January 6, 2014

WaPo Fact Checker gives 2 Pinocchios to the claim that "more Americans have lost health insurance than gained it under Obamacare."

Glenn Kessler checks the accuracy of a GOP talking point that's put in various different ways. The quote in this post title is the way Marco Rubio phrased it, but there's also the really bad version that The Daily Caller put up, saying that Obamacare has "left more Americans without coverage than before the law was passed." See the difference? Rubio compares the set of persons who lost health insurance they had (even though they may have been able to replace it with some other health insurance) and those who had no health insurance and got health insurance. The Daily Caller is comparing the total number of persons who have "coverage" at 2 different time points: before and after Obamacare.

The Daily Caller's formulation — using the word "coverage" — is vulnerable to the interpretation that we're not just talking about people losing and buying health insurance but we're also referring to everyone who enrolls in Medicaid. Also, the way Rubio put it, people who lost insurance they had but replaced it with something else are counted in the loser group but excluded from the winner group. In The Daily Caller version, these people, who had their plan replaced by something else, cannot fit the set of persons "left... without coverage."

Too bad The Daily Caller is so bad at putting words together accurately. If you have a set of facts that you want to present to make a political point, you have to frame your words carefully, so that your grasping for strength of expression doesn't result in any inaccuracy. The Daily Caller is in desperate need of quality control, and you might say that it's not fair for Kessler to pin the Daily Caller's defective writing on the Republican Party, but John Boehner tweeted a link to that article. Boehner opened up that channel.
Though Boehner’s tweet had the same wording as the headline for the Daily Caller’s wrong-headed article, spokesman Brendan Buck says the speaker’s main point is that there were “more private plans canceled than private plans enrolled in Obamacare.”
Message to Buck and Boehner: Get control of your message. Watch what you tweet. And be especially careful when what enthuses your tweeting fingers appears in The Daily Caller. Refine your talking point into a powerful and scrupulously accurate form and adhere to it.
This is one of those cases where the exact phrasing could make a big difference in the Pinocchio rating. The Daily Caller article by itself would merit Four Pinocchios, while the actual phrasing of Boehner’s tweet is technically correct but a misleading accounting of apples and oranges. In linking to an obviously mistaken article, Boehner compounds any misunderstandings about the point of his tweet.
Shape up, Obamacare opponents. Get some brains and some good writers. You people are making dumb mistakes of the sort that any properly trained lawyer would know not to make. Pathetic.


Bob Ellison said...

Uh, no.

"So, who’s right? Much of it depends on what you count, how you count it and how carefully the attack line is phrased."

Counting is indeed important. Does Kessler claim to have an accurate count?

"In reality, many people who received notices that their plans were canceled were told they would be automatically enrolled into another plan by the same insurance company."

Not me. Blue Cross told me that my family of six was cancelled, cancelled, cancelled, no ifs, ands, or buts. Does Kessler have stats for his claim?

My case is an anecdote. That's the case everywhere for folks with individual policies. The government can't even put up a number on how many people are actually enrolled!

Kessler is running interference. This is all bullshit, and I'm surprised to see you fall for it, Professor.

Brennan said...

In reality, many people who received notices that their plans were canceled were told they would be automatically enrolled into another plan by the same insurance company.

Haha. Glenn Kessler with the biggest assumption I have ever seen.

Way to run interference you ass.

rehajm said...

The problems with the ACA will transcend Republicans ability to screw up message.

SJ said...

How many of the people who have "coverage" under ObamaCare have signed up, but not yet paid?

How many are in the situation where the insurance has been offered, but payment hasn't arrived at the insurer yet?

Brennan said...

How many of the people who have "coverage" under ObamaCare have signed up, but not yet paid?

How many are in the situation where the insurance has been offered, but payment hasn't arrived at the insurer yet?

6 Pinnochios for asking good questions.

Tank said...

Keep in mind that whatever the administration is telling us about numbers is a lie. If they even know the truth themselves.

Dustin said...

Honestly I don't mind the GOP making gaffes in their response to this disaster. They have no real intention of real reform and I don't want either house of charlatans to benefit too much from anything.

Every second the GOP stands as the alternative to democratic socialism is a second wasted. The longer it takes to replace that party with something that isn't hopelessly corrupt, the worse this country's odds are.

Bob Ellison said...

Kessler is counting.

Crimso said...

Instead of handing out Pinocchios and chastising Obamacare opponents for communicating like poorly educated lawyers, can't we just wait and see how this thing unravels over the coming year? What difference does it make at this point?

Matt Sablan said...

"[M]ore Americans have lost health insurance than gained it under Obamacare," seems fairly easy to fact check, provided we have accurate numbers.

