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House Speaker John Boehner signs up for Obamacare
You might have missed House Speaker John Boehner's not-so-epic struggle to sign up for Obamacare last week. It started out potentially story-worthy for Boehner, when he had some technical difficulties with the site. It all fizzled, though, when within a few hours he was informed that he'd successfully enrolled. But he had to make some kind of negative hay out of the experience, and where better to turn than to Politico, which dutifully reported his message that it's going to cost him a lot of money next year.
House Speaker John Boehner’s health insurance premiums will nearly double — and his deductibles will almost triple — as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to figures provided by his office at POLITICO’s request.
But, of course, this is Boehner and it's Politico we're talking about, so you know that isn't the whole story. No, for the whole story, you need to read Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angeles Times.
Boehner's spiking premiums is one of those claims that may be true as far as it goes, but leaves out so much that it's at best a half-truth. And the contention that Boehner's experience is at all representative of what most Americans will experience under the Affordable Care Act jumps it up from half-truth to outright lie. [...]

Put it all together, and Boehner is plainly an outlier as an Obamacare client. He's way older than the average individual policy applicant, and his family income is way beyond the U.S. average. Boehner gets a further break as a smoker—under the law, the state exchanges could charge as much as 50% more for them, but D.C. is one of the few that has decided not to.

But the real lie at the heart of Boehner's claim is that the typical Obamacare customer is someone transitioning from a good employer plan to the individual market, as he is. The truth is that two-thirds of all the users of the individual insurance exchanges nationwide are expected to be people who didn't have any insurance previously, either because they couldn't afford it or because they were barred by pre-existing conditions. As an enrollee of the federal employee system in 2013, Boehner couldn't be barred for pre-existing conditions, and Obamacare has outlawed such exclusions for individual policies starting in 2014.

The real alternative for most people using the individual exchanges is not employer coverage, as it was for Boehner, but no coverage.

Boehner—and every other congressperson—is a huge anomaly for Obamacare. He's moving from really great insurance to other great insurance (still subsidized in part by taxpayers), not obtaining insurance for the first time after being denied insurance for some random reason, say sporting a skin tone not seen in nature. Politico ignores that part entirely.

The other part, of course, that you don't hear from Boehner or from Politico, is that he's shopping on the exchange because his Republican colleagues in the Senate thought it would be a cute trick to try to erode support from Senate Democrats to the legislation before it passed. But that's context, and everyone knows that context is just too hard.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 02:32 PM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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