White House Press Secretary Jay Carney implied Monday that the administration had shifted from the ‘if you like it, you can keep it’ narrative. But instead of copping to the truth that President Obama’s oft-quoted line about existing health care under the Affordable Care Act was bogus, Carney just tried to provide a little context.
FOX News White House reporter Ed Henry questioned Carney on the subject during the daily press briefing, asking, “From that podium, will you admit that what the president said — if you have a plan, you’ll get to keep it — that that was not true?” After proceeding to the obligatory ‘let’s be clear’ talk, the press secretary spun Henry’s question to make a statement about the White House saying all along that Obamacare was going to cause upheaval to the U.S. health care system — including existing insurance policies that the law deemed ‘substandard.’
“So it’s true there are existing health care plans on the individual market that do not meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act,” Carney said.
When President Obama made his ‘if you like it, you can keep it’ comments in 2009, he was unequivocal about Americans who already possessed insurance. There were no qualifiers about the vulnerability of existing health care plans under his law. His words, verbatim:
So let me begin by saying this: I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage – they like their plan and they value their relationship with their doctor. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.
Turns out, unsurprisingly, that this isn’t the case.
Forget just the anecdotal evidence, the individual stories of one person here and one person there receiving a cancellation notice from an insurance carrier. These anecdotes aggregate to a larger story. A much larger one.
“In California, Kaiser Permanente terminated policies for 160,000 people,” CBS reported Monday. “In Florida, at least 300,000 people are losing coverage.” And on and on it goes, to the point at which one highly respected health policy expert predicted that 16 million people will lose their current plans due to the president’s health care law. Whether or not this estimate turns out to be on the nose is irrelevant. What is, is the very fact that someone of such repute made such an extraordinary estimate.
Some, including columnist Josh Barro, have argued that such galactic-scale turnover actually is a good thing, for the same broad reasons that Carney gave Monday: If your health care plan is ‘insufficient’ — and that accepts Obamacare’s definition of ‘insufficient’ — then you shouldn’t have it anyway.
Go ahead and have that debate. Make the case. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But for the president to be so adamant in that speech four-plus years ago, then to be so wrong, then to have his officials play down those comments as if they carried no weight or were misinterpreted — as if there is anything in what he said to misinterpret — is, first, terribly erroneous. Then, it is terribly shameless in the face of hundreds of thousands of Americans who were duped.