The problem is, I don't believe we'll ever have accurate numbers [even historically speaking a hundred years from now.]

rhhardin said...

Maybe people will notice that they don't need health insurance.

Doctors will start taking cash, and adjusting prices to match.

David in Cal said...

Kessler still seems to be taking the position that something is proved true simply because the Obama Administration said so.

Mark O said...

Why would anyone believe anything the Obama administration says about Obamacare?

Big Mike said...

I agree with Bob Ellison. The Daily Caller's formulation seems likely to be the correct one at this time.

Kessler is guessing, and probably guessing wrong.

Living in Northern Virginia we get the Post because it is our best source of local sports news, its coupons, the movie theater times (which, yes, we could get online), and the weekly TV guide. Why on earth do you read that ignorant rag?

CStanley said...

Too bad The Daily Caller is so bad at putting words together accurately. If you have a set of facts that you want to present to make a political point, you have to frame your words carefully, so that your grasping for strength of expression doesn't result in any inaccuracy.

Calling bullshit on this.

The whole industry of political punditry is based on the skill of presenting facts as propaganda, therefore inaccuracy is baked in (it should be subtle enough to be undetectable without a lengthy analysis.)

The real issue here isn't that The Daily Caller is bad at it. The issue is that there is one standard of analysis applied to conservatives, and a completely different standard for liberals. If this was a Republican administration's failed law, the fact checkers would have no problem defending the comparisons of us intended negative consequences with the paucity of positive intended consequences. At most they'd concede that there was some apples to oranges aspect to it but they'd say it is still relevant and acceptable to compare the negative to the positive and show that the law on balance has done more harm than good.

CStanley said...

"Us intended" = "unintended"

Bruce Hayden said...

Yeh - I agree the magic distinction is between "coverage" vs "insurance" because Medicaid is not insurance, but is coverage. Clearly more people, so far, pushed off insurance than added to insurance. But more may be covered because of all those added to Medicaid swamping the net number of insured lost. Which is why I have long said that the biggest single thing that ObamaCare did for coverage was to expand Medicaid, which it could have done without reorganizing, and ultimately screwing up, 1/6 of the economy. Of course, what happens when all that fed money dries up that is funding the Medicaid expansion?

Tim said...

My Blue Cross policy was canceled and I was "automatically" enrolled in the closest eligible plan. Only $1000 more deductible AND $200 more per month (66% increase). So yeah, I didn't lose coverage, it only got worse and costs $2400 more per year for a single 62 year old.

Bruce Hayden said...

Maybe a good summary - Kessler is a political hack, lying through his teeth, because Rubio is correct, while DC is incorrect. He analyzes the DC statement, then calls Rubio wrong.

Wince said...

Bottom line: the GOP simply forgot to insert their "privates" in their Obamacare claims.

CWJ said...

Althouse said,

"If you have a set of facts that you want to present to make a political point, you have to frame your words carefully, so that your grasping for strength of expression doesn't result in any inaccuracy."

I agree in principle. But in practise, interest in proactively examining such statements, appears highly selective. The need for care, at least as far as the MSM is concerned, applies to only one of the two major parties.

If the press showed more or less uniform interest, your statement would still be true. But it it would be far less necessary to voice.

Fen said...


Does anyone here really trust Wapo to be the arbiter of truth re Obamacare?


All this article proves is that Winston Smith has no shame.

WaPo: "We've always been at war with Eastasia"

Levi Starks said...

Who decided how many pinocchios the WaPo fact checker gets?

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

Political discourse is now reduced intentional misunderstanding.

All these people in the elite, in government and the media, with all their education, become too stupid to read when it's time to win the current news cycle.

There's no way to excuse this behavior anymore. It's obvious, pervasive, intentional, and extremely irritating. The only reason it works is because media coverage has become so one-sided.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Ann, but you're just completely wrong on this one.

# of people who lost their health insurance coverage under ObamaCare: the # of people harmed by ObamaCare. It doesn't matter whether or not they got a different plan, they lost the plan they had, and had chosen for themselves.

# of uninsured people who now have health insurance: # of people who ObamaCare was supposed to help, and did help. The legitimate comparison point to the first number.

Now, to get #2 we have to take the # of Exchange enrollees, and subtract the # of people who previously had other health insurance. We don't have that number, and taking just hte # of Exchange enrollees and using that greatly over counts for #2. So if your complaint is that Rubio is overcount, great.

But if you're simply complaining that Rubio is treating people who lost their old insurance, and ended up getting new ObamaCare "insurance" as "ObamaCare losers", you're wrong. They liked their plan, they couldn't keep their plan. The fact that they were able to get a new, more expensive plan, with worse coverage, doesn't cancel that out.

SGT Ted said...

