There is not yet an official announcement about exactly how many Affordable Care Act enrollments there were during the open-enrollment period. The Associated Press and others are reporting that the Obama administration believes it’s “on track” to sign up more than 7 million Americans for health insurance, but there’s been no official confirmation.
As a practical matter, it really doesn’t much matter whether the total is 6.9 million or 7.1 million – it’s almost a matter of bragging rights at this point, but it doesn’t really affect the structural integrity of the system – and it’s also worth noting that yesterday wasn’t necessarily the inflexible deadline anyway. Coverage through Medicaid expansion will continue, and those who began the process before the deadline will still be allowed to finish.
But the larger takeaway remains the same. First, “Obamacare” is succeeding in ways no one was predicting a few months ago. Second, Republicans are in deep denial over facts that contradict everything they’ve chosen to believe about reality.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the unfortunate choice as chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, got the ball rolling on Sunday, suggesting there’s a conspiracy underway to inflate enrollment totals. “I think they’re cooking the books on this,” he told Fox News.
As Rachel noted on the show last night, by mid-day, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had endorsed the conspiracy theory. Within hours, conservative media had received its marching orders.
On the March 31 edition of his radio show, Sean Hannity claimed that “millions of Obamacare applicants appeared out of thin air” and accused the White House of “cooking the books” in his attack on the health care law. […]On the March 31 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-hosts Kimberly Guilfoyle and Eric Bolling touted Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-WY) claim that the administration is “cooking the books” while mocking the White House claim that 6 million Americans have already enrolled. Guilfoyle asked how “magically they hit the number.” […]On the March 31 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh doubted the enrollment figures and asked, “why should anybody believe it, why can’t the government prove it?” Limbaugh insisted that “the real question is, when have they not lied about Obamacare?”
Sophia Tesfaye labeled them “Obamacare Enrollment Truthers,” which is certainly as good a name as any.
This just isn’t healthy. Political movements that prefer baseless conspiracy theories to dealing with reality are, almost by definition, delusional.
Indeed, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney joked with reporters yesterday, “If we were cooking the books, do you think we would have cooked them in October and November? We could have saved ourselves a lot of pain.”
This was probably intended to be funny, but it’s actually an important point. When the numbers were awful, the left didn’t manufacture an imaginary conspiracy. ACA supporters struggled through the crisis, took their lumps, and kept working. If the administration were going to perpetrate an elaborate fraud, including the manipulation of state data over which the White House has no control why would it bother doing this now?
Conservatives need to get a grip. For one thing, I’d recommend dealing with reality instead of denying it. For another, stop rooting for the American system to fail, because it’s just unseemly. (At the same time, it’d be nice if the right stopped seeing Americans getting access to affordable medical care as some kind of upsetting political setback.)
The unemployment numbers haven’t been manipulated; there was no 2012 conspiracy to “skew” campaign polls; the White House did not use the IRS to “target” Tea Partiers; there was no cover-up on the attack in Benghazi; Bigfoot isn’t real; and about 7 million American consumers signed up for health insurance through exchanges during the open-enrollment period. Reality does not depend on your satisfaction to be true.
Jonathan Cohn’s piece published overnight rings true: “[T]he White House and its allies … have a lot more good news to share, about millions of real people who are truly better off. They should feel good about that. Maybe you should, too.”