Sunday, December 29, 2013

Oh TPM, Never Stop Concern Trolling!

Really, don't stop concern trolling the ACA. What would a Talking Points Memo be without its reliance on epithets to do all the work of actual reporting?  Its like talking to a guy with a particularly whiny form of political Tourettes.

Here are just a few in the most recent TPM fake pieces on the ACA:

HONOLULU (AP) — A December surge propelled health care sign-ups through the government's rehabilitated website past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said Sunday, reflecting new signs of life for the problem-plagued federal insurance exchange.
Of the more than 1.1 million people now enrolled, nearly 1 million signed up in December, with the majority coming in the week before a pre-Christmas deadline for coverage to start in January. Compare that to a paltry 27,000 in October —the website's first, error-prone month — or 137,000 in November....

The reason I call this a fake piece is that it is nothing more than a bitchy rewrite of all previous speculative coverage at TPM tied to a brief Obama Administration news release.  Everywhere else people are struggling to get real information and publish that--TPM hasn't bothered to do what DailyKos's Brainwrap has been doing so diligently.  This isn't really all that much of a mystery: individual states and the federal exchanges have been reporting these numbers in a variety of ways for some time.  You could sit down and spreadsheet them and investigate.  But TPM prefers the meaningless update format--take a press release and insert your own pro-forma insults.

 Basically, the Obama Administration released some preliminary numbers from the Federal Website (covering one set of states).  States which are signing people up through their own websites have a different set of numbers.  Sometimes the article refers only to people who signed up for private insurance through the Exchanges, sometimes it randomly adds in numbers of people who were signed up for Medicaid in some states. The article pretends that none of the people who were kept on their parent's plan under the ACA (several million by any count) count as "covered" under the ACA.  This enables Mr. Lederman to worry that

The fledgling exchanges are still likely to fall short of the government's own targets for 2013. That's a cause for concern, because Obama needs millions of mostly younger, healthy Americans to sign up to keep costs low for everyone.

(I particularly dislike this locution "Obama needs millions" because it reduces an important, nationally needed, program that benefits every American into some kind of Presidential vanity project. This is like reporting on the fact that 1.3 million people are going to lose their UB as merely a "thumbs up!" or "thumbs down!" for Washington power brokers.)  

Meanwhile, it not like there hasn't been endless discussion of these numbers--is this really a meaningful way of thinking about the ACA?

 The administration had projected more than 3.3 million overall would be enrolled through federal and state exchanges by the end of the year.

Lederman keeps the rhetorical focus here on the imaginary failures of the Administration to predict usage of an untested, novel, system for purchasing insurance--many of these people for the first time--but does it matter whether people registered through the website or were enrolled into the program by Navigators in some other way, for example through the automatic medicaid expansion in Oregon or Kentucky's Kynect?  Of course not.  The ACA is here to stay, how many are signed up by what date is essentially meaningless.  Its like reporting on a brief thunderstorm, where you can see clear skies ahead and screaming "get me the wood and nails, I need to build an ark."

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