We're entering a bizarre end-of-the-year edition of Silly Season in which the news media is laser-focused on the wrong things. As stories about the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act begin to dissipate, it looks like we've segued into an especially nonsensical "MSNBC Anchor Wants to Poop in Palin's Mouth" meets "Wacky Toronto Mayor Does Wacky Stuff" news cycle.
Lost in the mix, of course, is the ongoing far-right effort to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.
I'm not talking about the myths and propaganda -- the "death panel" nonsense and the like. This is serious business: the well-financed, broadly implemented sabotage campaign designed to rig the law for failure, while also making it more difficult for Americans to receive insurance.
Sabotaging the Website
We've known for quite some time that most Republican governors refused to open health insurance exchanges in their states. 27 states don't have exchanges and therefore uninsured residents are shuffled over to the Healthcare.gov website to buy a policy.
However, earlier this month, we learned that Republican Party leadership directly urged those governors not to do it -- chiefly to burden the federal exchange with a heavier load.
Worse yet, the ACA contained zero funding for the development and implementation of the site, and there's no way the congressional Republicans would ever authorize more money for it. It's unclear why the federal exchange was unfunded in the law, but one thing's for sure, a House of Representatives that voted 46 times to totally repeal the law wouldn't have coughed up a dime to rectify the oversight.
So, what happened? A cash-starved Healthcare.gov development process, which precipitated serious glitches when October 1 rolled around -- problems that should never have occurred.
And those glitches might've been exacerbated when right-wing hacktivists reportedly conducted "denial of service" attacks against Healthcare.gov -- deliberate attempts to overwhelm the website's servers. CNN reported on Monday:
Hackers have attempted more than a dozen cyber attacks against the Obamacare website, according to a top Homeland Security Department official. The attacks, which are under investigation, failed, said the official.
Authorities also are investigating a separate report of a tool designed to put heavy strain on HealthCare.gov through a so-called distributed denial of service. It does not appear to have been activated.
Sabotaging the Medicaid Expansion
Americans for Prosperity, funded by Charles and David Koch, launched advertising campaigns to strong-arm state lawmakers to block the expansion Medicaid in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Ohio, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Once again, in the 26 states that blocked the Medicaid expansion, we're left with five to eight million people who are consequently unable to afford exchange policies but who also make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.
In Alaska yesterday, Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican, obviously, rejected the Medicaid expansion thus denying health insurance to 40,000 Alaskans. Parnell said, "I believe a costly Medicaid expansion especially on top of the broken Obamacare system is a hot mess."
That's a lie. Fact: the federal government pays the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion for 2014 through 2016. The states pay nothing. So it's not costly at all. In fact, it's free for the first three years.
What happens when the expansion is blocked throughout more than half the nation? Potentially millions of pissed-off working class Americans due to what's perceived as punitively expensive Obamacare premiums -- premiums that are only too expensive because Republican governors blocked the Medicaid expansion.
Sabotaging ACA Marketplace Enrollment
Speaking of the Koch brothers and Alaska, a group called Foundation for Government Accountability launched a campaign to convince Alaskans to deliberately not buy insurance policies in order to undermine ACA enrollment goals, and, naturally, to express their self-defeating hatred of President Obama. Smart.
A pair of websites, along with accompanying Facebook pages, were launched back in September: dontenrollalaska.org and knowthefactsalaska.org. And go figure:
Based in Naples, Fla., the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit that "promotes public policies that achieve limited, constitutional government and a robust economy that will be an engine for job creation across the states." One of the foundation's directors is Robert Levy, the chairman of the board of the Cato Institute, the Washington, D.C. think tank with a long and complicated relationship with the Koch brothers.
Yep. All roads lead back to the Kochs.
There's something especially visceral and sinister about well-protected billionaires telling middle class Americans to go without health insurance in order to, you know, kick Obama in nuts.
At the end of the day, if not enough people enroll in the exchanges, the law entirely falls apart. Combined with everything else, that's sabotage, plain and simple, while the Koch brothers can rest assured knowing they'll never be without quality healthcare, so screw it. Let fly. After all, the traditional press won't really cover it with the same hard-nippled vigor with which they've covered the buggy website, or with which they've almost universally blamed the low enrollment numbers on the president.
For that, much of the press is an active, though not entirely knowing conspirator in the sabotage plot. And there's no indication any of it will change any time soon.