Yesterday the President defended the Affordable Health Care Act – Obamacare to most Missourians – noting that one of the biggest problems with the program’s implementation was the unreasoning, mad-dog bile of the GOP, although he didn’t use those exact words – he’s far more gracious than I. He did, however deplore the ugly GOP political games in terms of what they will cost an American populace less interested in right or left partisanship than in pragmatic solutions to their problems:
… anyone defending the remnants of the old, broken system as if it was working for people, anybody who thinks we shouldn’t finish the job of making the health care system work for everybody — especially when these folks offer no plan for the uninsured or the underinsured, or folks who lose their insurance each year — those folks should have to explain themselves.
Ironically, while the President was calling on the obstructionists to explain themselves, they were putting on a little show in a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing , trying to pretend that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had to explain herself to the very folks who had done everything in their power to hinder her Obamacare sign-up efforts.
Mixing it up with the bully-boys was Missouri’s Rep. Billy Long (R-7). As Dave Weigel describes Long’s ham-fisted effort to help his GOP colleagues hammer home what seems – inexplicably given it’s inanity – one of their favorite talking points:
But they did try to bring back the “fairness” attack. Colorado Rep. Cory Gardner started a wave of questions to Sebelius about why she didn’t have the integrity to get on the exchange herself, if she was so great.*
Missouri Rep. Billy Long, a former auctioneer who’s built like a kettlebell, did the same, with less aplomb. “If you can, will you?” he asked. “Yes or no? Yes or no?”
Sebelius, looking bored, explained that she couldn’t get on the exchange as she had insurance already (not quite true, she simply couldn’t get the subsidies that other enrollees would get) and that D.C. had its own exchange, anyway.
That Sebelius found this line of questioning tiresome and time-wasting was indicated by a comment overheard on a “hot” mic” at the end of Billy’s star turn. “Don’t do this to me,” she muttered to an aide, a response that reminded me of my own soto-voce, eye-rolling “save me” pleas to my husband after having been cornered by particularly obtuse bores in the past.
As for the substance of the issues with which Billy tried to skewer Sebilius, Duane Graham has very aptly demonstrated over at The Erstwhile Conservative that Billy’s anti-Obamacare cupboard was all too bare: Contrary to Billy’s assertion that everyone other than Sebelius will have to get healthcare through the exchanges, only those Americans who lack employer-supplied insurance and who are ineligible for Medicare will need to use the exchanges; Sebelius isn’t eligible for healthcare through the exchanges since she not only has employer supplied insurance, she is enrolled in Medicare Part A; nor is she, as Long asserted, the “architect” of Obamacare – that honor goes to the conservative Heritage Foundation via Mitt Romney with a little input from several months of congressional wrangling in 2009.
Facts don’t fly with Billy Long, however. He has, after all, just announced that he has signed on to legislation that he says is intended “to ensure those already hurt by the president’s health care law are given a one year break from the law’s individual mandate.” This in spite of the fact that folks “hurt” by Obamacare are kind of thin on the ground – but then, this rhetoric actually pertains to another GOP fantasy talking point du jour, and involves what they depict as the “millions” who, in Billy’s words, “are beginning to receive notices from their health insurance carriers that the coverage they currently enjoy will be terminated at the end of their current plan year because of the president’s health care law. These same people will be penalized if they do not find new coverage.”
If Billy had not been too busy badgering Secretary Sebelius to listen to the President’s speech yesterday, he might have learned that the situation is far from dire enough to require his legislative intervention:
So anyone peddling the notion that insurers are cancelling people’s plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier, and stronger benefits and stronger protections, while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and that many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper — if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least.
Of course, if Billy had been trying to do the right thing and act in concert with facts, he might not have gotten his name in the headlines for his little performance yesterday and pulled in all the associated Tea Party points – which I am sure that he hopes will prove potent when he comes up for election and has to compete again against Democratic hopeful Jim Evans, who makes no bones about his support for Obamacare.