PoliGraph: Claims about Obamacare

This week, the Supreme Court upheld a critical part of the Affordable Care Act that allows people to get subsidies when they buy insurance on the federal exchange.

The decision came down to four words, which the plaintiffs argued allowed only people buying insurance through state-based marketplaces, like Minnesota’s MNsure, to get the money.

Minnesota’s Washington, D.C., delegation was split on the ruling, with Republicans opposing it and Democrats applauding it.

This week, PoliGraph looked at claims on both sides of the issue.

The Evidence:

“The President’s health care law has led to higher costs [and] fewer jobs. – 2

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District Republican Rep. John Kline.

Kline points to multiple sources to back up his claim.

The first a highly publicized report that roughly 140,000 Minnesotans would no longer be able to buy their current insurance plan on the individual market once the new Obamacare rules kicked in.

Technically speaking, those Minnesotans were not kicked off their plan because state law doesn’t allow it. But they did get letters from their insurance companies saying that their particular set of benefits was no longer available and that they would have to enroll in a new – and often more expensive – plan that meets the basic requirements of the Affordable Care Act, like ambulatory and hospital coverage.

So, some Minnesotans had to pay more for coverage, but that’s because their old plans were barebones. For many people buying insurance on MNsure with the help of subsidies, health insurance was more affordable.

Generally, most Minnesotans get their health insurance through their employer and may have seen no cost increases as a result.

Kline also says that the law has meant fewer jobs.

This is much more difficult to back up, and it’s a talking point that fact-checkers all over the country are routinely skeptical of.

Generally speaking, the economy has been adding jobs.

Kline’s point is that there are some new rules in the law, including one that requires small employers to provide coverage, that could lead to layoffs and moving more people to part-time positions.

But even that talking point, which has been echoed repeatedly by other Republicans, is largely anecdotal. A recent report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said that “there is no compelling evidence” that part-time employment has increased because of Obamacare.

That same report also predicts the labor force participation rate will go down by 1.5 to 2 percent, not because jobs are being cut, but because people – like those who are on the edge of retirement who are working partly to get employer insurance – will be able to find coverage through the exchanges, and quit their jobs as a result.

Other talking points on this front include the impact of a medical device tax on businesses as well as and older poll that indicates slower hiring among small businesses because of concerns over health care costs.

But again, Kline said the law has led to “fewer jobs,” and aside from some anecdotes, there's not much evidence to support this.

Taken as a whole, Kline's claim is misleading at best.

 “Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, the nationwide uninsured rate has been cut by about 30 percent. In Minnesota, the effects have been even more profound, cutting the uninsured rate nearly in half, from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent.  In other words, because of the Affordable Care Act, 95 percent of Minnesotans now have health insurance” – 1

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District Democratic Rep. Tim Walz

It’s true that the number of uninsured has been cut by about 30 percent. That amounts to 16.4 million people who have gotten insurance since open enrollment started in Oct. 2013. The biggest gains have been among Medicaid participants because of changes in who is eligible for the program.

In Minnesota, which is among states that expanded Medicaid eligibility, the number of uninsured has dropped from 445,000 people – about 8.2 percent of the population – to about 264,500, or about 4.9 percent of the population.

Walz’s claim is accurate.

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