The WaPo is merely covering for Obama and Democrats signature clusterfuck, yet again.

Why is the WaPo given any sort of credibility on the ACA, much less any other of their Democrat Party Cheerleading, hand waving and excuse making is beyond me.

Peas don't buy into the pro-Obama spin and bullshit. There are no accurate numbers that they can quote regarding who got cancelled and then re-enrolled automatically. None. Because that's not how health insurance contracts work.

The notion that people got re-enrolled into another plan "automatically" is pure bullshit. You cannot be "reenrolled" into a changed contract that you didn't sign, or ask for.

They are still telling out and out lies about who is covered. No change there.

Bob Ellison said...

Re-reading the Professor's post, I think she might have been trying to be sarcastic. This is a difficult line. Sarcasm requires that eye-lift that shows intention of sarcasm.

Maybe, though, the Professor was not trying to be sarcastic. Maybe she's serious, or maybe she's metasarcastic.

SGT Ted said...

Being "automatically enrolled" in a shittier plan that takes more money out of your families pocket without your consent isn't a very good defense of the ACA.

Oso Negro said...

I can't make valid comparisons without reliable data. Why, oh why, do I lack reliable data? Because the Obama Administration is hiding it. The Pinocchio stuff is bullshit without reliable data.

CStanley said...

SGT Ted said...
Being "automatically enrolled" in a shittier plan that takes more money out of your families pocket without your consent isn't a very good defense of the ACA.

1/6/14, 9:44 AM

If you like your plan, you can be automatically enrolled in a shittier one that will cost you more. Period.

That's what the president said, right?

Will said...

My BCBS plan was cancelled and I was automatically offered enrollment in an "equivalent" plan if you consider equivalent to be 25% higher premium, Family deductible $7700 higher, individual deductibles doubled and network constricted by more than half the doctors our Family sees.

Furthermore, what I lost was a plan I got to choose for my particular Family circumstances. My plan was not a crappy plan. It was a premium plan at a premium price, replaced by a worse plan at an overvalued price.

WAPO is comparing apples to rotten oranges.

SGT Ted said...

Shorter WaPo: "Hey just bend over and take it. You know you want it."

cubanbob said...

Having one's new Cadillac replaced with a used Chevy but still paying the same monthly payment. Happy, happy, happy. Why complain? You still have a car.

Fen said...

Ya know, the problem with redistribution is not just the division of wealth, but all the wealth that gets destroyed in the process.

Its like taking a McMansion away from an middle class family and giving it to a ghetto dweller. In 6 months the house will be crack den with broken windows and a flooded basement.

Portia said...

I give 6 pinocchios to the Wapo for still being published.

khesanh0802 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khesanh0802 said...

It's hard to believe that Ann thinks a well trained lawyer would write more cogently. This is marketing stuff and a good marketing person would get the wording right the first time. A LAWYER?!!!, oh my God!!!

gerry said...

This is what happens with a progressive as head of state. No matter what the lying administration or its MSM jesters say, the truth will out because, as Glenn Reynolds states, "What can't go on, won't go on."

Boltforge said...

Spent 3 hours in the ER on Christmas day with a family member (dislocated shoulder). Got to talk about his amazing new Obama Approved healthcare plan for 2014.

Monthly payment went from $350 to $1200. Out of pocket went from $5000 per family member to $10,000. Total family out of pocket went from $15,000 to $40,000. Coverage after max was met dropped from 100% to 80%.

The general feeling in the ER about Obama, Democrats, and people who vote for them was rather low. Like around "they all have IQ's in the teens" low.

test said...

Too bad Althouse did not subject Kessler to the same scrutiny as she did the DC. Kessler calls the DC comments a lie, but the points he makes to support it are estimates and weak logical arguments, not facts.

He notes that many people were able to get replacement insurance without going through the exchange, but doesn't give us the figure so that proves little to nothing. He assumes the the millions of people whose previous policies were theoretically resurrected at the last minute were able to actually re-establish their coverage. He says "There likely was a seamless transition from one plan to the other" to cover his lapse, but this is not true. For six to eight months those plans didn't exist, so why would there have been a smooth transition? People still had to initiate the transation at the last minute in achaotic environment.

The same is true for his "catastrophic" excepton. He notes that an estimated 500k became eligible for these plans and counts them as insured. But there's no evidence that number of people enrolled in those plans.

In addition the 2.1M exchange figure is the number who put a plan in their cart - whether or not they prceeded to checkout. If the cart information was available, so was the checkout information.

Then he adds that "the enrollment period is only at the halfway point, so the data are incomplete" as if the loss of coverage Jan 1 is not the important date. I'm constantly amazed those rewriting our entire insurance program think it so unimportant people are actually covered by insurance. Here's proof they accept it as less important than paying a few hundred dollar a year penalty. But if it's so unimportant why remake the insurance industry over the uninsured in the first place?

