Variations on a theme

It seems appropriate that Kevin Drum would ask what seems like an obvious question about the strange inability of Republican Affordable Care Act horror stories to hold water. If the GOP cannot find anyone who was actually hurt by the law, it does suggest that the law did not inconvenience very many people at all. Kevin is the guy who proposed Drum’s law, which holds that any argument relying on internet commenters to show how widespread a viewpoint is actually proves the reverse, and coined (well, blegged) the term ‘nutpicking’ to describe it.

Like Kevin I have to assume that Obamacare has some victims out there. Heck, a few of you have told stories about falling through the cracks. I guess that none of those people are talking to the GOP.

54 replies
  1. 1
    kindness says:

    I read Kevin all the time. I agree with him some but often find he is a tad too willing to give conservatives the benefit of the doubt. But what really hacks me off over there is that his entire comment section devolves into trolls baiting and the readers taking the bait. I get so sick of it. Nothing is actually discussed other than folks flaming each other.

    He has to know too.

  2. 2
    negative 1 says:

    If you pose the question to a conservative they will mumble something about how Obamacare cancelled all those policies and made ‘you can keep it’ the lie of the year. That’s what they’re sticking to.

  3. 3
    Roger Moore says:

    But they’re going to ride dissatisfaction with Obamacare to a decisive victory in the 2014 elections. It must be true because they keep saying it.

  4. 4
    Sasha says:

    I’ve a friend who is having a horrible time with the exchanges/Obamacare. However, she probably isn’t the best poster child for the GOP — she’s originally from Canada, praises its single-payer system, and wishes we had the same thing here.

  5. 5
    Tommy says:

    Just watching the Canadians and Swedes play some hockey. Girl power. My niece will turn five latter this week. Maybe need to get her some hockey stuff.

  6. 6
    Belafon says:

    The people that are actually falling through the crack are:
    1. People that the ACA knew would, generally younger people who weren’t paying for insurance or were paying too little for crappy insurance.
    2. People who would have gotten insurance had Republican governed states accepted Medicaid.

    That second group is they one Republicans don’t want you to know about.

  7. 7

    @kindness: Agree re: Drum. He hedges to the Village in case they accept him one day. Much like our teabilly friends who support tax cuts for the wealthy and reduction in services because they may hit the lottery.

  8. 8
    ShadeTail says:

    My (very liberal blue) state ended up putting me on medicaid, because my income is apparently low enough. I was actually somewhat surprised about that.

    Anyway, I have had a bitch of two months trying to get their damned health services department to get their shit together and send me the info they should have sent me in late December/early January. And this was in a blue state that had the whole deal set up and running smoothly way back in October. So yeah, there’s definitely been some sand in the gears.

    But you know what? Fuck those republican fucks who want to deny me health insurance all together. For all the trouble, this is still way better than what I’ve had over the past six-to-seven years, and I’m really happy for it.

  9. 9
    slippytoad says:

    Heck, a few of you have told stories about falling through the cracks. I guess that none of those people are talking to the GOP.

    I bet because their stories would illustrate that the ACA did not go far enough, rather than that it went too far.

    The proof of this is the fact that none of the GOP’s attacks on the law have any real meat to them. They don’t want the obvious consequences of this to cross people’s minds.

  10. 10
    Fair Economist says:

    I’ve seen some real issues with older people (around 60) in good health making well over the median income. They sometimes face steep premium increases. It verifies on the exchanges – premiums are steep for that group. The problem is that it’s not a good sob story. Such people are basically the “winners” in life and they’re doing far better than the average American, even after having to shell out a few extra thousand per year for health insurance. It’s not that their life is ruined, it’s that they’ll have to forgo some trips to Europe or delay buying a luxury car.

    The Republicans may also be a little afraid to bring up the issue of older upper middle class folks having to pay “too much” for insurance. IMO it would be very reasonable for the government to extend the “10% of income for a bronze policy” limit all the way up to Bill Gates. Sure, it would put a small dent in the deficit but it’s fair and would get rid of the odd incentives for people right around the subsidy cutoff. If the Democrats say “OK, lets give those people subsidies too”, what would the Republicans do? It’s not going to help the Republicans to then start saying a core constituency should suffer but they don’t want to start fixing Obamacare either, because that will legitimize it and make people ask “why didn’t you suggest this 4 years ago?”

  11. 11
    Roger Moore says:

    You left out the people who are looking for cracks to slip through because they’d rather screw themselves over than accept a handout from That One.

  12. 12
    Tommy says:

    @Belafon: I just started a project, where I was asked to give them a “hip” web site. They want to target young folks, Like under 30. A group of folks they think they can sell to. It has been fun. I hope they will be successful.

