The New Republic’s Brian Beutler flags the latest concern trolling from Obamacare critics. Taking the see-what-sticks approach to new heights, the latest complaint is that people won’t be able to sign up until next year once open enrollment is over. It’s the Latest Obamacare Surprise! Only, this isn’t surprising. It’s how the law works, as has been publicized by the administration, by the media, and by outreach workers (well, except in places where outreach was banned). The law bans discrimination because of pre-existing conditions, so to make sure that people don’t just wait until they get sick to sign up, the law establishes a limited enrollment period. If you don’t sign up, you have to wait until next year (this year, the administration granted people a two-week extension past the deadline, which ends tomorrow).
But you might be surprised if you were getting dangerous misinformation from anti-Obamacare advocacy groups. Remember the well-funded and sometimes very weird campaign to convince young people not to sign up (like the Creepy Uncle Sam ad above, surely the worst piece of psychedelic art ever foisted upon an unsuspecting public)? Remember how groups like Americans for Prosperity were showing up at sporting events and festivals and college campuses, telling young people not to enroll? These groups chose to willfully ignore the way that the law actually functioned rather than carefully explaining the risks involved in not signing up. No doubt some people followed their advice and will now face the prospect of having no recourse for coverage in the face of an unexpected disaster. Worse, the groups often spread outright misinformation, suggesting, as AFP Arkansas Director Jason Cline did, that people could simply wait and “only enroll if and when they actually get sick.”
Telling people to burn their (non-existent) Obamacare cards but withholding (or spreading disinformation) about the open enrollment rules —encouraging people to take a risk without explaining the risk — was, well, shameful.
Now, of course, Obamacare opponents are griping that people can’t sign up for Obamacare whenever they please, something you’d only believe if you listened to the misleading and harmful gobbledygook of groups like AFP.
Beginning last summer, and continuing unabated until a few weeks ago, conservatives undertook a variety of efforts (both subtle and explicit) to discourage people, particularly young people, from enrolling in ACA-compliant health plans.
The idea was to deny state-based insurance markets critical mass, and sound risk pools, and send them into actuarial death spirals. In almost every instance, conservatives were appealing to strangers to undertake considerable personal risk in service of dubious ideological principles.
Though these efforts failed to achieve the larger goal, they almost certainly succeeded at convincing some people to skip Obamacare. And when confronted about the recklessness of their strategy, the most unscrupulous conservatives would say, No biggie! Obamacare allows people to enroll after they get sick or injured. So there’s no risk at all.
This was a lie. And if it weren’t such a dangerous lie, I’d be amused to find that conservatives now want you to be outraged about the fact that the Affordable Care Act creates limited open-enrollment periods each year to prohibit precisely that kind of free riding.