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December 4, 2013
Editorial: Assembly GOP sows health confusion

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(Dec. 4 — By the Editorial Board)

At the national level, congressional Republicans have gone out of their way to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans have voted 46 times to repeal the law. The billionaire Koch brothers spent a ton of money urging young people not to sign up for insurance and urging states not to expand Medicaid.

But in California, it appeared that Republican lawmakers were bucking the national Republican trend and doing the responsible thing. Assembly Republicans, led by Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway of Tulare, sent out a press release in August saying that though they had opposed the law, "it is our responsibility as elected officials to help educate Californians about the new federal health care law as we must all comply with it."

At The Bee's editorial board, we took them at their word.

It turns out, however, that the "help" they are offering can be described only as a subversion of California's efforts to encourage uninsured people to get insurance through the state's online exchange, Covered California.

A handful of Assembly Republicans have been sending out very official-looking fliers that claim to be a "Resource Guide" for Californians, which points Californians not to the official Covered California website, but to a fake website. Other Assembly Republicans, including Conway, feature the fake website prominently on their government-financed Assembly home pages.

Click on the Assembly Republican website, and it proceeds to scare the bejesus out of people, especially seniors and young people, with selective information and omissions.

The real outrage is that the 25 Assembly Republicans have 2.1 million uninsured people under 65 in their districts, according to information posted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Conway alone has 108,000 uninsured constituents, more than one-quarter of the people under 65 in her district.

Across the country, efforts to sow confusion and doubt are having an effect. A Gallup poll now shows that more than a quarter of people without health insurance say they are willing to pay a fine rather than enroll in Obamacare. A survey by Harvard University's Institute of Politics found that less than a third of 18- to 29-year-olds say they're likely to sign up. In California, a PPIC poll released today shows a different trend: When uninsured residents are asked if they will get health insurance or pay a fine, 66 percent say they will get insurance.

Assembly Republicans should take down that fake website. Whatever their intentions, it serves only to confuse people. They should coordinate with the official Covered California - not just in town hall meetings - to help get uninsured residents in their districts get covered with quality, affordable insurance.

Knowing they have lost the battle on repeal in Congress and the courts, Republicans opposed to the law are trying to discourage people from seeking health insurance coverage, an agenda that can only be called perverse and insidious.

PHOTO: Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, in December 2012 at the state Capitol. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua