In covering the health care debate over the past nine years, I've come to conclude that there are two types of Republican liars: those who lie simply through ignorance, and those who knowingly lie through cold indifference. Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) once called Speaker of the House Paul Ryan “one of the best liars” he's seen, and his performance at a recent town hall supports at least part of that statement. Depends on your definition of “best.”
At a friendly “employee town hall” in Wisconsin this week, Ryan illustrated the sick and cruel way Republicans divide Americans on the subject of health care by pitting them against each other with lies.
An employee of a Mukwonago, Wisconsin company called Banker Wire, which is run by a high school friend of Ryan's, asked Ryan what could be done to help him with his struggle to pay medical bills, and Ryan betrayed the man's trust by lying right to his face:
EMPLOYEE: Not sure if I'm going to be able to word it correctly, but my, what it's about, health care. That's my main concern, it's something that's actually personally important to me, I have significant difficulties paying for my medical care and obviously with things like Obamacare in the news and things like that, you really don't know where you stand, I'd like to know what you're doing to help us working men, people that have difficulty paying their bills to begin with get good health care.
RYAN: You get health care here at Banker, right? Yeah, so one thing. Let me just clear up, a lot of people get a little confused about this, Obamacare is not employer-sponsored health care, meaning Obamacare is for [...] it affects Medicaid low-income health care for people who don't get health care through their jobs and the people who buy their own health insurance. It doesn't tell you how employer-sponsored health care works, effectively, so it's a health care program for people who buy their own health insurance, not employer-sponsored health insurance.
This is a despicable lie on several levels, the first being that Obamacare's key patient protections do apply to employer-based health insurance, from the ban on annual and lifetime caps to the essential health benefits, to the prohibition on discriminating against pre-existing conditions, and everything in between. And many of those protections depend on provisions, like the individual and employer mandates, which make it possible to cover pre-existing conditions, for example.
Those are the direct effects of Obamacare on employer-based health insurance, but in addition to those, the CBO has also concluded that among the tens of millions who would lose health insurance under the Republican repeal plan are 4 million people with employer-based health insurance, like the man Ryan lied to.
Without knowing the man's specific circumstances, it's difficult to say, but if he's having significant problems paying for medical care, it stands to reason that Obamacare's protections are exactly the thing he needs, and exactly what Republicans want to strip away by convincing him that Obamacare is for those other people.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.