Cassidy dutifully regurgitates misleading O'Care claims

by Walter Pierce

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, salivating on cue like a Pavlov puppy, is repeating a GOP House committee's talking points. Because ... Benghazi or something.

Fifty or so attempts at repealing the Affordable Care Act didn't work. Prognostications about its imminent collapse proved unfounded. "Death panels" died. The Obamacare "horror stories" didn't stand up to even casual scrutiny. The "they're cooking the books" claim never got traction.

More than 8 million Americans who didn't have decent health insurance at this time last year now have it, and that sucks if you opposed the law.

However, not to be nonplussed, the GOP-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee found a new way of proving that the federal health care law is an armageddon on Mur'ka: only 67 percent of folks who enrolled have actually paid their insurance premiums so technically they're not enrolled and, therefore, Benghazi.

On cue, the misleading claim, which we'll get to in a moment, was spun into talking points disseminated via email, social media and the Republican Party's official media outlet, Fox News.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, Sen. Mary Landrieu's presumed runoff opponent this fall in her re-election bid, baited his hook and cast it wide before 7 a.m. this morning:

President Obama and Senate Democrats declared this law a success without providing important details of who has signed up and who has paid their premiums. We now know that the claim of 8 million Obamacare enrollments is inaccurate, and that Obamacare is not working for Louisiana families. We need to repeal this law and replace it with solutions that put the patient in charge, not Washington bureaucrats.

But there are problems with Cassidy's statement and, like "death panels" and everything else, it's just so much hooey. For starters, the committee used April 15 as a cut-off date, despite warnings that it's too early to get any kind of accurate picture of actual enrollment (based on premium payments) picture.

New Republic's Jonathan Cohn has details:

Remember, open enrollment officially ended on March 31. And, thanks to the Administration's extensions, people were still signing up well into April. At the time the Committee requested the information, many of these people would have just received their first invoices for payment. Payment wouldn't have been due until the end of the month - in other words, Wednesday. Some wouldn't owe first payments until the first of June, because that's when their insurance starts.

In other words, it's safe to assume that the real payup rate is higher than 67 percent. How much higher? There's no way to be sure. But there are plenty of encouraging signs. On Tuesday, at a breakfast sponsored by Politico Pro, the head of the insurance industry's main trade group - Karen Ignani, of America's Health Insurance Plans - said that about 85 percent of people who bought coverage through the marketplaces were paying premiums.

On the very same day, officials from Wellpoint told investors on a conference call that the payup figure was 90 percent, according to reports from the Washington Post's Jason Millman and the National Journal's Clara Ritger. Those figures are consistent with what industry and government officials had said previously - most recently, earlier in April, when California officials said the payup rate in their marketplace was about 85 percent. (The House Republican report doesn't include data from state-based marketplaces, possibly skewing the numbers more.) That would put the actual number of people getting insurance somewhere around 7 million, give or take a few hundred thousand - which is what the Congressional Budget Office originally projected and actually a bit higher than what the CBO projected a few months ago, after Obamacare's initial troubles.