  13. 13
    slippytoad says:


    Much like our teabilly friends who support tax cuts for the wealthy and reduction in services because they may hit the lottery.

    You know when I run into people who think this, they are invariably . . . . the kind of idiot who would never, ever, ever make it rich or even well-off. They are sycophants who are just hoping if they can abase themselves to the right person they will get a free ride for life.

    The haughtiness of these Royal Highnesses In Waiting is intolerable, they are clearly intellectual midgets and have a very difficult time following logic, and of course I try to be as cruel and heartless as I can in blowing up their little delusions of endless wealth. I feel someone who nurses such a selfish and cruel little dream in their blackened heart deserves to have that dream crushed.

  14. 14
    Shakezula says:

    @Sasha: I was going to say that it is likely a matter of finding someone that Republican voters will find sympathetic. African-American? Eeek! Brown bad! Single mom? Eeek! Slut, bad! Grad student? Eeek! Innellectual, bad!

    And then there’s the problem of finding a horror story that is horrifying enough and the suspicion they’ll automatically feel towards anyone who tries to sign up for soshulust death panel care.

    Basically, unless Sarah Palin claims Obamacare broke into her house and peed on her American flag, they aren’t going to care.

  15. 15
    Roger Moore says:


    I bet because their stories would illustrate that the ACA did not go far enough, rather than that it went too far.

    This. The GOP is looking for people who actually lost their insurance because of ACA, and there simply aren’t enough of them with compelling, true stories to write about, largely because ACA was very carefully written not to mess with people who already had insurance. The people who are slipping through the cracks are ones who should be able to get insurance but aren’t getting it because of flaws with the ACA that need to be fixed, but those stories aren’t helpful to the GOP goal of repealing the ACA.

  16. 16

    @slippytoad: Agree that there are quite a few that are as you describe and they, frankly, blow goats.

    Some others are more concerned with hurting the “right” (read: blah, brown, teh ghey and teh poors) people.

    The ones I dislike the most are the glibertarian true believers.

  17. 17
    Mnemosyne says:


    From the anecdata I’ve seen online, the people having the most problems with signing up on the website are naturalized citizens and green card holders. Your friend may need to call the toll-free number (1-800-318-2596) to get help clearing up the block.

    It’s an unpublicized problem because, of course, Republicans don’t want to look like they’re helping people who weren’t born here.

  18. 18
    slippytoad says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Yes. Everything we’re seeing supports this. If there WERE a real flaw with the ACA, it would be blaring through a trumpet on Fox, every hour.

  19. 19
    jl says:

    There was an ad about a women with preexisting condition in TN who lost her policy and experienced a huge premium increase. But in that case, the question was whether it was due to the ACA or the lack of Medicaid expansion in TN, which hurt her.

    There was some bafflegab at the end of the ad about how the mean and cruel tyrant Obama did not approve TN’s applications for a Medicaid waiver, which meant nothing at all in the conext of the add, and nothing to me. Later, I found some articles on the history of how TN tried to game the Medicaid expansion before it turned it down, which to be honest, I did not fully understand.

    So, looks like the woman in that ad got hurt by the ACA, but was the real reason the ACA, TN legislature, or the bad and incompetent (or corrupt and bad-faith, hey, you folks decide!) ruling on Medicaid expansion by Roberts and his goofy SCOTUS cronies.

    Anyone have a link explaining that ad, or know the background?

  20. 20
    slippytoad says:


    he ones I dislike the most are the glibertarian true believers.

    Honestly they are the ones I most frequently classify as sycophant, with delusions of grandeur. I have had them tell me in so many words they expected to be wealthy one day, and were COMPLETELY oblivious to the fact that they weren’t born with it, weren’t apparently working a job that would bring it, and were in fact fucking off on some website yammering about their principles . . . I would sometimes ask: “So, from your vantage point as JGalt2345 on Reddit, you’re going to become a multi-millionaire how?”

    They don’t seem to actually have thought through the tremendous gap between wanting to be rich, and having money fall in your lap. It’s actually hysterical.

  21. 21
    aimai says:

    @Fair Economist: The Republicans would absolutely have no problem saying that a “core constituency” should pay more–they can continue to play the “no free lunch/no subsidies” as long as they want to, safe with the assumption that most of their voters won’t realize that fixing and extending the ACA is an option. Obama would have to personally go to each individual voter and do their damned taxes for them with a subsidy before they would accept that the good bits of the ACA were directly the result of Obama’s actions, while they will happilly listen to their trusted republican reps explain to them that the reason they *aren’t getting* a big enough subsidy is that the blahs and the women sucked up all the taxpayer gold.

