In her party’s official response to the State of the Union last week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the House Republican Conference chair, shared an anecdote about “Bette in Spokane.” The point was to criticize the Affordable Care Act with a real-world example of a woman adversely affected by “Obamacare.”
It didn’t turn out well. A closer look at the anecdote quickly turned the story into the latest in a series of debunked tales about ACA “victims.”
As news spread that McMorris Rodgers’ evidence was wrong, the congresswoman took to Twitter: “It’s sad partisan politicians are attacking Bette.” In reality, though, I haven’t seen any politicians, partisan or otherwise, “attacking” the women in the story. Some have suggested she go online, check out the marketplace, and see if she can get a good deal, but that’s just sound advice – hardly an “attack.”
Rather, much of the criticism seems to be directed at the person who shared the bogus story, not the subject of the bogus story.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is calling on House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers to apologize for “lying” in her response to the president’s State of the Union address on [Tuesday] night. […]“Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers owes the nation an apology for lying in her Republican response to the State of the Union this week and spreading more misinformation to Americans about their health care options,” Emily Bittner, a DCCC spokeswoman, said Friday. “Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers and House Republicans are so desperate to please their insurance company contributors and send Americans back to the days when insurance companies had free rein that they are now resorting to embellishing stories and leaving out the facts to mislead Americans about the new affordable, comprehensive coverage available to them.”
That’s pretty aggressive for the DCCC, though it seems highly unlikely the House Republican Conference chair will actually, publicly express any regret for sharing anecdotal evidence that failed to stand up to scrutiny.
But fail it did.
Indeed, when we talked about this last week, I mentioned the larger pattern: if the Affordable Care were really as awful as its detractors claim, it shouldn’t be so difficult for its detractors to come up with legitimate anecdotes. And yet, there’s a seemingly endless pattern in recent months of “Obamacare horror stories” that don’t look so horrible upon closer inspection.
But Brian Beutler argued that I was understating the case and he has a point.
It’s not just that Republicans prefer to exploit these horror stories rather than remedy them … but that Republicans have spent the last four years intentionally maximizing the number of misapprehended victims.Take Bette: The reason she didn’t visit the Washington state health exchange was basically #OBUMMER. “I wouldn’t go on that Obama website at all,” she said. This didn’t start with her cancelation. This started years ago. Republicans told Bette, and others inclined to distrust Obamacare, that they’d face death panels and rationing boards. That their options would be unaffordable, and irredeemable. That the exchange sites would make their personal information vulnerable to hackers and that creepy Uncle Sam would sexually violate them. They said all this in the hope that people like Bette wouldn’t give the law a fair shake, then turned around and feigned outrage on their behalf when the plan worked.Republicans aren’t sincerely distressed about the things they hear from people like Bette. People like Bette are the goal.
Paul Krugman is thinking along related lines.
[W]as this the best story Ms. McMorris Rodgers could come up with? The answer, probably, is yes, since just about every tale of health reform horror the G.O.P. has tried to peddle has similarly fallen apart once the details were revealed. The truth is that the campaign against Obamacare relies on misleading stories at best, and often on outright deceit.Who pays the price for this deceit? In many cases, American families. Although health care enrollment is actually going pretty well at this point, thousands and maybe millions of Americans have failed to sign up for coverage because they believe the false horror stories they keep hearing.
And they keep hearing about them from lawmakers like Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
That said, it’s worth noting that McMorris Rodgers’ constituents aren’t responding well to her efforts. “In her district, people are flocking to Obamacare – well beyond the national average,” Timothy Egan reported. “Though she has been screening town hall meetings to highlight only critics of the new law, her constituents are doing something entirely different in making their personal health decisions. In Spokane County, the most populous in the Fifth Congressional District with nearly half a million people, the rate of participation in the new health care law is even well above the state average. At the end of December, signups were 102 percent of the state target.”