He said it over and over again.
Like this time:
“So let me begin be saying this to you and to the American people: I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage. They like their plan and, most importantly, they value their relationship with their doctor. …And that means 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 you healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away from you, no matter what.” … President Obama at the annual conference of the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009.
Now that the president has addressed the criticism that millions of Americans are seeing their individual insurance policies cancelled because of Obamacare, let’s take a look at whether he is guilty of misleading the American people as he sold the country on his signature health care plan.
This is an issue that, for the most part, affects a small segment of the country. According to experts, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, about 95% of legal residents receive their health insurance through group plans offered by their employers, the federal government in the form of Medicare and Medicaid or get direct health care via the Veterans Administration. For the overwhelming majority of people covered by these plans, there probably will be no change. Despite some anecdotal accounts involving companies such as Home Depot, Trader Joe’s and UPS, there has been no evidence of large scale cancellation of employers provided health insurance. Still, the small amount of anecdotal evidence raises questions about Obama’s all-encompassing promise.
Most of the impact of this dubious promise would fall on the individual market; an undisciplined collection of good and crappy plans. Actually it would be better described as filled with plans that were often good for people at certain times – generally when they are healthy – and awful for people when they get sick or injured. Obamacare’s vow was to bring order – and protection – to that market by requiring, among other things, that all new plans cover a minimum of conditions such as maternity care and mental health issues. “One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured, but also the underinsured,” Obama said in a speech in Boston on Wednesday. “And there are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.”
From the start, these were contradictory promises; reform the individual market, but let people keep their individual plans, even if they were cut rate and inadequate. Obamacare sought to straddle this divide by proposing that people could keep any plan they had at the time on the law’s enactment on March 23, 2010, even if the plan was cut rate and lousy. But if the insurance company made any changes on things like co-pays, deductibles and coverage rates, those policies would no longer be grandfathered in and the policy holder would have to get new, sometimes more expensive, insurance.
The catch was the Administration knew that many of these policies would be changed by the insurance carriers. In 2010 HHS estimated that 40% to 67% of individual plans would lose their grandfather status.
And yet, despite this estimate Obama kept repeating his mantra that if you liked your plan, you can keep it, leading many, including the Washington Post Fact Checker to conclude that, at best, the president was being disingenuous, and, at worst, deceitful.