Even before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, GOP critics assailed it as a socialist, job-killing overreach indicative of a government run amok. In the years since, we've seen no shortage of scare-mongering and hand-wringing about how the law would harm Americans and bring the republic to an ignominious end.
Yet as ObamaCare gradually went into effect, reality began to undercut the thrust of that argument. Remember those terrifying death panels Sarah Palin warned us about? And over the past few months in particular, facts have shot down a handful of the more apocalyptic claims about the law.
In the most recent instance, a report last week from the Congressional Budget Office estimated that ObamaCare would trim the labor force by 2 million full-time jobs by 2017, and by 2.5 million come 2024. Critics seized on that as proof that the law would indeed spook businesses and stifle job growth.
What the report actually showed, though, was not a dearth of jobs, but a dearth of labor. Incentives in ObamaCare that make insurance cheaper and easier to obtain, the report suggested, would encourage some people to retire earlier or work less, thus shrinking the labor pool.
With spin and misinformation flying about, the CBO on Monday made that point clear.
"Because the longer-term reduction in work is expected to come almost entirely from a decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply in response to the changes in their incentives, we do not think it is accurate to say that the reduction stems from people "losing" their jobs," CBO head Doug Elmendorf wrote.
So much for that talking point.
The same CBO report also undercut another meme on the right, that ObamaCare contains a big bailout for insurance companies.
The scuttlebutt involves the risk corridors built into the law, which cap how much insurance companies can make or lose in their first three years on the exchange marketplace. (You can read a more thorough explanation on risk corridors here.) Since taxpayers could theoretically be on the hook for covering the losses of flopping companies, a cadre of Republicans, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), labeled the provision a "bailout" and vowed to repeal it.
As it turns out, the CBO found that insurance companies would receive $8 billion — but pay back double to the government. In other words, the supposed bailout — which was really just standard actuarial practice to begin with, and not a literal bailout — would actually save the government billions of dollars.
Then there's the zombie claim that lawmakers and their staffs are exempt from ObamaCare. Last month, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he was filing suit over that boondoggle, arguing the administration had "exceeded its legal authority" in "arranging for me and other members of Congress and their staffs to receive benefits intentionally ruled out by" ObamaCare.
In truth, the law does offer a unique subsidy to Capitol Hill employees to offset the cost of obtaining insurance through the exchanges. But lawmakers and staffers only qualified for that subsidy because the law, via an attempted GOP poison pill amendment, stripped them of federally subsidized coverage and forced them onto the exchanges in the first place. Even National Review thoroughly debunked the exemption claim.
Republicans also warned that Healthcare.gov's early glitches exposed the entire law as an unworkable train wreck. Writing in The Hill, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) called the problems "catastrophic," and likened the site to cooked eggs: "You see, you can't recook eggs!"
Following a massive IT effort though, the site is now running much smoother, and enrollments are surging as a result.
That brings up another ObamaCare bogeyman: the dreaded death spiral.
ObamaCare needs a bunch of young enrollees to offset the cost of enrolling older folks. If not enough young people sign up, premiums for everyone else could spike and the system could crash.
Yet despite the best efforts from some on the right to convince young adults not to enroll — one ad campaign featured a creepy Uncle Sam sexually assaulting young patients — the death spiral, too, was more myth than reality.
Enrollment among young adults has indeed been lower than the administration's target, but it's expected to surge as the enrollment deadline nears. And even if the current demographic breakdown remains unchanged, an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation determined the consequences "are not as great as conventional wisdom might suggest." In a worst-case scenario, the report found, the effect on premiums from an unbalanced pool of enrollees would still be "well below the level that would trigger a 'death spiral.'"
Phew. That's a lot of debunked arguments. Next thing you know, critics will be trying to falsely claim the law won't help enough people get coverage. Oh, wait.
Now, the GOP was right to be skeptical of Obama's claim that everyone could keep their health insurance under ObamaCare. That turned out to not be the case.
But the party's overall success rate on loaded ObamaCare allegations is terrible, and is only getting worse. The danger is that at some point, voters are going to stop paying attention.
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