GOP suspicious of Obamacare enrollment figures

Another week, another demand from Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Carrying the torch this week: Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who called Saturday for the law to be defunded or repealed and disputed figures from the administration touting a robust expansion of health insurance coverage under Obamacare.

“The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be fully operational by January 1 of this year, but here we are two weeks into 2014, and the administration continues to struggle to implement the law’s burdensome mandates,” Cochran said in the weekly Republican address. “The law is not living up to the promises made by its supporters, and it is questionable whether the law will meet its fundamental purpose - to significantly expand health insurance coverage.”

The administration and congressional Democrats have recently been touting the law’s expansion of coverage to roughly nine million Americans - three million young adults who have been able to stay on their parents’ plan, two million consumers who have enrolled in the private insurance exchanges and four million low-income consumers who have been inducted into an expanded Medicaid program.

Cochran, however, argued there may be less to those figures than meets the eye.

“The administration’s enrollment numbers don’t paint a pretty picture,” he said. “They don’t tell us how many of the enrollees have actually lost existing coverage and were forced into the exchanges; and the numbers don’t tell us whether applicants have actually paid their premiums and received coverage. There is ample reason to be skeptical that those numbers will improve substantially.”

Cochran’s other complaints about the law had a familiar ring: that it’s booting people off of health plans they liked despite the president’s promise that people could keep their current insurance; that it’s forcing people to change doctors; that many consumers are finding their prices going up under Obamacare.

“If the law can’t keep its most basic promise, it should be repealed,” he concluded. “We should go back to the drawing board and draft commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will work better for all Americans, without spending billions of taxpayer dollars to support these failing policies.”

In his own weekly address on Saturday, President Obama reprised his call for 2014 to be a “year of action,” urging lawmakers to help accelerate the economic recovery.

He again called on Congress to extend recently lapsed federal unemployment insurance - a “vital economic lifeline” that “helps people support their families while they look for a new job.”

Democrats and a handful of Republicans have called for a three-month extension while the specifics of a longer deal are worked out, but most in the GOP have been reluctant to extend benefits without offsetting the cost elsewhere in the budget.

The president also previewed a series of upcoming events aimed at highlighting high-tech manufacturing jobs, job training programs, and work opportunities for the long-term unemployed.

And he offered a glimpse at the central theme of his upcoming State of the Union address: a populist message focused on upward mobility and equality of opportunity.

“I will mobilize the country around the national mission of making sure our economy offers everyone who works hard a fair shot at opportunity and success,” he said. “As Americans, that’s what we should expect.  And after everything you’ve done to recover and rebuild from crisis these past five years – after all your hard work and sacrifice – that’s what you deserve.”

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