Now They Tell Us

by Veronique de Rugy

I am glad that Mark highlighted the NBC story about serious accuracy gaps in the president’s claim that Americans who liked their health-care plans would be able to keep them. Here is a striking data point:

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.

So they knew. But now that the cancellation letters are making their ways to the mailboxes of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American households, the administration has to defend itself. In that situation, the easiest thing to do is move the goal posts, which here means arguing that while many people won’t be able to keep their plans, this is an opportunity for them to get “better” and more comprehensive plans. That’s the route White House press secretary Jay Carney went for yesterday, admitting “it’s true that there are existing health-care plans on the individual market that don’t meet [the law's] minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act. But what is also true is that . . . Americans who have insurance on the existing individual market will now have numerous options available to them, and six out of ten will pay less than $100 per month in premiums for better insurance.”

Does it mean that, out of the people who lose their coverage, six out of ten will see their costs go down, while four will see their costs go up? It’s not entirely clear, but if so, that seems to go against the claim the president made back in May 2009 that “comprehensive health-care reform . . . [will] save a typical family an average of $2,500 on their health-care costs in the coming years.” Carney keeps saying that it is “better insurance,” and it may be. But one has to pay more for this ”better” product, which is a tradeoff that many Americans may not be willing to make. The administration certainly shouldn’t force them into it, especially after telling them they wouldn’t have to change their plans at all.

Now Greg Mankiw, a Harvard professor who was the head of George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers for a few years, highlights three possibilities about what this says about the administration (via Robert Graboyes):

As someone who has previously worked for a President, I am fascinated by how the White House staff let the President so consistently and so publicly make a false statement.  Presidential speeches undergo a painstakingly thorough review process. It seems that there are only three possibilities:

1. The White House staff did not know the statement was false.  That is, they did not understand the law the administration was promoting.

2. The White House staff knew the statement was false, but they decided to keep this fact from the President.  That is, they let the President unwittingly lie to the American people.

3. The White House staff knew the statement was false and told the President so, but the President decided to keep saying it anyway.  That is, the President consciously decided to lie to the American people.

These are the only three possibilities I can envision.  None of them reflects particularly well on what has been going on in the White House.

Good points. But then again, there is this gem by Valerie Jarrett:

This means the requirement in the law that insurance plans be “better,” touted by Jay Carney, apparently has nothing to do with the fact that it made thousands of plans no longer qualify under Obamacare, which led to the cancellation of the coverage. I really don’t see how the administration is going to be able to talk its way out of this one.