Politics & Policy

If I Like It, You Can Keep It

The president misspoke: What he meant to say, a hundred or so times, was: “If I like your insurance, you can keep it.” You may like your insurance, but that is not quite good enough for the Obama administration.

Contrary to the endlessly repeated promise of the president and his political allies, millions and millions of Americans who do in fact like their current insurance policies are receiving notices that they will not be allowed to keep them. The White House and its media allies are working furiously to explain away this fact, but there is no explaining it away: The president lied about this. The word “lied” may be used too often in our political discourse, but the man lied, making willfully untrue statements with malice aforethought consistently and repeatedly. His aides and advisers had meetings and discussions about whether he should repeat this lie; campaign adviser Jim Margolis now allows, “Maybe this should have been parsed more carefully.” But parsing this more carefully would have precluded chanting the if-you-like-it-you-can-keep-it mantra, which is to say, it would have necessitated telling the truth that millions of Americans would lose policies they like.

In fact, the great majority of those in the individual-insurance market — about two-thirds of them — will lose their policies, according to estimates from the president’s own Department of Health and Human Services. They add up to some 15 million people. Of the much larger group of Americans who are insured through employer-based plans, between half and two-thirds will lose their coverage because of the new health-care law. In all, the number of Americans who will lose their plans is estimated to hit tens of millions. There simply is no way to square these facts with the promise of “If you like your insurance, you can keep it.” These estimates were listed on page 34,552 of the Federal Register; perhaps they were overlooked.

With the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats created a Frankenstein’s monster of stitched-together bits of managerial progressivism to be sorted out later through regulations issued by unaccountable bureaucrats, and now that the monster has turned on them, they are crying foul as the villagers consider their torches and pitchforks. At issue here is the question of “grandfathering,” or granting exemptions that allow people to keep the plans that they are happy with. The act itself establishes certain rules that ensure that millions of Americans will lose the policies that they are happy with, but it also invests regulators laboring under the management of President Obama and his secretaries with the power to issue and interpret regulations governing this grandfathering. President Obama’s regulators have chosen to interpret these regulations in the narrowest possible manner, interrupting the preferred arrangements of the greatest number of people. If the president does not approve of this, somebody should remind him that Kathleen Sebelius and her horde of regulatory busybodies work for him. The president likes to remind recalcitrant Republicans, “I won.” Perhaps the lifers at HHS did not get the memo.

It is worth noting that this regulatory discretion has been used prejudicially to disfavor those in the individual market and to favor those in employer-provided plans — which is to say, in a way that helps to ensure that no real robust market for individual insurance is allowed to emerge, sending millions into the morass of political mismanagement that are the Obamacare exchanges.

Nor can the Democrats say that they did not see this coming. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Senator Mike Enzi (R., Wyo.) introduced a bill specifically intended to alleviate this problem and ensure that small businesses would have their health-insurance plans grandfathered in. Democrats voted unanimously against it.

There is no amount of clever spin or media denial that can make the president’s promises accord with the reality of what his administration is doing — or with the fact that he knew his claims were untrue at the time he was making them. He owes the nation an apology, and Congress owes it a better health-care bill.


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