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Hedging His Pledges


Candidate Obama promised that people would not have to change their current health care, that he was opposed to an individual mandate for health insurance, and that he was opposed to capping the deductibility of gold-plated health plans. As Jim Capretta showed in the Corner yesterday, the president has changed the first pledge to promising that government won’t force you to change plans, which conveniently misses the point that government actions might incentivize companies to withdraw coverage. Now, ABC reports that the president has changed his mind on an individual mandate, or “forc[ing] every American to buy health care,” as he once put it. On this one, the president says his thinking on mandates has “evolved.” I think it is also likely that he will have a change of heart on capping the deductibility, although he had mercilessly ripped John McCain during the campaign for advocating the taxation of benefits. Presidents have to make tough decisions all the time, and frequently ones that contradict campaign pledges. But serial changes on a signature issue like health care will make it increasingly difficult to build confidence in a major health-reform overhaul. I also wonder if he will get asked about these changes of heart on the ABC health-care town hall tonight. Forgive my skepticism, but somehow I doubt it.

 — Tevi Troy, deputy secretary of health and human services from 2007 to 2009, is a visiting senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.


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