Disingenuous. That’s the word President Obama used yesterday in Boston to describe those who are calling him out for promising Americans they could keep their existing health-care plans if they liked them. Rather than merely acknowledging that his repeated pledge came with a huge, unmentioned asterisk that was kept under wraps until it was passed and then about to be implemented, the president refused to give an inch. He asserted that not only has he kept his word despite the obvious fact that millions of Americans cannot keep the coverage they had in the age of ObamaCare whether they liked it or not, but that those who have pointed this out are the ones who are fibbing. The president believes he can get away with this because after five years in office during which the mainstream media has applauded his every move and ignored or rationalized his every misstep, why should he think it would be any different now?
But though the president may not be admitting it, the foundation of this complacent mendacity in the White House echo chamber may be crumbling. Even CNN, which has been home to many reliable Obama cheerleaders, is beginning to catch on to the problem. When Jake Tapper — a relative newcomer to the network — interviewed a former House Democratic staffer who favored ObamaCare but who nonetheless was dismayed about how the changes it wrought had increased her insurance costs, a critical point was passed. The Washington Post‘s fact-checker column awarded the president four “Pinocchios” (the most egregious lie rating) yesterday. Even MSNBC hosts are admitting that an untruth was told even if they don’t think it’s a particularly big deal. No wonder the polls are showing that Obama’s boost from the government shutdown has quickly evaporated. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows his approval rating down to 42 percent, an all-time low and within shouting distance of the abysmal 39 percent rating that George W. Bush had at the same point in his second term after the Hurricane Katrina fiasco. The president and minions like Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may think they can brazen out this crisis, but as more evidence is uncovered to show that the administration knew that Obama’s promises were lies, those numbers may sink even further.
As Avik Roy reports at Forbes, it turns out that as far back as 2010, when ObamaCare was passed, federal officials were already aware that the bill would cause a massive disruption of the existing insurance market. As Roy writes:
If you read the Affordable Care Act when it was passed, you knew that it was dishonest for President Obama to claim that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” as he did—and continues to do—on countless occasions. And we now know that the administration knew this all along. It turns out that in an obscure report buried in a June 2010 edition of the Federal Register, administration officials predicted massive disruption of the private insurance market.
Roy goes on to detail the massive scale of these changes that were dismissed this week by White House press spokesman Jay Carney as affecting only a tiny percentage of Americans:
“The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small employer plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013,” wrote the administration on page 34,552 of the Register. All in all, more than half of employer-sponsored plans will lose their “grandfather status” and get canceled. According to the Congressional Budget Office, 156 million Americans—more than half the population—was covered by employer-sponsored insurance in 2013.
Another 25 million people, according to the CBO, have “nongroup and other” forms of insurance; that is to say, they participate in the market for individually-purchased insurance. In this market, the administration projected that “40 to 67 percent” of individually-purchased plans would lose their Obamacare-sanctioned “grandfather status” and get canceled, solely due to the fact that there is a high turnover of participants and insurance arrangements in this market. (Plans purchased after March 23, 2010 do not benefit from the “grandfather” clause.) The real turnover rate would be higher, because plans can lose their grandfather status for a number of other reasons.
How many people are exposed to these problems? 60 percent of Americans have private-sector health insurance—precisely the number that Jay Carney dismissed. As to the number of people facing cancellations, 51 percent of the employer-based market plus 53.5 percent of the non-group market (the middle of the administration’s range) amounts to 93 million Americans.
The president’s chutzpah about his broken health-care promise is impressive. He claims that even though you can’t necessarily keep the coverage you’ve got, if you’re sore about it, it is only because shyster insurance companies sold you a “substandard” plan. Since Obama and his federal bureaucrats know best, that means you have to buy a new plan that may cost a lot more for coverage of possible claims that you might never make. Though he hides behind a technicality that any plan bought after the passage of ObamaCare wasn’t covered by the promise, he also ignores the fact that he continued to repeat the claim with no ifs, ands, buts, or disclaimers for years afterward. That was deception, pure and simple.
But in this White House, telling the truth about administration promises and behavior is simply not allowed. So Obama and Sebelius spent the day spinning rather than confessing. They keep saying that the only responsible thing to do is to help improve ObamaCare rather than to wreck it, but the foundation of any possible reform must be honesty about what went wrong and the fraudulent sales pitch that was used to help shove it down the throat of a reluctant Congress via legislative trickery.
The administration’s credibility gap is huge and growing larger every day that the president continues to lie about his lies. And like every other past administration with a truth problem, the people in the West Wing don’t seem to understand that everybody but them and their most fervent supporters aren’t buying it anymore.
Some Democrats were dismayed that many of the House Republican questioners of Sebelius ignored the disastrous ObamaCare website problems and instead focused on the broken promises and the hardship they are causing many Americans. A president who has started to lose his loyal media cheerleaders and sinking in the polls needs to do better than to stick with a lie that has already been widely exposed. No matter how loudly the president proclaims his virtue and attempts to deflect charges of false statements onto his critics, this story isn’t going away.
In this piece, I originally referred to some of the normally reliable cheerleaders for the president Obama on CNN. I then followed it with a mention of Jake Tapper and his report on a dissatisfied ObamaCare customer. The juxtaposition could easily have been understood as accusing Tapper, who is a relative newcomer on the network, as being one of those cheerleaders. That was not my intent. But as originally written it did Tapper, who is a fair and dogged reporter, a disservice. For that I apologize. We need more reporters and network anchors like him.