Friday, July 13, 2012

Walker repeats lie on Obamacare, avoids real Wisconsin problems

You might have seen that our fair governor decided to pen a little piece in the Washington Post this week, as he took time out from yet another out-of-state fundraising and oligarch club tour. This time it was to make more claims about how Obamacare would make states and individuals go broke and that it won't hold down premiums enough for it to be worthwhile.

As part of Walker's piece, you might have noticed this passage.
The bad news is that, from a practical standpoint, Obamacare will devastate Wisconsin. An actuarial study commissioned by my predecessor, a Democrat, and completed last year found that if Obamacare is implemented in Wisconsin:

● 100,000 people will be dropped by their employer-sponsored health insurance;

●59 percent of people who buy their own health insurance will experience an average premium increase of 31 percent;

●150,000 people will stop buying health insurance in the private sector and will instead become dependent on the government and taxpayers;

●Between 2014 and 2019, Obamacare could cost Wisconsin taxpayers $1.12 billion; after all federal aid and tax credits are applied, the state’s portion of the bill will be $433 million; and

●Approximately 122,000 parents, caretakers and pregnant women with an income of more than 133 percent of the federal poverty level will no longer be eligible for Medicaid.
And that study seemed familiar to me. A quick search of the Google told me why. Because it was part of a report given to Walker last August that said the overall effects of Obamacare were positive for Wisconsin, and would save huge amounts of money compared to the cost of doing nothing.

This blatant deception was exposed in an article by the State Journal's Shawn Doherty, and described the Walker Administration's muzzling from Professor Jonathan Gruber, who was asked to give the report on the effects of Obamacare for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
. "They picked out the most negative aspects of the report to highlight," Gruber told me in an interview. "Overall I think health care reform is a great thing for Wisconsin."

A key finding of the analysis -- that 340,000 uninsured people in Wisconsin will gain coverage by 2016 -- was not even mentioned in the press release issued by the state's Office of Free Market Health Care, which is the new department created by Walker to replace Doyle's Office of Health Care Reform, created barely a year earlier to carry out the federal Affordable Care Act....

Among the strict ground rules [of the DHS Press Conference]: reporters could not use any quotes provided by [DHS Secretary Dennis] Smith and other state officials during the course of an hourlong briefing and PowerPoint presentation (which didn't get to the good news about the increase in coverage for 340,000 people until the last of 16 slides.) Reporters could use only comments provided in the press release or afterwards in one-in-one interviews with Smith...

State officials did not invite Gruber to Wisconsin for the release of his study nor did they set up a conference call with him for reporters or even provide them with his contact information. That is unusual for an important report like this, which cost $400,000. "I usually do a presentation at least to the stakeholders and policy makers," Gruber says. But he's not that surprised. "I think it's basically because they interpret their results differently than I do," he says.
While most of the media was blindly running with Walker's side of the story yesterday morning, Citizen Action's Robert Kraig (who might know more about our health care system than Walker and Scotty's DHS appointees combined) was out with a press release to tell the truth about what Gruber said, and how Obamacare will save Wisconsinites hundreds of millions of dollars.
Walker does not mention the report findings that showed Wisconsinites who buy insurance on their own will receive $729 million in federal tax credits and subsidies to make health insurance more affordable and that 41% will receive significant premium reductions averaging 56%.

Walker also does not mention the report finding that 47% of Wisconsin small employers will see premium reductions averaging 16% or that most small employers who provide health coverage to their employees will continue to do so.

Crucially, Walker’s numbers on rate increases are all a result of a sorting out of the health insurance market that will take place when health insurance industry discrimination is ended. By pulling his numbers out of context, Walker hides from view that most people will be much better off in the long term once health insurance industry discrimination is outlawed. Walker’s rate increase numbers relate to those who would pay more in the short term because health care reform forces the insurance industry to end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, age and gender, and requires higher quality coverage. In the current health insurance market, individuals and small groups of younger and healthier people get lower rates because the insurance industry discriminates against others and because it sometimes sells substandard policies that do not meet new national consumer standards.
Now, to the State Journal's Jessica Van Egeren's credit, she included responses from Kraig and Gruber as she modified her story on Walker's anti-Obamacare editorial (with a little help from a few readers who alerted them to it), but Scotty's old trick of "a lie travels half the way around the world before the truth can put its pants on" was done again. WisGOP did the same strategy for its BS about alleged voter fraud in Racine, which the GAB shot down in no uncertain terms today.

But hey, Walker got the national media attention that he craves. It's not like Wisconsin is in the middle of a severe drought or having major increases in unemployment claims or anything like that. I'd put it a little harsher than Dane County Exec Joe Parisi's disaster assistance request from this week, and instead put it to Scotty this way:

Hey Guv, while you're pressing flesh and sucking Koch in D.C., maybe you could drop by Congress and the Department of Agriculture and get a little help sent to Wisconsinites that actually do their jobs in Wisconsin? Whatcha say?

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