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Paul Ryan flubs yet another attack on 'Obamacare'

There's an important flaw in House Speaker Paul Ryan's new argument against the ACA: it's demonstrably wrong.
Image: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hosts press conference following a Republican caucus meeting
epa06015091 Speaker of the House Paul Ryan listens to remarks during a press conference that followed a Republican caucus meeting in the US Capitol in...

About halfway through his town-hall event with CNN's Jake Tapper last night, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) expressed his frustrations with his party's inability to pass a far-right health care bill. "The House has passed its bill; we're waiting for the Senate to pass theirs," he said. "Who wasn't disappointed that the Senate failed to pass that bill by one vote the other day? We all are."

At that point, Ryan was roundly booed -- suggesting his assumptions about public attitudes aren't quite right.

But that's not the only mistake the House Speaker made. From the transcript:

"The reason I'm disappointed is because the status quo is not an option. Obamacare is not working.... We've got dozens of counties around America that have zero insurers left. So doing nothing really isn't an option."

There are two important problems with this. The first, as New York's Jon Chait explained, is that it's the wrong argument from the wrong side of the political divide: "This was not a good argument against Obamacare, since the lack of insurers was largely a result of the Trump administration deliberately driving them out. Nor was it a good argument for the Republican replacement, the largest effect of which was to slash funding for Medicaid, a solution not even plausibly related to the separate problems of the exchanges."

But even if we look past the logic, the other problem is more serious: Ryan simply has his facts wrong.

As of last week, the number of "bare counties" in the United States -- counties in which there is no private insurer offering coverage to consumers -- was down to two. As of yesterday, that total was just one.

Note, I don't mean 1 percent of the country; I mean it's literally just a single county in Ohio -- in a nation of over 3,000 counties -- in which a few hundred consumers are affected.

As we discussed last week, this is not to say those Ohioans are unimportant. There are steps officials can and should take to help them, and I hope those 300 people get a hand, sooner rather than later.

But Paul Ryan, who has a reputation for keeping up on policy details, characterized this problem to a national television as a major flaw in the health care system, hurting consumers in "dozens of counties around America." That's demonstrably wrong -- and it's not the first time the Wisconsin congressman has flubbed the facts when going after the Affordable Care Act.