Surprise! Paul Ryan Is Misleading People Again About Obamacare.


Rep. Paul Ryan really, really doesn’t like Obamacare. And now he’s got the facts and figures to prove what a disaster it is:

The whole point of Obamacare was to make health care more affordable. But premiums aren’t going down; they’re going up—way up. All over the country, insurers are proposing double-digit premium hikes. In Maryland, it’s close to 30 percent. Tennessee, 36 percent. South Dakota, 42 percent.

Tax season was like a bad dream before. Now it’s a total nightmare. People could never afford these plans on their own, so the law gave them subsidies. Well, now, two-thirds of the people who got them had to pay the IRS back—on average over $700. That’s not the kind of money most people have lying around.

And for all of this hassle, what are we getting for it? The argument was if people had insurance, they’d go to the doctor instead of the emergency room. But now even more people are using the emergency room.

My initial reaction to this was, “That’s it? That’s all you got?” I mean, even if it were all true, it’s a pretty meager set of complaints to set aside a program that’s provided decent, affordable health care to more than 10 million people, and has done so at a cost that’s surprisingly reasonable and surprisingly lower than initially projected.

But you probably know what’s coming next: It’s not actually all true. I know Paul Ryan doesn’t care, but just for the record, let’s take his horror stories in order:

  1. This is based on a small number of insurance companies who have asked for large increases—something that happens every single year. They won’t get them, and when 2016 dawns the average increase will almost certainly be in the range of 4-7 percent. Paul Ryan knows this perfectly well.
  2. This is based on a study from H&R Block that covers only its own customers. It appears to have been reported only in right-wing publications, most of which conveniently left out a few facts: (a) that $700 was a refund reduction, not money that had to be paid out of pocket, and (b) a quarter of recipients overpaid and got a $400 increase in their refund. Actual data based on all taxpayers isn’t available yet, so there’s no telling how close this is to the truth.
  3. I wouldn’t be surprised if ER visits have gone up now that more people know that a visit won’t bankrupt them. But by how much? We don’t know yet, because as the chart on the right shows, the CDC only has data through 2013. Ryan’s statement is based on a…..poll. That’s right: a poll of ER doctors, three-quarters of whom think nothing has changed much and one-quarter of whom think business has increased significantly. That’s frankly unlikely given that Obamacare has only increased the share of insured Americans by about 5 percent, but I guess it’s possible, especially in specific geographic areas that are already underserved with primary care physicians and emergency services. However, it’s all just guesswork at this point. We’ll have to wait until next year to get actual figures from the CDC.

Bottom line: Ryan doesn’t have much. And what he does have ranges from misleading to outright lies. I wish I could say I was surprised, but this is his usual MO. He’s a little more slick about it than your average TV shouter, but the results are about the same.