The Right Prescription

No, the Obamacare Debate Isn’t Over

Phony stats won’t make it popular or legal.

By 4.7.14

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Last Tuesday, our President swaggered into the Rose Garden to announce that 7.1 million people have signed up for health coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges and that all further argument about the future of his “signature domestic achievement” was pointless: “The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” The problem with this claim is that no one with a basic grasp of arithmetic believes Obama’s enrollment figures, only about a quarter of the electorate supports his “reform” law, and it is still the target of multiple lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.

Beginning with the enrollment figures, the President’s pronouncement gave new meaning to the old saw about “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Charles Krauthammer succinctly disposed of Obama’s sign-up stats thus: “This is a phony number.… These guys go six months without any idea what the numbers are, and all of a sudden, it’s to a decimal point.” Krauthammer goes on to point out that the aggregate enrollment doesn’t tell us anything worth knowing. “But of course it’s meaningless because… we don’t know how many of them have paid… and how many were previously uninsured.”

This last point is, of course, important because covering these individuals was a primary pretext for shoving Obamacare down our throats. And its reception by these folks has been underwhelming. As the Daily Mail reports, “Numbers from a RAND Corporation study that has been kept under wraps suggest that barely 858,000 previously uninsured Americans — nowhere near 7.1 million — have paid for new policies and joined the ranks of the insured.” RAND shows that only 23 percent of new enrollees were previously uninsured and only about half of them have paid their first premium.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. A number of surveys have shown that “reform” is not popular with the uninsured. A recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that less than a fourth of them hold a positive opinion of Obamacare: “A quarter (24 percent) of those who currently lack coverage now say they have a favorable view of the law, while nearly twice as many (47 percent) have an unfavorable view.” Thus, a plurality of the people on whose behalf it was ostensibly passed don’t like Obamacare and show a marked disinclination to buy coverage through its exchanges.

Ironically, this means the uninsured don’t like the intrusive health care law any more than do Americans in general. As I wrote last week, support for Obamacare has continued its downward trajectory and has now reached all-time lows. An Associated Press-GfK poll recently found that a mere 26 percent of the public still supports the law to which the President, congressional Democrats and the legacy news media perversely refer as the “Affordable Care Act.” It is anything but affordable, of course, which explains why this is the lowest level of support the law has enjoyed since it passed.

Even if the President’s enrollment figures passed the laugh test, and the public actually liked the law, the Obamacare debate would continue in the courts. In addition to Hobby Lobby’s challenge to the justly reviled contraception mandate, which is about to be ruled upon by the Supreme Court in June, there are a number of other challenges to the law working their way through the federal court system. While a ruling against the HHS contraception mandate would not destroy Obamacare, it would pave the way for the Court to invalidate another bureaucratic fiat without which the law cannot survive.

This example of bureaucratic law making was perpetrated by the IRS, which intends to provide premium assistance through Obamacare exchanges set up by the federal government. As I wrote nearly two years ago, this flouts the clear language of PPACA, which stipulates that all such assistance must emanate from state exchanges. Likewise, the law’s employer mandates can only be triggered by assistance originating in a state exchange. This means that, if the federal government sets up an exchange in any state, the IRS can’t legally issue tax credits or fine noncompliant businesses.

As it happens, 34 states failed to set up exchanges. This meant that 2 out of 3 Americans would never be eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies and tax credits, which would have obliterated Obamacare. So, the federal government set up exchanges and the IRS promulgated its rule, which produced several lawsuits challenging the legality of that rule. One of these suits, Halbig v. Sebelius, was argued in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals the same day that the Supreme Court heard Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The appeals court hearing, as John Fund reports, “didn’t go well for the administration.”

Maybe the three judges making up that panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals didn’t get the memo explaining that the Obamacare debate is now over. Perhaps, like most Americans — including a plurality of the uninsured — they were under the impression the merits of the “Affordable Care Act” are just as debatable as the preposterous enrollment statistics touted by the White House. Maybe they think they live in America, where everything politicians do and say is debatable, despite the liberal distaste for free speech or what our delusional President declares in the Rose Garden.

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About the Author

David Catron is a health care consultant. He has an MBA from the University of Georgia and blogs at Health Care BS.