Opponents of the Affordable Care Act never stop producing new tricks to undermine the reform's effectiveness. But leave it to California Republicans to reach for the bottom. Their goal appears to be to discredit the act by highlighting its costs and penalties rather than its potential benefits. The device chosen by the Assembly's GOP caucus is a website at the address coveringcaliforniahealthcareca.com. If that sounds suspiciously like coveredca.com, which is the real website for the California insurance exchange, it may not be a coincidence.
Health care policy can get confusing, even for policy experts who study the details for a living. It's one of the reasons dishonesty in the political debate surrounding health care is so damaging -- even the most well-intentioned people often don't know how best to separate fact from fiction.
It's why efforts from political officials -- who know better -- to deliberately confuse people are so disappointing. Michael Hiltzik reports:
In theory, this is a site created by California Republicans to serve as a "resource" for those looking for additional information. In practice, the site "is worse than useless" -- it didn't direct users to the in-state exchange marketplace, and includes demonstrable falsehoods intended to deceive the public.
Like what? The site includes the ridiculous notion that the Affordable Care Act increases the federal budget deficit, which is the exact opposite of reality. It also claims the IRS will use the law to target conservatives; it says the law will discourage private-sector hiring; and it even hints in the direction of the death-panel smear by raising the specter of "rationing" for the elderly.
All of these claims are wrong. All of them are presented, however, on a website that presents itself as objective and non-partisan.
Stepping back, dishonesty on this scale is certainly brazen, but it raises anew a lingering question: if the Affordable Care Act is so awful, and will be as horrific as critics claim, why do Republicans continue to feel the need to make stuff up? Shouldn't reality be damaging enough?