The truth behind ‘good numbers’
By Rod Haxton, editor
Roger Marshall likes to claim that he’s not your ordinary Washington politician.
But when it comes to telling half-truths and relying on dubious “facts” the First District Congressman is very ordinary.
After an hour of familiar rhetoric and vague answers to questions about immigration, ag trade and tax reform, the very friendly Congressman was willing to sit down for an “interview.”
Now, we put interview in quotations because, as we’ve learned from President Trump, that opens up the definition to anything you want. And as we would soon discover, Marshall and I have different ideas on what constitutes an interview.
We dove right into the Republican health care plan that Marshall says he supported and his claim that the average deductible for coverage under Obamacare is now $12,000.
Actually, the average is $12,393 for families ($6,092 for individuals) with a Bronze plan, which is the cheapest plan available. We agree, that’s too much.
However, it’s no different than in the free market where individuals can opt for cheaper premiums to enroll in plans with deductibles of $5,000, $10,000 or more.
The plans are cheap for a reason. It’s catastrophic coverage. That doesn’t make it right or fair, but that’s the situation many people find themselves in.
However, Marshall gave the impression during the town hall that the high deductible was true of all Obamacare plans, which is inaccurate. The average family deductible for a Silver plan is $7,474 and it’s $2,745 for a Gold plan.
Marshall knows this because he directed us to a website (which we were already familiar with) that had these same numbers. Marshall could have been more honest had he chosen, but $12,000 makes a much bigger impression than $3,000. And besides, who’s going to question it? No one attending the town hall did.
Marshall also repeated a comment he’s made previously that “we’re spending $60 billion a year on Medicaid expansion and 80 percent of that is going to able-bodied Americans without dependants.”
You’ve probably heard similar claims (without the huge cost figure) from the Brownback Administration.
When asked where he got this data, Marshall responded “from the federal government.”
Actually, that’s not true. This is a number that’s been used as a talking point by the Foundation for Government Accountability, a right-wing organization with ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
When asked if he’d bothered to research the accuracy of these numbers, Marshall’s response: “I thought it was a good number when I saw it.”
President Trump has claimed that “millions of people” voted illegally in the last presidential election. Apparently, that is also a “good number” for people like Secretary of State Kris Kobach, but that doesn’t make it a fact.
Just for the record, the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is a non-partisan group, disputes Marshall’s data.
If you’re into “good numbers” then you’ll really like the $1 trillion in tax savings that Marshall and fellow Republicans claim will occur when Obamacare is repealed and the Republican health plan goes into effect.
That number was so impressive that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office took a closer look and concluded that Trumpcare would actually shift about $1 trillion in wealth from working class and middle class Americans to families making more than $250,000 annually, who currently pay most of the taxes which support Obamacare.
A tax shift instead of a tax savings? Imagine that.
Not to worry, assures Marshall, because “This is a plan that’s been well thought out.”
Only if you don’t worry about the details.
Among those details are the 10 essential benefits which are basic to each Obamacare plan. These include mental health and substance abuse treatment, prescription drugs, emergency room trips, preventive care screenings and vaccines, maternity care and others.
Each state should be allowed to determine the level of coverage it wants to provide for Medicaid recipients, says Marshall. Of course, the biggest worry is that some states will offer bare-bones plans that are cheap and limited in coverage. The result is a plan that meets the GOP goal of cheaper, but only if you ignore the long-range cost of less preventive care and more emergency room visits.
“I think we need to look at the bigger picture,” Marshall insists. “Managing from the federal level doesn’t work. Not everyone wants these (essential benefits).”
Unfortunately, Marshall is the one who fails to see the bigger picture.
The idea is to spread the risk, and the cost, among more people. It’s similar to property taxes. Young people can’t refuse to pay that portion of their property taxes which help the local senior center “because we don’t use it.” Likewise, seniors can’t refuse to support local schools for the same reason.
“As part of the greater good and to hold down the cost for everybody, we must all share in the cost of health insurance coverage whether or not you need all of the benefits being offered,” we countered.
To which Marshall responded, “I’m feeling like this is more of a debate than an interview.”
Call it what you will. We are a constituent who is exercising our right to challenge the thinking of our Congressman.
We feel an obligation to get to the truth by determining the sources of information and so-called “good numbers.” If those sources are groups financially supported by the Koch brothers (such as the ones referenced by Marshall’s office), then voters have a right to know.
We deserve to know if our elected officials are serving the greater need of millions of Americans, or if their policy decisions are driven by a right-wing agenda more concerned with providing tax cuts to the wealthy.
There’s no room for debate in searching for the truth.
Rod Haxton can be reached at email@example.com
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