Topics: Obamacare

Jonathan Chait keeps being wrong about Obamacare, again and again

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Obamacare

Liberal blogger Jonathan Chait at New York tries to defend Obamacare and attack its critics, but he keeps stumbling into obvious errors.

His latest post drips with disdain. He writes that “House Republicans’ hatred of Obamacare is at such deranged levels,” and most of the blog post’s words are dedicated to similar mind-reading and overblown adjectives. Here’s the closest Chait comes to a factual statement of substance to advance his “derangement” case:

The House Democrats are arguing that the newly legalized immigrants will pay taxes, so they should have access to government benefits. Republicans don’t seem to be suggesting they must be excluded from Social Security or denied access to national parks.

But Obamacare is in a different category in their minds — a law so illegitimate and evil that nothing can be allowed to touch it at all.

Chait writes as if Republicans are trying to block immigrants on the amnesty road ONLY from getting Obamacare. This is the heart of Chait’s case that the GOP is deranged. And it’s false.

First, catch this quote from Nancy Pelosi:

“It is stated very clearly in the Affordable Care Act [and] it is our position in the immigration bill: no access to subsidies in the Affordable Care Act. Secondly, no access to Medicaid; no cost to the taxpayer,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “That has always been the Democratic position.”

Seems like Dems are the ones singling out healthcare here. Also, contrary to Chait’s claim, House Dems are not fighting for the rights of these immigrants to get government benefits.

And we know Senate Republicans, at least, are not singling out health-care or Obamacare.

Sen. Ted Cruz proposed an amendment to the immigration bill that, according to the Judiciary Committee website would “provide that aliens who have entered or remained present in the United States while not in lawful status shall not be eligible for means-tested benefits.” That includes Obamacare, but many other federal programs.

Sen. Jeff Sessions proposed four amendments that explicitly mention “the Obamacare premium assistance tax credit.” Every single one of those amendments, as far as I can tell, also addresses “Medicaid, CHIP … SNAP, TANF, or SSI.”

So, if Chait is correct that “Obamacare is in a different category in [Republicans'] minds,” he must be a mindreader — because it’s not in its own category in their legislation.

Then Chait’s previous Obamacare defense blog post–well, it drips with disdain, too.

Here’s something from his first paragraph that caught my eye

There are, to be sure, clear losers from the new health-care law…. Many doctors and hospitals will lose some of their income stream from the law tightening up unnecessary care. Yet neither the medical specialist nor the hospital executive nor the upper-income taxpayer quite offer the politically sympathetic face

That caught my eye because the hospital and doctor lobbies were among the most vociferous and most powerful lobbies in support of Obamacare in 2009 and 2010. The American Hospital Association even filed an amicus briefs with the Supreme Court siding with the Obama administration on two different Obamacare issues.

The heart of Chait’s argument/attack is this claim:

[Avik] Roy compared California’s plans to the teaser rates available on Those teaser rates turn out to bear little resemblance to actually available health-insurance rates — they exclude swaths of potential consumers for even minute health problems.

But according to one of the sources Chait cites, those rates bear very close resemblance to actually available health-insurance rates for 74 percent of the population. Liberal blogger Ezra Klein wrote:

According to, 14 percent of people who try to buy that plan are turned away outright. Another 12 percent are told they’ll have to pay more than $109. So a quarter of the people who try to buy this insurance product for $109 a month are told they can’t.

So 74 percent of comers can get those rates, if Klein is right, and Chait says that makes those rates imaginary.

There are many other problems with that Chait post, but I’ll leave it there.

UPDATE: Here’s the relevant text of the Cruz amendment I cited above:

no alien who has entered or re- 7 mained in the United States while not in lawful status 8 under the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 9 1101 et seq.) shall be eligible for any Federal, State, or local government means-tested benefit, nor shall such alien be 11 eligible for any benefit under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Pub. L. 111-148)

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