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Obama's "Keep Your Insurance" Fail

Updated on November 8, 2013

"If you like your insurance, you can keep it."

Sounds pretty simple, right?

Well, reports are emerging of people receiving notices from their insurance companies explaining that the holder's policies will no longer be available to them, come January 1.

Being a known proponent of Obamacare (in lieu of single-payer), my dad asks me the obvious question - "Why'd Obama lie?"


Now if you're a regular, then you know that I am certainly no apologist for President Obama, most of my hubs are critical of the Obama administration and its policies. One thing I struggle with is, on one hand it's frustrating when I'm watching a political show and the pundit will assert how wonky details are too complicated for TV or prime time and no one has the time or the patience and people will turn the channel and ratings dive when we go into detail. It's disrespectful, honestly. As though the viewer is not supposed to be bright enough to incorporate comprehension into their political entertainment.

On the other hand, I want the average person who may stumble upon this page to be able to consume and comprehend my garble with little-to-no prerequisite knowledge required.

Well, if I respect the mental capacity of my reader, then hopefully my readers' mental capacity will be respectable. The if you build it theory, as it were. I digress...

"Why'd Obama lie?"

My response was, "Well...Fox News had a segment where they had all these regular people who were supposed victims of the scourge that is Obamacare. One was a businessman who couldn't hire anyone because of Obamacare, turned out he only had 4 employees, which means his business is exempt from Obamacare. One was a family who has to pay more now because of Obamacare, but they refuse to go on on GP. Turns out they could get a much cheaper plan, but they won't bother to look. If you make under $45,000 (individually, or <400% FPL) you get a subsidy to help pay for a new plan."

"So the whole you can keep your insurance thing wasn't true then, was it?"



I really wouldn't care, but I've written about the ACA, and I've repeated the talking-point myself. That makes me liable.

That's the thing about talking-points though, they inherently lack nuance. The purpose of a talking point is to be quotable, and easily fit into a headline.

When the ACA was passed in March 2010, it included a grandfather clause for existing insurance plans. Thus, if you like your insurance. The talking-point was indeed factually correct (as it were) by any measure. Was. Oh, the grandfather clause still exists, it just doesn't apply to very many people anymore. As the Dept of Health and Human Services estimated in July 2010, of the 14mil people with insurance purchased on the individual market, 40-67% would likely lose their grandfather clause status by 2011 due to regular turnover in the insurance market. In fact, a study published in Health Affairs showed that only 17% purchased the same insurance plan on the individual market year-over-year. The Kaiser Foundation has estimated that only 36% of businesses have kept their insurance through 2013.


Hence the notices.

The right-wing (and NBC News, curiously) is exclaiming Obama knew! Obama lied!

In fact, the federal government released a sample letter ahead of time for insurance companies to send out. Proof! Interesting though, is that Republicans (led by Senator Enzi) attempted to repeal the grandfather clause altogether back in 2010. It was debated in Congress, and covered in the media. Point being, this circumstance should come as a surprise to no one. No one in Congress or the media, at least.

That being said, perhaps the talking-point that you can keep your insurance if you like it was...clumsily conjugated. It was in the context of the grandfather clause and based in fact, but to be clear, it was also purposed to allay and assuage. In 2010 the talking point was most certainly affirmative, but as time has passed it has grown to be significantly less so. Suppose the question that begs itself, when was it dropped from rotation on the stump? That would speak to the veracity of the dishonesty claims. Even then, the talking-point was based upon the grandfather clause, which is still in place to this day. Is that dishonest? If Obama were still using the line after all this time...

Obama used the talking point only once after the law was signed in March 2010, and that was in September 2010.


The problem we have here, is a failure to communicate. This is not a glitch or a flaw in the law, this is a feature in the law. No longer can insurance companies sell you junk insurance that doesn't cover maternity care, or a plan that requires a co-pay for preventative care, or a plan that doesn't cover prescription drugs or mental health. Unless of course you like your plan (and have kept it current since March 2010), in which case you can keep your plan (thanks to the grandfather clause). The flaw is with the politics, not with the policy.

Call it dishonestly if you like, I would prefer to call it the simple malpractice of political laziness.


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