The Corner

Obama’s Misleading Obamacare ‘Apology’

The headlines today are that President Obama apologized for the fact that Americans are receiving cancellations from their health-insurance carriers. “I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.” But President Obama didn’t express any regret for the policies that caused people to lose their existing coverage. Indeed, in the interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, he doubled down on the fact that Obamacare bars various types of insurance policies that he and other Democrats found distasteful. “A lot of these plans are subpar plans,” he explained.

As I describe in a new Forbes piece, the president defended the problems with his health-care law by making a number of misleading statements. He justified the new federal regulatory regime by claiming that “women were being charged as much as double compared to men” among other things. He claimed that “we’re talking about 5 percent of the population,” implying that 95 percent of privately insured Americans are not adversely affected by Obamacare. He claimed that Americans will “be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper” under Obamacare than under their old, canceled plans, and that Obamacare was designed to move people “into better plans because they want ’em,” not because they’re forced to buy them. Finally, he argued that “we’re gonna do everything we can to get [the cancellations] fixed.”

It’s true that, on average, women pay more than men on the individual health-insurance market. But our Manhattan Institute study finds that the discrepancies are not extreme. Twenty-seven-year-old women, pre-ACA, paid 25 percent more than men; 40-year-old women paid 21 percent more. Sixty-seven-year old women actually paid 7 percent less than men. And under Obamacare, underlying premium costs will go up for both men and women.

It’s not true that only 5 percent of Americans are adversely affected by Obamacare’s insurance regulations. The administration’s own estimate is that a majority of employer-sponsored plans will also fail to meet the “grandfather” test and have to be replaced by costlier, Obamacare-compliant plans, which brings the total to 93 million privately covered Americans. The disruption won’t be as severe as in the market for individually purchased coverage, but the new plans will still be costlier.

Our research shows that the average state will see a premium increase of 41 percent relative to pre-ACA rates, rate hikes that will disproportionately affect younger individuals and those with average to above-average incomes (i.e., those with net income-tax liabilities). And I don’t hear a lot of interest from ordinary Americans in Obamacare-compliant plans with higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower networks of doctors and physicians, but the president claims that “they want ’em” and will voluntarily sign up for them.

If the president is sincerely committed to solving the problem, he will encourage Democrats to support, and sign into law, the Johnson-Upton bill that would ensure that Americans with coverage that was legal in 2013 can continue to purchase that coverage in 2014. But word on the street is that he will seek a narrow “administrative fix” that will still force most people into Obamacare-compliant coverage.

It’s as if a husband caught in flagrante delicto said, “I’m sorry that you’re hurt that I cheated on you. I’ll do my best to reduce the number of affairs I have in the future.”

There’s no getting around it. The president promised that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” That was a dishonest promise. But the public shouldn’t forget about all of the other misleading statements the president is making now to excuse that initial fabrication.

Avik Roy is a columnist at NRO and a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. You can follow him on Twitter at @avik.

Avik Roy — Avik Roy is the President of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP.org), a non-partisan, non-profit think tank.

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