GOP Fables of ACA Failure

March 1, 2014

Republicans have trotted out example after example of supposed Affordable Care Act victims. But time after time, those stories are exposed as incomplete, misleading, or in some cases just plain lies. When it comes to the health care law, Republicans are always yelling that the sky is falling, but it never actually is. The moral of this story: if these are the worst examples they can find, that shows the law is working. 


Republicans’ Affordable Care Act horror stories are full of holes.
The website rollout was a train wreck. It’s no wonder many people are still confused about how this law works.
But despite all that, the Affordable Care Act is working. Enrollment is up, young people are signing up, and health care costs are slowing.
There are still kinks to work out, but Americans want to fix them and move forward.
It took a little time to work out the kinks when they passed this law in Massachusetts too, but it all got worked out and it has been working well for years.
But Republicans are doing everything they can to keep people from getting the Affordable Care Act’s benefits, including airing ads with scary stories that the sky is falling. But those stories are full of holes:
  • The woman who will actually pay no more than before;
  • The woman who never even looked at the website, where cheaper plans were waiting;
  • The woman who liked her flimsy plan that didn’t cover her when she fell off a horse, because the hospital let her off the hook and passed the $100,000 bill on to the rest of us.
None of them will ever lose insurance for getting too sick. No one will be denied insurance if they or their spouses change jobs. Ever.
Republicans are desperate to keep Americans from liking this law to hurt the President politically. That’s why they are doing everything they can to scare, confuse, and block Americans to keep them from getting health care.

 KEY:  Connect with your audience |  Make your case | Show how your opponents differ


From death panels to these new political ads from the Koch brothers, Republicans have been trying to spread misinformation and fake horror stories about the Affordable Care Act from the beginning. These ads are full of holes and have been debunked by fact-checkers. Some Republicans are even going to the Supreme Court to fight for the right to lie in political ads.

Scare Story: Julie from Michigan

This Koch-funded ad features a leukemia patient in Michigan who claims that her out-of-pocket expenses are higher under the Affordable Care Act. The commercial fails to mention the fact that those expenses are now capped and that Julie’s premiums are lower. It also doesn’t mention that before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could have considered her cancer a preexisting condition or canceled her coverage completely.

Affordable Care Reality: Mike from Kansas

Kansas resident Mike O’Dell couldn’t get health insurance before the Affordable Care Act because of his preexisting heart condition. Mike was insured as of January 1 because he bought affordable insurance on the marketplace and less than a month and a half later Mike received a life-saving heart transplant – an operation that he would not have been able to afford without his insurance.

Scare Story: Bette in Spokane

During her official Republican State of the Union response, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers cited the experience of Bette in Spokane, whose premiums supposedly went up nearly $700 per month under the Affordable Care Act. But Bette’s prior plan was catastrophic coverage with a $10,000 deductible and she refused to shop on the marketplace. Instead she chose one of the pricier options offered to her by her insurance company.

Affordable Care Reality: John in North Carolina

John in North Carolina suffered from bladder cancer in 2005. He got treatment and his cancer was in remission for years. John’s doctor suggested a procedure that could help prevent future recurrences of the cancer, but John’s COBRA was about to run out so he opted against getting it. A few years later, when John was still without insurance because of his preexisting condition, he noticed that the cancer symptoms reappeared. Just about that same time, because of the Affordable Care Act, North Carolina was setting up its own insurance pool to benefit high-risk Americans like John. He signed up for the insurance, went to the doctor, and received life-saving treatment for his bladder cancer – treatment that would have bankrupted him without insurance.

Scare Story: Emilie in Tennessee

Emilie in Tennessee has Lupus and the insurance plan she had been covered under was cancelled because it did not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. That prior plan had low premiums in part because it was part of a program for low-income people where individuals, their employer and the state all chipped in to cover premiums. The other reason the plan had such low premiums was that it had an annual cap on benefits. When Emilie was injured in a horseback riding accident, the surgery she needed exceeded that cap by about $100,000. The only reason Emilie had not been saddled with that debt was because the hospital agreed not to charge her that additional $100,000 – instead it passed the cost on to the rest of its patients. Although Emilie’s premiums are higher now, she also has real coverage and won’t be forced to rely on the kindness of hospital administrators.  

Affordable Care Reality: Genetic Testing

One man went to his doctor for a routine colonoscopy only to discover he had an unusually high number of polyps in his colon. His doctor suggested that the man undergo genetic testing to see whether he had a rare predisposition for colon cancer. The doctor admitted that he would not have made such a suggestion before the Affordable Care Act, since a genetic predisposition would have been considered a preexisting condition. The man got the genetic testing and a second colonoscopy, which revealed that he did, in fact, have colon cancer. He also has the genetic predisposition for colon cancer. He’s been treated and doesn’t have to worry about losing his health insurance, because of the Affordable Care Act. 

Scare Story: Louisiana Affordable Care Act Opponents

This ad features a number of Louisianans opening health insurance cancellation letters. The problem is that the people in the ad are all paid actors and they aren’t even from Louisiana. 


ATTACK: Uninsured Americans don’t even want the Affordable Care Act.


  • There are already millions fewer uninsured people because of the Affordable Care Act. That means the ones left uninsured are more likely to be people Republicans have scared away from the law.
  • Many of these folks will pay a steep price for believing Republicans’ scary stories. The law will be fine, but hundreds of thousands of people will go without needed health care that they could have finally afforded, and some of them will die before their time because of that. Meanwhile, taxpayers will get stuck with the bill for the emergency care they do get.
ATTACK: Democrats are calling the AFP ads lies, but the New York Times says a bunch of state hospitals and universities are cutting hours because of Obamacare.


  • There are kinks with any large policy change and this is one of those kinks. That’s why the Obama Administration has been easing the transition by giving employers some flexibility.
  • But 95% of large employers already provide health insurance for their employees, so the employers affected are only the very few stingiest ones.
  • Some state governments and universities are being forced to make these cuts because they are cash-strapped as a result of ruthless Republican budget cuts. 
ATTACK: “Democrats are picking on cancer patients and other victims. They are infringing on the First Amendment rights of Obamacare victims!


  • Most of those people honestly feel victimized by the Affordable Care Act and they can tell their stories to anyone they want.
  • The problem isn’t with people like Julie in Michigan, the problem is with the Koch brothers spending millions of dollars to confuse people with partial information.  


  • Some Republicans like Bobby Jindal are worried that focusing so much on the Affordable Care Act is a losing strategy for Republicans. Jindal says that Republicans need to propose an alternative.
  • One alternative has been proposed by the GOP, but that alternative would actually lead to one million Americans losing their employer-sponsored insurance.
  • In the meantime, Speaker Boehner has declined to commit to holding a vote on the alternative health care plan.
  • Other critics argue that the AFP/Koch strategy could backfire. They argue that pushing false narratives and general Affordable Care Act opposition in states where Medicaid was expanded could paint AFP candidates as beholden to out-of-state interests.
  • A majority of Americans think the Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction. They want the law fixed, not scrapped.