Kessler's entire article assumes that because other paths to coverage exist enough people must have taken them to make the assertions lies. It's a sloppy rush to absolve Obama.

cubanbob said...

I find the concept of a party house organ as a fact checker pretty amusing.

Fen said...

* Fen the Fact Checker *

Look! I now have "Fact Checker" as my header! That means I am the arbiter of whats true! Bow down bitches!

Boltforge said...

Fen said...
"* Fen the Fact Checker *"

Is the square root of 2 in fact irrational? And did it really get a guy killed because he said it was?

Fen said...


Boltforge said...

Now not only is Fen titled correctly, he has always been correct in his responses to questions.

That make Fen "The Fact Checker" the official fact checker of althouse!

Annie said...

Let's count all those people who lost full time positions - along with insurance coverage - because of Obamacare, in retail and the fast food industry.
Also, all those part-timers, who used to be able to purchase inexpensive basic plans before obamacare.

I know of many people who have lost their coverage and were not automatically enrolled. Those people are either going to go without and pay the fine as they can't afford the exchange, or have to get another Obama-job as they can't afford the exchange. And because of the disastrous website, one person couldn't even get on to see what the options were after he lost his coverage, before he was admitted to the hospital for a week.

Oh, and can't forget those people whose coverage is going to cost about as much as their rent or mortgage.


n.n said...
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n.n said...

It depends on how "lost" is defined. Are quality and quantity equally relevant? Are choice and privacy substantial indicators? Is increasing the total cost while expanding welfare a viable reform?

Gabriel Hanna said...

The double-standard is infuriating. Remember that they rated "if you like your healthplan you can keep it" true when it was just a campaign promise; no one knew then that the President knew it to be false when he said it, and they gave him the benefit of every doubt, but the green eyeshades come out for the Daily Caller.

However, this is how it is. The media strains at gnats and swallows camels for the Democratic Party--this is a fact with which Republicans must deal, and so all their statements need to be gnat-free.

Make a joke out of it like Paul Ryan did, but do it.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Depends on what you mean by "lost". Here it is, 1/6/14, the deadline for paying premiums for our new policy, acquired in collusion with CoveredCA.com and Anthem. However, Anthem seems not to have heard of us, despite our "case #" from CoveredCA, and our status as existing customers. Also, we can't get anyone at Anthem on the phone today. So, as of tomorrow, we may be uncovered, despite 1) our status as pre-existing customers and the POTUS guarantee, and 2) my willingness to pay a premium to somebody, nay ANYBODY at this point.
Gotta love it.

n.n said...

Fred Drinkwater:

That would be lost as in limbo. That definition of lost has received the most public attention; but, lost is not limited to that outcome. Although, that does seem to be the predicted terminus.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I think that Althouse and Kessler are missing a few points here. Is getting coverage under Medicaid equivalent to getting coverage under the Obamacare exchanges?

Now it is certainly true that both fall under the ACA, but do they both fall under Obamacare? That was originally Mitt Romney's term, not the President's, remember.

Let's also remember the important point of federalism here. The expansion of Medicaid comes from independent state legislatures. Prompted by a boatload of federal money, to be sure, but still state programs.

The "statement" on Twitter for which Boehner is being Pinocchioed was in fact the title of the Daily Caller article he was retweeting.

Would Boehner be chargeable with Pinocchios if he were to retweet the Althouse blog post "At the 15-Below-Zero Café..." and it was actually only 10 below.

So we have to give Kessler and Althouse one Pinocchio for some shading of the facts in giving this two Pinocchios.

gk1 said...

You'ed think these obama ass kissing enablers would be more careful about flakking for obamacare again after they had to admit it was the "lie of the year" whether you could keep your health plan or not. I would have thought they would show some token skepticism on anything the whitehouse had to say regarding enrollment numbers. I guess not.

Saint Croix said...

We will have a very good grasp of the numbers in November, when the votes come in.

Fred Drinkwater said...

Following up my own comment:
To be fair, we finally got to a live phone support person from Anthem. Mirabile dictu, she was competent and familiar with our situation (which involved completing a cancellation and altering the set of covered persons). The $ figure she quoted us was exactly the same as the number we had from CoveredCA, and she accepted our CC payment immediately. So, 2 hours before the nominal deadline, we are covered again.
OTOH, I still can't believe how oddly the CoveredCA.com website is. The top seems largely devoted to singing its own praises, and the sign-up bits are very unclear on how to close the deal (either with them or with an ins. company). Obviously not designed by someone with significant commercial experience. Hell, even the CA DMV site is more user-friendly.