- Obama suddenly pivoted Monday night, adding conditions to his pledge that no one would lose insurance plans that they liked
- The Affordable Care Act requires policies to include a set of coverage items including maternity and pediatric care, whether or not people want it
- As costs rise, insurance companies are issuing cancellation letters by the millions
- The White House isn’t offering apologies for the about-face, even though the left-of-center Washington Post found that Obama’s ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’ promise was a ‘whopper’ of a lie
By David Martosko, U.s. Political Editor
PUBLISHED: 18:42 EST, 5 November 2013 | UPDATED: 19:16 EST, 5 November 2013
Let me be perfectly clear … I didn’t mean it! Obama changed his rhetoric Monday night, backing off from his oft-repeated promise that no American would be forced to abandon his or her health insurance under Obamacare
President Barack Obama told cheering throngs in Washington, D.C. Monday night that he never truly promised Americans could keep their health insurance plans once his Affordable Care Act became law.
‘If you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it – if it hasn’t changed since the law passed,’ he claimed.
‘So we wrote into the Affordable Care Act, you’re grandfathered in on that plan. But if the insurance company changes it, then what we’re saying is they’ve got to change it to a higher standard.’
He remarks came at the posh St. Regis hotel during a meeting of Organizing For Action, the nonprofit pressure group that grew out of his presidential campaign organization Obama For America.
But at least 29 videotaped examples available online show Obama promising between 2008 and this year, in only slightly varied language, that ‘if you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan, period.’
It wasn’t until after the Obamacare program’s central website had its disastrous launch, and millions of Americans began receiving insurance cancellation letters, that the White House took a new tack.
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Means to an end: Obama is playing for his presidential legacy, and gambling that the Affordable Care Act will work out in the end; his throngs of fans don’t seem bothered by word-parsing or repeated promises
‘If you like your plan, and you like your doctor, you won’t have to do a thing,’ Obama said on June 23, 2009. ‘You keep your plan’
More recently, the president and his press flacks have begun to insert into that promise the caveat that Obama uttered Monday: that Obamacare will only let Americans keep their existing insurance plans if nothing about them changes from year to year.
‘If the insurance company changes it, then what we’re saying is they’ve got to change it to a higher standard,’ Obama told his fans at the St. Regis. ‘They’ve got to make it better. They’ve got to improve the quality of the plan they are selling.’
The Affordable Care Act itself, however, requires all medical insurance plans sold in the U.S. to include a raft of minimum coverage benefits, a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t appeal to many buyers.
Pediatric coverage, maternity care and dental insurance, for instance, are options that the elderly, the single and the frugal have chosen not to pay for in previous years.
Requiring those additions, and seven others, have put millions of Americans with ‘grandfathered’ policies in the position of being forbidden to keep plans they have happily purchased and renewed for years.
One estimate has 2.5 million such cancellation letters already sent in the U.S., with a peak of 12 million or more expected by year’s end.
In a January 2010 speech, Obama promised taxpayers that ‘if you want to keep the health insurance you’ve got, you can keep it’
Game change: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was left holding the bag as Obamacare’s online launch fell apart, and may keep catching spears for Obama as Americans become more frustrated with insurance cancellations
Some of the videotaped examples of Obama’s campaign-style rhetoric are striking for their unqualified language.
During a June 15, 2009 speech at the American Medical Association’s annual meeting, he pledged that ‘no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. (If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.’
On September 12 of that year, he told an Obamacare rally in Minneapolis that ‘nothing in this plan requires you to change what you have if you’re happy with it.’
Obama’s January 27, 2010 State Of The Union address to Congress included the reassurance that ‘our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan.’
Speaking at George Mason University in suburban Virginia on March 27, 2010, he doubled down on that claim.
‘If you like your doctor, you’re going to be able to keep your doctor,’ Obama said, to strong applause. ‘If you like your plan, keep your plan.’
‘I don’t believe we should give government or the insurance companies more control over health care in America. I think it’s time to give you, the American people, more control over your health.’
His rhetoric got progressively more definitive as 2010 wore on.
‘If you’re happy with what you’ve got,’ nobody’s changing it,’ the president said in September 2010, just weeks before that year’s congressional midterm election
This man’s Anthem BlueCross BlueShield policy was cancelled, and he was offered new insurance at nearly triple the price. He send this photo to MyCancellation.com
The president abruptly changed his promise on Monday, telling a friendly crown that ‘If you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it ¿ if it hasn¿t changed since the law passed’
On April 1 in Portland, Maine, Obama promised that ‘if Americans like their doctor, they will keep their doctor. And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it.’
‘No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. t won’t happen in the future.’
Later, during his October 12, 2012 presidential debate with Republican Mitt Romney, the president assured Americans that ‘if you’ve got health insurance, [Obamacare] doesn’t mean a government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor.’
Cassandra complex (look it up): Rep. Tom Price floated his own health care bill in 2009 while insisting that Obama couldn’t possibly keep his promises
Taken together, the Washington Post’s fact-checker wrote last week, ‘his repeated pledge … is one of the most famous statements of his presidency.’
The Post gave it a dreaded ‘four Pinocchios’ rating for dishonesty, its worst grade. The paper says four-Pinocchio lies qualify as ‘whoppers.’
‘The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal – and made both before and after the bill became law,’ the Post ruled. ‘The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far.’
The Post noted, too, that Republicans were calling shenanigans on Obama’s pledge as early as the first year of his presidency.
Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price, a medical doctor himself, proposed an alternative health care bill in 2009. During the Republican Party’s weekly address on Aug. 24 of that year, Price claimed Obama wasn’t playing it straight.
‘On the stump, the president regularly tells Americans that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,”‘ Price said. ‘But if you read the bill, that just isn’t so.’
‘For starters, within five years, every health care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage – one that your current plan might not match, even if you like it.’
Obama is now calling those plans ‘substandard,’ and playing up his insurance law’s aspiration to upgrade every policy, even at a sometimes significant cash price.
The website MyCancellation.com has collected dozens of insurance cancellations letters from Americans who have lost their policies. Most are being told to choose between renewing at more than twice the price, or casting their lot with the Obamacare federal health insurance exchange.
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