal threats

Paul Krugman has been throwing elbows at 538-ESPN lately because of a measurable decline in the quality of content from what we’re used to seeing from Nate Silver when he worked at the New York Times, and before that, writing for himself on Blogspot.

The first response I saw to that criticism was supposed to be a sort of self-parody as an apology, I guess. To me it comes off as a petulant act that he’d never have gotten away with while at the Times, and an example of where he’s gone off the rail.

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Anonymous sourcing problems at the New York Times

There are at least three major failures of the modern press worth writing about. The first is excessive coverage of trivial events of little or no public interest. Sex scandals, celebrity lifestyles, and manufactured scandals come to mind as examples. The second is the false choice (and often wrong choice) between balance and objectivity.

The third failure is the excessive use of anonymous sources. Glenn Greenwald wrote about this in early 2010 in a post worth reading every year to remind us of what happens in democracies when the guardians of public interest forget what their jobs are. No party outside of the government was more helpful in manufacturing public support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq than the pillars of print journalism, precisely because of the trust we have in them.

Clark Hoyt, the Times’ public editor in 2009, blasted his own paper for continuing to shield government officials from public scrutiny in violation of the Times’ “stylebook” section on anonymous sources. Margaret Sullivan, public editor since 2012, did it again on Tuesday, noting the indefensible use of anonymous sources even in stories that have nothing to do with the government.

Sullivan introduced a regular feature of her column where notable failures to abide by the Times’ policies would be called out in the hope that these practices will change. In supporting this effort, I’ve decided to go a little bit further than that by examining all failures across a set period of time.

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Beware your prophets

Michael Barone's 2012 battleground predictions.I’d like to think that the pundit right learned something from the 2012 election, but it doesn’t seem that way. When polls said Barack Obama was leading, they decided it wasn’t true, that those polls were biased and only they knew the truth. They were all “skewed” by firms in the bag for Democrats. Then Obama won the election proving that most pollsters were unbiased, non-partisan and spot on.

Republicans/conservatives were left with two choices: Again embrace the flawed logic that got them in trouble in 2012, or examine where they went wrong and fix what was broken.

They went with the latter.

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Highlighting anonymous cowards

Your elected officals at work.
Your elected officals at work.

Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, is calling out her own paper by tracking the misuse of anonymous sources in her column this afternoon.  I support a strong and sustained effort in this area. Everyone’s standards vary, but I believe that a person should only be allowed anonymity when there is a credible threat of retaliation and punishment.

Anonymously smearing political foes or merely wanting to conceal your identity because you fear (probably justfiable) damage to your reputation should never suffice as justification, yet it is on a regular basis at the Times and practically everywhere else.

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Into the minds of the one percent: attacks on the rich are just like what the Nazi’s did to Jews

Heathhallmain_2385835b.jpgCNBC, December 30th, 2013:

Pope Francis’ critical comments about the wealthy and capitalism have at least one wealthy capitalist benefactor hesitant about giving financial support to one of the church’s major fundraising projects.

At issue is an effort to raise $180 million for the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York being spearheaded by billionaire Ken Langone, the investor known for founding Home Depot, among other things.

Langone told CNBC that one potential seven-figure donor is concerned about statements from the pope criticizing market economies as “exclusionary,” urging the rich to give more to the poor and criticizing a “culture of prosperity” that leads some to become “incapable of feeling compassion for the poor.”

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The three faces of the Republican Party

Rand PaulThe opposition party has been giving a “response” to the State of the Union speech (that they have no foreknowledge of and therefore can’t respond to) ever since Republicans began the asinine practice in 1966. It’s arrogant, juvenile, and self destructive. Most politicians are damaged by it and yet it’s still done every year by both parties.

This year is no exception, and if ever there was plain evidence that the Republican Party is suffering from an identity and policy crisis, this is it. The Republican Party will have no fewer than three responses to the address next week. The official televised response will come from Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), vice chair of the House Republican Conference.

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Is a general theory of conservatism possible?

I’m catching up on Krugman’s NYT blog and my mind got stuck on this. It’s easy and lazy to invent personal faults as scapegoats for political policy and ideology that you don’t like and don’t understand. Building a model that analyzes and predicts that behavior is a little more involved than that.

Krugman, via Josh Barro, notes that Republicans don’t seem to have a policy for how to deal with recessions:

As [Barro] says, GOP policy prescriptions – deregulate, cut spending (especially on the poor), and cut taxes (on the rich) – are the same when unemployment is above 9 percent as when it is below 5.

Conservative policies being driven by doctrine rather than practical concerns explains that easily enough, but is there more to it than that?

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Fox News is raising an entire generation of fools

Nobody has died as the result of a foreign terrorist attack in the United States since September 11th, 2001. We spend countless billions of dollars on unending wars in the middle east that routinely slaughter civilians and children in the name of keeping our own butts safe from The Terrorists, money desperately needed to combat a failing education system, a slowly improving health care crisis, and increasing poverty here at home.

There are threats to our society that far exceed what foreign terrorism presents these days and rather than combating these threats, we hide behind the first amendment and the right to dissent (more often the right to be stupid and hateful). I suppose that’s a price we pay, and given how things are in other parts of the world, it’s a small price indeed. But in the long run, these threats from inside our borders are the ones capable of destroying our society. Terrorists can kill us and that’s obviously pretty bad, but they can’t take away our constitutional rights, can’t make us stupid and weak, can’t blind us to threats that could eventually destroy the planet itself.

That’s what we have Fox News for.

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