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I give Californian Republicans some credit for what they did yesterday. They revised the website they had used to trick people looking for Covered California health care exchanges into going to their site instead for anti-Obamacare propaganda so that it now has a link or two to the actual website that people need to see. Unfortunately, the credit they get for that is maybe 2% of the blame that they earned for putting up the rotten prank of a site in the first place.
If you missed the story, here’s what came up originally on the blog Crooks and Liars, ahead of the game as usual.
California Republicans are desperate and shameless. In the past two weeks, GOP Assembly members have sent mailings out on what appears to be the state’s dime to their constituents about health insurance. Only, they don’t direct those people to CoveredCA.com to sign up. Instead, they send them to their own astroturf version at the URL CoveringHealthCareCA.com.
On their version, there are links to negative articles and twisted messages intended to sour people on signing up for health insurance before they ever land at the official health exchange site.
For seniors, this message:
Seniors on Medicare may not see changes immediately to their benefits or coverage. Down the line, however, the erosion and accessibility of care may become a problem.
To pay for other components of the Affordable Care Act such as expanding Medicaid and creating state health exchanges, Medicare providers will see rate cuts nearing $200 billion over the next decade. These cuts could potentially result in the exodus of doctors from the Medicare system and force Medicare recipients to find new providers, possibly facing longer wait times for care as that pool of doctors shrinks.
Likewise, the tab for “young adults” says this:
Young adults will end up paying for much of federal health care reform by subsidizing the cost of sicker people, or by paying a tax penalty if they do not obtain health insurance under the provisions of the individual mandate, which requires all Californians to have coverage beginning in 2014.
If you click on the “Don’t have health insurance” tab on the front page, you’re taken to a page that puts all the focus on the penalty and none on the benefits. In fact, they have a “penalty calculator” on that page, rather than a premium calculator.
And of course, they also manage to twist what is actually available on the exchange:
Covered California: Covered California offers four qualified health plans similar to those available on the private market today. These plans comply with the Affordable Care Act.
Not so much, Assembly Republicans. There are four levels of coverage, but inside those levels, there are many, many plans available. So many it takes some time to figure out which one works the best.
Don’t trust the blogs? Well, take a look at the LA Times coverage:
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act never stop producing new tricks to undermine the reform’s effectiveness. But leave it to California Republicans to reach for the bottom. Their goal appears to be to discredit the act by highlighting its costs and penalties rather than its potential benefits.
The device chosen by the Assembly’s GOP caucus is a website at the address coveringhealthcareca.com. If that sounds suspiciously like coveredca.com, which is the real website for the California insurance exchange, it may not be a coincidence. Bogus insurance websites have sprung up all over, aiming to steer consumers away from legitimate enrollment services. Just a couple of weeks ago California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harrisshut down 10 bogus insurance sites, some of them with names very similar to the real thing. She must have overlooked the GOP’s entry.
To be fair, the California GOP announced its website in August. But some members have recently stepped up their promotion of the site. The site has a featured spot, for example, on the homepage of Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare). Conway’s spokeswoman, Sabrina Lockhart, says other members may be pointing their constituents to the site “as a resource” to help them navigate the new law.
If that’s so, constituents needing useful information about how to deal with the Affordable Care Act would be well advised to look elsewhere. As an aid to understanding and navigating the Affordable Care Act’s new requirements and opportunities for coverage, the GOP site is worse than useless. Finding a link there to the Covered California website, which after all is the main place residents can go to obtain insurance in the individual market, is a chore — there isn’t a link to it at all on the GOP page.
A tip to my Republican friends (and non-friends): this makes you look like the only way you think you can win the battle over Obamacare is to twist the truth. But to do so while people are actually looking to sign up for insurance — including the currently uninsured and business owners who need to know how they can comply for their employees and for themselves — makes you look like you have no empathy whatsoever for California residents. This is serious business for people, about their health and their economic lives. When they’re trying to sign up for their new insurance, can’t you just leave them alone for a little while?
The LA times piece now stars with an update:
Update, 7:15 a.m. Dec. 3: The California GOP revised its shadow website for the Affordable Care Act roughly two hours after this post first appeared. The site’s homepage now carries a direct link to the state insurance exchange Covered California, as well as more prominent links to Covered California on the “Learn More” tab and the “I don’t have insurance” tab.
Good! Well, not “good,” actually. More like “not as completely miserable.
If you all are right about Obamacare, that it will be a policy disaster for the United States that will destroy the standing of the Democratic Party, then you can stand aside and let it unfold and then swoop in an clean it up. These sorts of actions make it look like you’re not afraid that it’s going to fail — but that it’s going to succeed.
So, does anyone out there really want to defend this website — as initially designed and promoted, or even as revised?