Two weeks after the country first digested the revelation that one of the architects of ObamaCare confessed that its passage was largely the product of a series of deceptions aimed at deceiving the Congressional Budget Office, Congress, and an American public that was too “stupid” to grasp what was going on, it turned out the falsehoods haven’t ended. As open enrollment began for a new year of ObamaCare policies, it was revealed that some of the numbers promoted by the administration as proof of the Affordable Care Act’s success were falsified. While in and of itself this latest problem is not proof that the ACA is doomed, with the law’s existing credibility gap growing and more problems looming ahead in the coming year in which the balance between those who gain from the law may be matched by those who lose from it, perhaps its time for the administration to stop pretending this isn’t a pattern.
As Politico reported:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s committee revealed Thursday that nearly 400,000 dental plans were included in recent enrollment figures that made it appear — wrongly — that the administration had hit the 7 million target for ObamaCare’s first year. The panel has called CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and former ObamaCare adviser Jonathan Gruber— the center of a separate flare-up over the law’s passage — to testify next month about the “repeated transparency failures and outright deceptions.”
The second season of ObamaCare began last Saturday, and there’s been no enrollment update since Sunday morning, when HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell tweeted that there were more than half a million log-ins on HealthCare.gov on the first day and that 100,000 applications were submitted. By contrast, several of the 13 health insurance exchanges run by states have been regularly releasing traffic and enrollment-related data. Massachusetts is issuing daily traffic counts.
If this kind of fibbing seems familiar, it should be. From its inception, the ACA has been passed and sold to the American people in the way that Gruber described in his offensive video clips: as something that it was not. And whenever figures have been needed to analyze what was going on, it seems that the administration treats the public like a first grade arithmetic class: every figure gets rounded up.
While Obama, let alone the signature health-care legislation that is informally named for him, did not invent government falsehoods, this predilection for lying is not a minor issue given that these numbers are being used to defend its success as well as its legitimacy. And though its advocates think its acceptance is a done deal, what will happen in 2015 will make any further fibbing even more important. With the imposition of individual and employer mandates looming, the importance of the number of ObamaCare policies sold will be matched by the impact of the bill on employment as well as the insurance rates that may skyrocket in the new year.
In its initial enrollment periods the only significant figures about the ACA were the total of enrolled and throughout the process we have seen these numbers manipulated to include unpaid policies and now plans that are unrelated to the actual legislation. If this continues as the accounting becomes more complex, then it will be impossible for anyone to know what is going on or whether it is helping or hurting more Americans. In the first year, we know millions lost their insurance or their doctors despite promises from the president that this wouldn’t happen. In the second, the toll will extend to different groups that may soon find themselves counted among the growing numbers of ACA losers to be matched up against the millions who have benefited by receiving insurance that they might not otherwise have obtained.
A government with a credibility gap is always in trouble. But an Obama administration that can be counted on to tell the truth about ObamaCare is a government with an approval rating that will not only sink lower in the polls but also be unable to justify the president’s main legislative achievement. If its honesty does not improve, don’t count on its health-care law being able to move smoothly into a period of greater acceptance.