Rick Perry and Obamacare: Fact-Checking the Claims

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Source: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, is finding it difficult to look at the new year with his usual optimism. In an op-ed for The Dallas Morning News, Perry says that this year, “a great sense of peril as Americans face the full brunt of the disastrous impacts of Obamacare in 2014,” is testing his New Year’s resolve.

Perry peppered his piece with numbers and dismay about the health care law. The numbers form the backbone of his argument: In regards to health care, what the American people were promised was not delivered, he says. The accuracy of the governor’s claims need to be investigated if his argument is to stand ground against rising enrollment figures.

He begins with the cost of the website, $600 million. At a hearing on Capitol Hill in December, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius noted $319 million had been spent through the end of October on the website. The Washington Post provided some of her remarks. Sebelius went on to say that $677 million was promised in regards to the website, so Perry’s cost may not be far off in the end.

Perry uses numbers from the “if you like your plan, you can keep it” promise to display distrust by Americans toward the president. Perry cites an estimate that 6 million people have now had their plans cancelled. In November, NBC News investigated the canceled policies – at the time, more than 5 million people had been notified their insurance plans could not continue under Obamacare.

In 2010, America’s Health Insurance Plans had sent a letter to the White House that unless something changed, between 40 and 67 percent of people could lose coverage in the individual market. Of those in the individual market, 40 percent works out to 6 million people.

Moving out of the individual market, Perry discussed employer-based plans in the Dallas Morning News op-ed, saying that 80 million people may see their plans cancelled there, as well. Politifact dug into a similar claim by Glenn Beck, who said studies show that 80 million might lose coverage — the real number is closer to 125 million.

The organization rated the claim “pants on fire, and cited an estimate by the American Enterprise Institute’s Christopher Conover. “Of the 189 million Americans with private health insurance coverage, I estimate that if Obamacare is fully implemented, at least 129 million (68 percent) will not be able to keep their previous health care plan,” Conover said. The American Enterprise Institute has been largely critical of Obamacare.

For those who experience changes, “18 to 50 million will literally lose coverage, i.e., have their plans entirely taken away. … The rest will retain their old plans but have to pay higher rates for Obamacare-mandated bells and whistles,” according to Conover. It is indisputable that a change in coverage or cancellations can occur to millions under the law, but 80 million may be too high of an estimate for people completely losing coverage.

With his next few points, Perry is less specific. He discusses people facing higher insurance costs due to rising premiums, or higher deductibles and co-pays. People may be less financially secure not only from bills but from employers cutting hours, or reducing staff. A survey of CFOs showed that Obamacare is negatively altering how employers think about hiring. The higher costs hit the middle class particularly hard.

USA Today looked into plan availability and cost. It found that in rural areas, many counties do not offer the lowest price level plans, bronze, to consumers. It is not the perception of sticker-shock for the middle class, early retirees, and people who are self-employed: it is the reality. High deductibles, often amounting to $5,000 or $6,000, are an out-of-pocket expense many cannot afford.

Ultimately, Perry’s claims are more or less accurate but tend to be most relevant and accurate when tailored to how the middle class will be impacted by Obamacare. But that might play to his point even further. Kip Piper, a former government and insurance industry official, told USA Today that general affordability was not at the heart of Obamacare. “The law uses taxpayer dollars to lower costs for the low-income uninsured but it also increases costs overall and shifts costs within the marketplace,” Piper said.

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