If you are among the few Americans who still take the legacy media seriously, you probably believe that repealing Obamacare will result in a cataclysm comparable to that which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Since Donald Trump won the presidential election, countless “news” stories have appeared in “serious” outlets with headlines such as this howler from the Atlantic: “Repealing Obamacare Could Leave 59 Million Americans Uninsured” and this balderdash from the Washington Post: “Hospitals warn Trump, Congress of massive losses with Affordable Care Act repeal.” These are classic examples of fake news from the people who invented the genre.
To get a sense of how misleading these headlines really are, read the Washington Post story. It’s about a letter sent to congressional leaders by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) pointing out that a repeal bill should include a provision that rescinds Obamacare’s huge cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospitals. The author of the piece, Amy Goldstein, has mined the letter for scary passages while scrupulously ignoring its most newsworthy assertion — that repeal legislation introduced by Donald Trump’s nominee for HHS secretary, Tom Price, “would protect hospitals from destabilizing cuts.”
Goldstein fails to mention that crucial passage, which reads thus: “ACA repeal and replace legislation sponsored by Department of Health and Human Services Secretary-nominee Tom Price is an example of providing a ‘clean slate,’ which would protect hospitals from destabilizing cuts that would jeopardize access to high-quality services.” Nor does she include any information about Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Oddly enough, though, Goldstein finds room for the following scary quote: “[R]epealing the Affordable Care Act could cost hospitals $165 billion by the middle of the next decade and trigger ‘an unprecedented public health crisis.’”
This is particularly dishonest because the $165 billion is the amount of money the hospitals agreed to give up because the Democrats promised that “reform” would provide enough newly insured patients to offset them. Obamacare never produced the promised number of newly insured patients, of course, which is one of the reasons half of U.S. hospitals are losing money. Before they were tricked into endorsing the “Affordable Care Act,” hospitals that treated large numbers of such patients received Medicare inflation increases, as well as “Disproportionate Share” (DSH) payments meant to support facilities that took care of high volumes of uninsured patients.
Which brings us to the hopelessly disingenuous Atlantic headline. This article is ostensibly based on a study by the Urban Institute (UI), but its insinuation that 59 million people would lose their health care coverage if the law is repealed misrepresents what the study says. The study actually says the following: “The number of uninsured people would rise from 28.9 million to 58.7 million in 2019, an increase of 29.8 million people. The share of nonelderly people without insurance would increase from 11 percent to 21 percent.” Notice anything odd about these figures? The UI study estimates that the current number of uninsured Americans is nearly 29 million people.
So what? The author of the Atlantic piece, Olga Khazan writes in her first sentence, “The goal of the Affordable Care Act was to whittle down the number of uninsured Americans and bring order to… the individual insurance market.” This means that Obamacare has been a dismal failure. When the President addressed Congress in 2009 to pitch his reform plan, he used the following datum to underscore the need for action: “There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.” Seven years later, there are 29 million people without coverage, and anyone who believes “reform” brought order to the individual market should stop skipping her meds.
The Atlantic admits that the UI projections are based on the assumption that Obamacare would be repealed with no replacement. But this is not what the GOP leadership has in mind, as the editors of the Atlantic know full well, having published a piece on the House replacement plan last June titled, “Republicans Offer a Plan to Replace Obamacare.” In fact, Khazan herself writes that the primary obstacle to putting together a viable replacement for the health care law is the Democrat leadership. She points out that incoming Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has taken the position that “Democratic lawmakers would not cooperate with Republicans on a replacement bill.”
The Atlantic and the Washington Post are not the only outlets producing fake news about Obamacare, of course. The reliably dishonest Politico has inevitably published a story titled, “Obamacare repeal could be biggest 2017 tax cut for wealthy.” And no write-up about dishonest reporting can leave out the opinion leaders of the loony left. The Daily Kos has produced an all-too-predictable effusion titled, “GOP Obamacare repeal will be an annual death sentence for thousands.” Nor is it possible to escape the hopelessly trite attempts at “ironic humor” from the Huffington Post: “Republicans Anxious to Repeal and Replace Law of Gravity.”
Sigh… Here’s the thing: Obamacare is a failure by every objective standard. It doesn’t work, the voters hate it, and the Republicans have a mandate to put it out of its misery. No amount of Democrat obstruction, fake news, phony studies, whining from #SnowFlakes, or snark from #SoreLosers can save it. It’s time to pull the plug and move on.