  22. 22
    Baud says:


    were in fact fucking off on some website yammering about their principles

    Wait, that doesn’t make you rich???? Then what am I doing here?

  23. 23
    Mnemosyne says:


    I can’t remember the woman’s name, but IIRC she basically got screwed because Tennessee didn’t expand Medicaid. She has pre-existing conditions (including lupus) that made her eligible for junk insurance under Cover Tennessee (their “high risk pool” program), but the state discontinued it. So, as far as I can tell, she got screwed by the state of Tennessee and is blaming Obamacare for it.

    ETA: I think she was a Republican guest at the State of the Union address if that helps you track down her name.

  24. 24
    aimai says:

    @Fair Economist: I’d like to point out that “people over 60” who are “shopping on the exchanges” are lucky to be able to purchase actual health care at all–previous to the ACA unless they were covered through their employer they would not have been able to buy a real insurance policy at all because of pre-existing conditions.

  25. 25
    Anonymous At Work says:

    I think there may be some horror stories but:
    1. Have to agree to have your story told. Betcha some people have had bad things happen to them, as a result of the exchanges and not their insurance company dicking with them (see #2), but know it’s generally for the better.
    2. Has to be Obamacare’s fault and not their insurance company or employer blaming Obamacare. Most of the early horror stories were “My company changed plans and increased premiums by 100%, saying it was Obamacare’s fault” when their company was hoarding cash or something like that.
    3. Has to be a real horror story, typically involving someone with complex treatments or terrible disease/syndrome, getting the shaft. This eliminates most of the stories that make it through the above. Joe Attorney, making 250k a year, now has to pay 50 bucks extra a month? Doesn’t cut it. Joe Blow, making 250 a day, loses his cheap cancer treatments? That’s worth a horror story.

  26. 26
    Fair Economist says:

    @aimai: Most people over 60 do have pre-existing conditions that would have made it hard to get decent insurance. But there are some who don’t, or who have minor conditions, and those are the ones affected. Yes, it’s not a very large group although that doesn’t matter for getting an anecdote.

  27. 27
    catclub says:

    I guess you did not read the post about the woman finding no doctors that actually accept her new healthplan.
    It was posted by Cleek, #33 on Richard Mayhew’s Good news everyone Post.

    Edited to fix reference.

  28. 28
    Brendan in NC says:

    @slippytoad: it’s a variation of the underpants gnome principle:

    1. Wish I was rich
    2. ?
    3. Become rich

    And don’t mention the word “work” anywhere for #2

  29. 29
    bemused says:


    I’ve never read the comments there but if the flaming is worse than here, I’ll definitely pass on that now.

  30. 30
    Mnemosyne says:


    Except that’s not a problem with PPACA/Obamacare. That’s a problem with Anthem Blue Cross, who are notorious for screwing their customers and have been fined multiple times by the California Department of Insurance for doing so. See my links in that same thread.

  31. 31
    Richard Mayhew says:

    That is definately a problem. But from a PR point of view, the message is not Obamacare sucks — it is Mayhew Insurance sucks (and if the person did not have health insurance before hand, or had $25,000/deductible insurance with massive coverage exclusions, she is still slightly better off) and once people are shitting on a particular health insurance company, it is a common shared gripe of people who get their insurance through work. Everyone likes to hate their insurance company.

  32. 32
    Redshift says:

    @Tommy: If my younger coworkers are any example, it’d be more effective to create a Reddit channel than a “hip” website.

  33. 33

    @slippytoad: Heh. The only answer they have is that “you’re too much of a statist to understand”.

  34. 34
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Richard Mayhew:

    I am continually surprised at how successful the insurance companies have been at getting their customers to blame “Obamacare” for the company’s decisions to screw them over. Has every pre-2009 insurance company horror story been wiped from the collective memory of Americans?

  35. 35
    Redshift says:

    @Richard Mayhew: I concur. I have had many different insurance companies through work over the years, and they all suck. ;-)

  36. 36
    catclub says:

    @Mnemosyne: Yes, I know. But it seemed like Tim F should have noted that case. #stdcomplaint of minions about Frontpagers and Bigfoots.

  37. 37
    aimai says:

    @Fair Economist: I have yet to meet a person OVER FIFTY, as I am myself who doesn’t have a pre-existing condition, or who wouldn’t be found to have one right quick if they had to go onto the individual market or if they tried to access expensive health care prior to the ACA and the laws against recission. Unfortunately most people are simply unaware of just how brutally unfair the insurance business was prior to the guarantees in the ACA.

  38. 38
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Fair Economist:

    older people (around 60)


  39. 39
    Gex says:

    @aimai: And it seems to me, that even absent pre-existing conditions, insurance companies are not eager to sign up people over 60. Which I mention because I am finding it tough to believe that in general it was better for the over 60 crowd prior to the ACA if they weren’t getting insurance from their employer.

