The Obama administration announced a couple of weeks ago that enrollment totals for the Affordable Care Act well exceeded projections
, with 8 million consumers enrolling through exchange marketplaces. Yesterday, the administration went further, offering a more detailed breakdown
of the data, nearly all
of which looked quite encouraging for those who want the U.S. system to succeed.
It made the p.r. stunt launched by House Republicans just 24 hours earlier look a little worse.
In a rush to undermine the administration's ACA figures, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee published a one-page "report" that sought to prove "only 67 percent" of consumers who enrolled paid their first month's premium.
The report was a lie
. The same folks who accused the White House of "cooking the books" went ahead and cooked the books -- manipulating data from insurance companies and deliberately excluding millions of consumers who enrolled towards the end of the open-enrollment period.
I saw some reports say the GOP's figures generated "pushback" from the White House, but that's not quite
what happened -- Republicans lied and they got caught. That's not evidence of "pushback"; it's just pointing to reality.
Dylan Scott talked to
insurance-industry officials who acknowledged that the Republicans' survey was designed to yield an ideologically satisfying result.
"The survey was so incredibly rigged to produce this result, it was a joke," a source, whose company received it and who provided it to TPM, said. "Everyone who saw it knew exactly what the goal was." The survey included language that explicitly left out the fact some people would still have time to pay their premium after April 15, which is when the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked companies to return their answers. The GOP survey simply asked companies for the number of enrollees who paid their first premium and the number who have not -- but it did not account for the fact that some people in the latter group could still pay until at least April 30.
"They were clearly trying to get a specific result to rebut any positive news about enrollment," the source said.
Wait, it gets worse.
I asked the GOP staff at the committee if they had a counter to the argument that their numbers were incomplete and in essence rigged. On background, one staffer there basically told me that they didn't have a counter. The committee press release makes it clear, I was told, that these data represent payments only through April 15, and the committee will seek another report May 20. In other words, this staffer is saying: Yep. Which makes it rather hard to avoid the conclusion that the committee knowingly put out a bad number. Why would a committee of the House of Representatives do something like that? Well, what am I saying? We know why.
Yes, we do. Republicans started with the conclusion, worked backwards to justify the answer they wanted to reach, manipulated the data, and then presented their findings to journalists and the public as if their report was legitimate. (House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, trying to defend the deception, seemed confused
about basic arithmetic.)
Republican lawmakers did all of this, on purpose, in the hopes of generating a few ill-gotten headlines and muddying the waters -- because the truth was politically problematic.
Kevin Drum added
this was "about as sophisticated as a kindergartner throwing a mud pie." But they did it anyway because the bubble Republicans have created to keep reality at bay is in constant need of reinforcement.
When conservatives demand evidence that Republicans are transitioning to a post-policy phase, I hope they'll keep this incident in mind.