Did Obama simply misspeak when he said Americans could keep their
existing health insurance policies, or did he know that to have been
false? Critics say there’s clear evidence that he lied.
By Brad Knickerbocker
The GOP has been piling on President Obama over his now-discredited
insistence that Americans could keep their existing health plans under
the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“If you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your
health-care plan. Period,” Obama said repeatedly, going back to when
Obamacare was a bill being argued in Congress. “No one will take it
away. No matter what.”
That turned out to have been wrong, as millions of Americans found out
when they learned that their existing health insurance policies were
being canceled because they didn’t meet the requirements of the ACA.
But did Obama simply misspeak when he made those assurances, perhaps
unaware of some of the details of his own signature program? Or did he
know them to have been false? Either conclusion does political damage.
Although he didn’t use the word “lied” on the Republican radio and
Internet address Saturday, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin came down
hard on Obama.
“Those assurances weren’t slight exaggerations or innocent shadings of
the truth. They were statements that were fully vetted, coldly
calculated, and carefully crafted to deceptively sell your health care
plan to a trusting public,” Johnson charged. “It was a political fraud
echoed relentlessly by House and Senate Democrats who should be held
accountable for the disastrous consequences of their grand deception.”
On Sunday, Liz Cheney — daughter of the former vice president and a
Tea Party-favored candidate to oust Republican incumbent Mike Enzi in
next year’s US Senate race in Wyoming — didn’t hesitate to say Obama
On Fox News, Chris Wallace asked her, “Do you believe that President
Obama knowingly lied when he went around the country and promised ‘if
you like your insurance you can keep your plan’?”
“I do,” she replied.
“There’s no question but that he lied, and we’re all paying the price
for it now,” Cheney said. “There’s no way he could not have known the
truth. There was very clearly a situation in which they were thinking,
you know what, the media never hold us accountable, they’re not going
to hold us accountable here.”
Putting aside any motives Obama may have had, what’s the evidence that
he “lied,” as a growing number of elected officials, candidates, and
commentators now charge?
The more liberal view is that “there is much less here than meets the
eye,” as Dean Baker, co-director of the progressive Center for
Economic and Policy Research, put it in Salon the other day.
“The plans being terminated because they don’t meet the minimal
standards were all plans that insurers introduced after the passage of
the ACA,” he wrote. “Insurers introduced these plans knowing that they
would not meet the standards that would come into effect in 2014.”
“If the insurers didn’t tell their clients that the new plans would
only be available for a short period of time, the blame would seem to
rest with the insurance companies, not the ACA,” Baker wrote. “After
all, President Obama did not promise people that he would keep
insurers from developing new plans that will not comply with the
provisions of the ACA.”
Not so, critics of Obama say, and they point to evidence they say
shows that the White House knew what was coming but disregarded that
evidence for political purposes.
“It turns out that an obscure report buried in a 2010 edition of the
Federal Register [page 34552] administration officials predicted a
massive disruption of the private insurance market,” writes Avik Roy
on the Forbes web site.
Digging by other reporters came to the same conclusion.
Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye of NBC News reported: “Buried in
Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of
normal turnover in the individual insurance market, ‘40 to 67 percent’
of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many
policies will have been changed since the key date, ‘the percentage of
individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year
exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.’”
“That means the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of
those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans,
even if they liked them,” Myers and Rappleye wrote on the NBC News web
Did Obama “lie” about that? The debate continues.