  40. 40
    NotMax says:


    Could you speak up a bit, please? Didn’t quite catch that.


  41. 41
    patrick II says:


    I don’t agree that Kevin hedges, or hedges with some sort of ulterior motive. I think he attempts to understand the other point of view in the best possible light, and then tries to explain it. In the end though, he has written some devastating take downs of right wing policy. The article we are talking about today is an example. He isn’t shrill, and he certainly doesn’t write with the wonderful and creative hyperbole we find here. But he does drive the point home directly, which is what he does best.
    Kevin also doesn’t just echo what he has read in other places. He goes to source data more often than most political blogs, doing analysis of the latest gdp numbers from cbo or something. A few paragraphs and a chart and he explains it as simply and well as anyone on the net. A skill appreciated by this non-math person. I think he is the best “explainer” on the net.

    I have to agree though, his comment section is horrendous. I don’t know how much effort it takes to keep out determined trolls, but his blog is infested with them and makes any discussion of his posts useless. Usually the best comments about Kevin’s work are posted at sights like this when some other blogger references his work.

  42. 42
    Ed in NJ says:


    Well, as a benefits consultant, who works closely with brokers implementing company plans, I see this all the time. I’ve mentioned before that every company for the last 4 years has had their brokers blame Obama, or the politically-neutral “healthcare reform”, for every negative change they’ve made to their plans during their annual open enrollment. From the introduction of wellness programs, increased premiums, changes to hi-deductible/HSA models, etc. has been pinned on PPACA. And a big part of it is because eventually brokers won’t be needed for most of these smaller companies and they are angry. Broker fees are one of the biggest drivers of insurance cost, and the exchanges take them out of the equation, especially the proposed small business exchange that keeps getting delayed.

  43. 43
    Roger Moore says:


    I am continually surprised at how successful the insurance companies have been at getting their customers to blame “Obamacare” for the company’s decisions to screw them over.

    It helps a lot when their customers have blaming everything on Obama as a pre-existing condition.

  44. 44
    Southern Goth says:

    I seem to recall the idea of a Medicare buy-in option for the 55-64 crowd being floated around, since, gosh, premiums in that bracket are kind of high.

    I wonder what happened to that.

  45. 45
    patrick II says:

    @Southern Goth:

    I wonder what happened to that

    Joe Lieberman


  46. 46

    @patrick II: I get where you’re coming from. Could be both (or neither) as well.
    I’m forcing my own lens on this and I see a distinct downside to validating those viewpoints.
    But Kevin can make his own choices.

  47. 47
    Roger Moore says:


    Unfortunately most people are simply unaware of just how brutally unfair the insurance business was prior to the guarantees in the ACA.

    The biggest single failing of pre-Obamacare insurance is that lots of people couldn’t get it, which means the involuntarily uninsured were the main people who understood how awful the system was. People who have insurance have a hard time realizing just how badly those without are screwed.

  48. 48
    Southern Goth says:

    @patrick II: So the idea can never, ever be brought up again?

  49. 49
    kindness says:

    @bemused: Kevin’s trolls are Fox News hacks. They are brain dead. So they are less amusing than the trolls here. Here people will ignore them and carry on conversations around them. There, no such luck.

  50. 50
    patrick II says:

    @Southern Goth:

    I don’t think I said that. They couldn’t get it through the Senate orignially because of Lieberman, they can’t get anything through congress at all now. After 2014, it seems unlikely but maybe if the democrats take the house, after 2016 hopefully.

  51. 51
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Tommy: You could introduce her to curling, too.

  52. 52
    Scott Alloway says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: Yep, Me too. 63 and so many pre-existings (going back to my childhood stay at Boston Children’s) that I’m happy to have a shot at real insurance. Hell, my partner paid $1300 a month intil medicare kicked in. Suck on it, GTOP.

  53. 53
    KS in MA says:

    @jl: “bafflegab”–Great word!

    Good post in general, of course!

  54. 54
    Nina says:

    What the Dems ought to do is run an ad with a wealthy looking man looking soulfully out to sea – “Bob Smith is the CEO of Giant Soulless Insurance corporation. Bob crashed his yacht last year while drunk off his ass. Because of the evils of Obamacare, Bob’s company has to pay out 80% of premium money in actual health care, leaving no money for him to buy a new megayacht.” Focus in to Bob’s tearful face. “This man’s heart is breaking because of Obamacare. Won’t you please help him? Call your congressman today and tell him you want your insurance premiums going where they belong, into the CEO’s pockets. Repeal Obamacare.”

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