Crawdaddy

I’d put an asterisk next to Wicker’s Obamacare number

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Mississippi Republican Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran both voted for the procedural move that opened the latest round of debate on a replacement for Obamacare.

No surprise there.

“I have consistently voted to repeal Obamacare, and I intend to do so again,” said Wicker in a press release sent shortly after the vote.

That’s a safe vote for the junior senator. If he has a challenger next year, it will come from the right. State Sen. Chris McDaniel, right now the most likely opponent, wouldn’t attack Wicker for voting for the repeal.

It remains to be seen if Republicans will have a true debate on the merits of Obamacare and the merits of whatever it is they’re saying is better.

So far, that’s not happening.

In the same release from Wicker’s office, there is this claim:

“In Mississippi, families are now paying $2,928 more per year in health insurance premiums than they did in 2013 — an increase of 116 percent. Next year, only one insurer is expected to participate in the state’s insurance exchange.”

The way I read that, and I think it’s a reasonable way to read that, is that every Mississippi family is paying that much more in health insurance premiums than they did in 2013.

And, since I know a Mississippi family, mine, whose insurance didn’t increase by anywhere near that amount, I was skeptical.

So I asked Wicker’s office to point me toward the source of that statement. And to its credit, it did in a matter of minutes.

That number came from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services. So, it’s a government number.

But.

It’s Individual Market Premium Changes: 2013-2017. Or in other words, the premium change is for a small and expensive portion of the market.

For instance, it doesn’t include Mississippi families covered by insurance through employers (In 2015, that was 41 percent of Mississippians). It also doesn’t include people on Medicare or Medicaid nor does it include those without insurance. It does include people with pre-existing conditions who weren’t able to get insurance until Obamacare took effect. (In their instance, the premium in 2013 was $0.)

Another way of looking at it? It’s the figure that makes Obamacare look the worst.

“The Senate will now begin an open debate with plenty of opportunities for senators — both Republican and Democrat — to offer amendments,” he said. “I look forward to voting in favor of market-driven proposals to expand Americans’ freedom to purchase health insurance plans that work for them, and to use health savings accounts to pay for health insurance premiums.”

I’d go a step further and ask for an open “and honest” debate.

Obamacare isn’t working as well as promised. I’ll concede that. But Republicans have done nothing to help it succeed.

If they want their plan to succeed, they’ll need the Democrats’ help. They’ll need someone to save them from themselves.

So, senators on both sides should leave the frothy talking points tucked away in their desk drawers.

If they do, we could wind up with something better than Obamacare.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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