The political goals for congressional Republicans going into yesterday’s “Obamacare” hearing were relatively straightforward: (1) use website troubles to question the Obama administration’s competence; (2) hope the publicity might discourage consumers from getting coverage to which they’re entitled; and (3) pretend they care about substance, not grandstanding.
It wouldn’t have even been that difficult. The Affordable Care Act’s website really has suffered from systemic flaws and plenty of folks really are frustrated. If Republicans wanted to maintain the pretense that consumer access matters to them, there are actual, legitimate complaints to raise.
But they blew it.
* Republican lawmakers on the committee said the website tries to hide the real cost of Obamacare to the American people,” which isn’t true.
* Republican lawmakers on the committee said the website cost $634 million, which isn’t true.
* Republican lawmakers on the committee said White House political interference caused the tech problems plaguing the site, which isn’t true.
* Republican lawmakers on the committee said inactive code on the website violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which isn’t true.
* Republican lawmakers on the committee said the individual mandate is being delayed, which isn’t true.
Oddly enough, while GOP committee members were throwing stuff at the walls, hoping something would stick, they ignored a legitimate area of concern: the so-called “834 problem,” which deals with information sent through the site to insurers, has been a major glitch in the system. How many questions did Republicans ask about this during the first four hours of yesterday’s hearing? Zero.
They were so busy pushing nonsense, they ignored a legitimate problem that deserves attention.
I’d argue the underlying issue here is overreach. Just as House Republicans overreached when they shut down the government over funding the federal health care system, the same hubris led them to think they could expose the Affordable Care Act as a disaster if they just shouted bogus talking points over and over again.
In this sense, it was a missed opportunity. No one actually learned anything from yesterday’s “monkey court,” and even the law’s critics were just rolling their eyes by the end of the day, realizing that the theatrics served no purpose.
It captured the Republican Party’s post-policy problem nicely – if they cared more about substance and policy details, yesterday’s hearing wouldn’t have been such a waste.