William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, “If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.” Sherman’s boss, Ulysses S. Grant, was more diplomatic in his memoirs: “Correspondents of the press were… not always disposed to report correctly what did not confirm their preconceived notions.” Sherman’s hyperbole and Grant’s understatement remind us that journalistic malpractice is nothing new, while providing helpful insight for anyone struggling to reconcile years of “news” stories claiming that Obamacare was working with today’s portentous reports that it is collapsing.
There is, of course, no way to reconcile these two narratives without doing considerable violence to common sense. If Obamacare had actually been “working” for all those years, it would not have suddenly collapsed. In reality, the implosion of the “Affordable Care Act” began when it was originally implemented. Moreover, the partisan reporters and editors of the legacy media certainly knew it was a disaster by 2013, when more than five million Americans lost their insurance coverage and Healthcare.gov exploded on the launch pad. They could not, however, report the truth, because there was no plausible way to blame its failure on the Republicans.
Then Donald Trump surprised almost everyone by winning the 2016 presidential election.
This was by no means a pleasant surprise for the media, but it provided them with a face-saving fiction with which they could abandon their absurd claims that Obamacare was actually accomplishing its ostensible goals — The Failure of the “Affordable Care Act” is the fault of President Trump and his evil Republican accomplices in Congress. Never mind that most of the promises made by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats on the law’s behalf were premeditated lies. Forget that Obamacare’s most conspicuous failures occurred before the GOP regained its majority in the Senate and years prior to Trump’s election. It’s their fault.
This strategy received its first trial run, when various erstwhile news organizations reported that Obamacare’s ongoing enrollment shortfalls were attributable to Trump. This was deliciously ironic considering that, prior to his inauguration, Trump’s looming presidency was credited with driving up enrollments. CNN promulgated that implausible agitprop with a story bearing the following headline: “Obamacare sign-ups surge after Trump’s election.” When this “fear of Trump” surge turned out to be little more than a fever-swamp fantasy, the New York Times published a story titled: “Drop in Late Obamacare Enrollment Appears to Be a Trump Effect.”
In the waning days of this year’s Affordable Care Act sign-up period, the Trump administration declared war on the health law, releasing an executive order that could weaken its requirements and yanking advertisements and outreach off the air. Those actions appear to have made a difference. Sign-ups for health plans in the states managed by the federal government are down slightly compared with last year.
It goes without saying that this story is based entirely on conjecture and that it neglects to mention that the sign-up slump merely continued Obamacare’s consistent record of failing to hit its enrollment targets. The Times’ fact-free journalism is also apparent in a subsequent editorial that blames Trump for the longstanding instability of the health insurance market under the failed reform law: “Mr. Trump is threatening to kill a program in the ACA that pays health insurers to offer plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.” The editors suggest that this “sabotage” will cause insurers to stop selling coverage through Obamacare’s exchanges.
There are two problems with the “reasoning” employed in the Times editorial. First, insurers began fleeing Obamacare’s exchanges at least two years before Trump was elected president. The CEO of Aetna, the latest insurer to abandon the exchanges, declared the “Affordable Care Act” moribund some time ago: “It is in a death spiral.” So, the exodus of insurers cannot possibly have been caused by the Trump administration’s “animosity toward the ACA.” Moreover, the editors of the Times utterly disregard the inconvenient fact that the program they want Trump to continue was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge before he was elected.
Nonetheless, in addition to his supernatural effect on Obamacare enrollment and his ability to destabilize exchanges retroactively, the president appears to have caused premiums to increase before he bothered to announce his intention to run for president. The Hill reports, “Uncertainty among insurers about how the Trump administration will handle the Affordable Care Act could translate into double-digit premium increases for 2018.” Sorry, businesses don’t raise prices because of “uncertainty.” They raise them, because they wish to avoid losing money on the goods and services they sell. As succinctly explained by the editors of Investor’s Business Daily:
Last year, insurers announced massive rate hikes, as they did the year before, and the year before that. Yet that was when nobody had a reason to think ObamaCare’s future was in doubt. So why, defenders of ObamaCare should be asked, are the double-digit rate hikes this year suddenly the result of “uncertainty”?
In other words, the price hikes that are about to descend on Obamacare’s victims are nothing new and they have nothing to do with Trump. They are the result of irreparable flaws in Obamacare, and the reporters and editors of the legacy media know it. This is why they are frantically trying to shift the blame for this mess from the Democratic authors of the law to the most convenient Republican target. That doesn’t mean that we should employ Sherman’s cure for their dishonesty. Indeed, it isn’t clear that the editors of the New York Times could reach the ethical standards of Mephistopheles. We should, however, ignore their shameless spin.