Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bill Clinton enthralls PolitiFact with the magic of ObamaCare

Former President Bill Clinton was a great liar.

He hasn't lost it.

What made the former president from Arkansas such a fine liar?  Part of it was his sincerity.  He seemed so sincere that people wanted to believe him.  Apart from that, Clinton had a gift for saying things that were true but seriously misleading.

This week Clinton showed that he can bamboozle fact checkers with little effort.  Whether PolitiFact bought his act because of his sincerity or perhaps it was just their admiration for President Barack Obama's signature legislation, also known as ObamaCare, we don't know.  But it's pretty amusing how the fact checkers missed the obvious.

Let's pick up PolitiFact's story, already in progress:
Clinton went on to cite data from recent polling by the Commonwealth Fund showing that "large numbers of young people aged 26 and younger have already enrolled in their parents' plans. And interestingly enough -- if I were you guys, I'd promote this, (saying) these Republicans are the personal responsibility party -- there are more young Republicans enrolled in their parents' plans than young Democrats."

The irony that young supporters of the GOP -- the party that has repeatedly tried to repeal or defund Obama’s law -- are actually using this part of the law more than young Democrats are led to chuckles in the audience.
Those GOP hypocrites!  Right?

PolitiFact researches the Commonwealth Fund poll data Clinton cited, and sure enough he was exactly right.  And just to make sure we understand the depth of the Republican hypocrisy, PolitiFact helps Clinton out a bit by clarifying his point (bold emphasis added):
So, Clinton was right -- 63 percent of young Republicans, compared to only 45 percent of young Democrats had signed on to their parents’ plan, something they couldn’t have done without passage of Obama’s law.
Based on this evidence, along with statements from the study's lead author and Obama donor Sara R. Collins, PolitiFact gave Clinton's statement a "True" rating.

But there's a reason Clinton carries the nickname "Slick Willy," and there's also a reason why people often ridicule PolitiFact's rulings.  There's a catch that PolitiFact failed to catch.

As Obvious as the Nose on Clinton's Face


Clinton was right to a point about the findings of the survey.  More young Republicans than Democrats signed up or renewed under their parents' insurance policies.  But PolitiFact was exactly wrong to claim that the survey found 63 percent of the Republicans in the survey couldn't sign up under their parents' plans without the ACA.  The study makes that clear (bold emphasis added):
In March 2013, the survey finds that an estimated 15 million young adults ages 19 to 25 had enrolled in a parent’s insurance policy in the prior 12 months—more than half (51%) of that age group—up from the 13.7 million young adults estimated in November 2011 to have enrolled in the prior 12-month period (Exhibit 3, Table 1). Of these 15 million young adults, we estimate that roughly 7.8 million likely would not have been eligible for coverage under their parents’ employer plans prior to the Affordable Care Act, an increase of 1.1 million from November 2011.
So of the Democrats, Independents and Republicans who make up the percentages Clinton and PolitiFact cited, about half were eligible for inclusion under their parents' policies without the ACA.  PolitiFact's reporting is wrong on this point, and the error has obvious implications for Clinton's underlying point.

How Many Hypocrites?


What part of the 63 percent of young Republicans signed up for insurance under their parents' policies were eligible thanks to the ACA?

We don't know.  The survey doesn't inform us on that point.

We don't know how many young Republicans are hypocrites.  And we don't know whether the Republican hypocrites outnumber the ideologically pure Democrats who signed up under their parents' insurance thanks to the ACA.

In Clinton's Defense


Though we don't know that Clinton got his information on the survey directly from the Commonwealth Fund report, it's appropriate to note that the report encourages the conclusion he suggested even if it lacks the data to back the conclusion:
While public opinion polls have consistently shown a partisan divide in views of the health reform law, the survey finds that young adults who identified themselves as Republicans enrolled in their parents’ policies in greater numbers than young adults who identified themselves as Democrats. In March 2013, 63 percent of Republican young adults had enrolled in a parent’s policy in the past 12 months, compared with 45 percent of Democrats.
If the study has the numbers to back up the contrast between Republican opposition to the ACA and Republican embrace of its benefits, then the study should feature those supporting numbers.  Or maybe Commonwealth Fund is just confirming its reputation for a leftward lean.

How Did PolitiFact Miss It?


The meat of the Commonwealth Fund's survey leads with "Exhibit 1," which explains that half of the young Americans signed up for insurance under their parents' policies did not need the ACA to obtain the opportunity.  How does a fact checker miss it?

This is another case where the error is so astonishing that it seems difficult to explain without PolitiFact's predisposition (that is, bias) in favor of the health care law and/or Clinton.

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