For Republicans, Fear and Confusion Are All They Have Left

We know that 8 million people have signed up for Obamacare on the exchanges. But how many of them have actually paid their premiums? Yesterday, as part of their long, twilight effort to convince everyone that the Obama administration is lying about the enrollment numbers, Republicans issued a laughable report saying the number was only 67 percent. A third of the enrollees are phantoms!

As it happens, I didn't bother writing about this because, as political deceptions go, it was about as sophisticated as a kindergartner throwing a mud pie. The Republican numbers only went through April 15, even though a ton of people signed up at the end of March and don't even owe their first premium payment until the end of April. Of course there are lots of people who haven't sent in their checks yet. So how do Republicans justify this dumb talking point? Michael Tomasky asked:

Talking Points Memo’s Dylan Scott got hold of the questionnaire the committee sent to insurers, and it’s a joke. One industry source—not a Democratic operative—told Scott: “Everyone who saw it knew exactly what the goal was.”

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.

Republicans got what they wanted: some headlines suggesting that Obamacare enrollment rates were lower than the White House says. And of course, it became a routine talking point on Fox News. Mud has been thrown on the walls, and by the time the final numbers come out, plenty of people will remain confused.

And that's all Republicans care about right now: manufacturing doubt. They know perfectly well that by next month, when the final numbers come out, something like 90 percent of enrollees will have paid their premiums and total signups will be over 7 million. But they don't care. As long as people are confused, life is good for Republicans. So confusion is what they're selling.