Commentary Magazine


ObamaCare and Arbitrary Power

Following on the heels of CBS’s Benghazi report, NBC News is joining in the “now it can be told” parade. With the president safely reelected and ObamaCare surviving its key challenges at the Supreme Court, it is now apparently safe to start reporting on the fact that the health-care reform law was constructed on a very transparent falsehood. “Obama administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance” screams the headline, and the article notes that “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.”

President Obama stuck by the ludicrous promise that those who liked their insurance could keep their insurance–“period,” as the president liked to emphasize. This was never true, as conservatives pointed out time and again. The law was specifically designed to prevent this promise from being kept. But the media kept repeating it, so the president kept saying it. What’s new in the NBC report is not that Obama knew he was peddling a false promise; of course the White House knew what it was up to. Rather, what’s interesting is the degree to which the Obama administration concentrated on making sure that people couldn’t keep their policies, even if it meant rewriting key parts of the law’s regulations after the fact:

None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date — the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example — the policy would not be grandfathered.

ObamaCare continues to be the epitome of arbitrary government. Not only was the law unpopular when it was passed, but the administration then kicked the public while it was down by changing the law on the fly and ensuring that a key promise used to pass the law would be unfulfilled. Unilaterally extending deadlines, waiving requirements for interest groups, delaying aspects of the law: it turns out we didn’t have to pass the law to find out what was in it, since it simply didn’t matter what was in it.

Speaking of arbitrary power, key administration advisor Valerie Jarrett took to Twitter last night to attempt to spin the story. Even by the standards of this administration, Jarrett’s effort was both inept and bitterly defensive:


As Mary Katherine Ham noted, this “delusion” amounts to: “no change is required by you under Obamacare unless your insurance company goes and changes your existing plan to comply with Obamacare.” Jarrett’s combination of contempt for private industry and self-indulgent blame shifting is characteristic of the Obama administration.

Blaming the insurance industry was perhaps inevitable. But other attempts to spin the news don’t do much better since there’s no refuting the core of this latest PR disaster. Here, for example, is Time magazine’s headline: “The Bright Side of Obamacare’s Broken Promise.” There’s no question it’s a broken promise; but the president’s defenders hope they can mitigate that damage by explaining that the government deceived you for the greater good. Welcome to the team.

Here is how Time’s report opens: “President Obama has broken his promise that Americans who like their health insurance plans can keep them under the Affordable Care Act. Citing the new law, insurers have recently mailed policy cancellation notices to hundreds of thousands of people across the country, providing more ammunition to critics who say the law is bad for consumers.” It’s true: the continuing confirmation that the law is bad for consumers will provide ammunition to those who point out that the law is bad for consumers.

Then Time warns: “And that number may grow.” It seems it already has. CBS reports that “more than two million Americans have been told they cannot renew their current insurance policies — more than triple the number of people said to be buying insurance under the new Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.”

Given all this, Obama’s motivation for peddling the false promise becomes clear. The public already disliked the law, and he was barely able, through procedural tricks and horse trading, to muster the votes to pass it. Imagine how much more difficult his task would have been had the sales pitch for ObamaCare not been “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” but rather “If you like your plan, you’re selfish and don’t know what’s good for you, and you need to be coerced into doing your part to help the president establish a new entitlement scheme.”

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