Recognizing that the fate of Obamacare is in further peril, President Obama responded to the mounting criticism that he lied to the American public by apologizing to people who were forced off their health insurance plans by the Affordable Care Act despite “assurances from me.”
The president gave an interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News in which he admitted that he did not do enough to ensure that the law did not force the termination of insurance policies that people like because they do not meet the law’s new coverage requirements.
“It means a lot to them. And it’s scary to them. And I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me,” Obama in an interview in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “We’ve got to work hard to make sure that we hear them and that we’re going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”
Despite the president’s repeated assurances that Americans who were satisfied with their health insurance plans could keep them, hundreds of thousands of people across the country began receiving letters of cancellation from their insurance companies in recent weeks.
“We know that lying to Congress is a crime, but unfortunately, lying to the American people is not,” Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said Wednesday during a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill.
But despite all the braying about the president “lying to the American people,” there is something extremely disingenuous about the screaming and the media coverage.
As political writer Ana Marie Cox pointed out in The Guardian, the fact that some people’s coverage would have to change to make it compliant with the new healthcare law was part of the narrative all along and is written in plain language in the law itself.
Over the last three years, Politifact, Factcheck.org and ABC have all challenged Obama’s assertion that everyone would be able to keep their plans if they wanted and Obama even acknowledged in a press conference years ago that it would be impossible for the government to entirely prevent changes to everyone’s plan.
In fact, shortly after the bill passed, a story in the Washington Post explained how officials will decide whose health plans would have to change.
“Your plan might not be quite the same — it could offer more benefits, and it could cost more,” the Post wrote in June 2010. “The administration estimates that many plans will end up changing, prompting Republicans to accuse the president of breaking his word.”
In addition, press releases issued by the Department of Health and Human Services pointed out that some policy holders would have to “transition” to “ACA-compliant” plans.
So while everyone in Washington and those in the media who were paying attention knew for the past three years that some people’s plans would have to change, the surprised and outraged reaction we are seeing now from Republicans is largely being faked to further weaken the president.
“I think we, in good faith, have been trying to take on a health care system that has been broken for a very long time,” Obama said. “And what we’ve been trying to do is to change it in the least disruptive way possible.”
He added that “they’re benefiting from more choice and competition.”
“But obviously, we didn’t do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law,” he said. “And, you know, that’s something that I regret. That’s something that we’re going to do everything we can to get fixed.”
In response to the complaints, Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, introduced legislation this week to force insurance companies to reissue the health plans they have been canceling by the thousands.
So now we have the mind-boggling spectacle of politicians pressuring insurance companies to reissue inadequate health plans whose cancellation was part of the actual intent of the law in the first place.
In his interview, the president said he was “deeply frustrated” by the technical problems surrounding the website.
“I take responsibility for that; my team takes responsibility of that,” he said. “And we are working every single day, 24/7, to improve it. And it’s better now than it was last week. And it’s certainly a lot better than it was on Oct. 1.”
The president also defended Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who Republicans have targeted for firing.
“You know, Kathleen Sebelius doesn’t write code; yeah, she wasn’t our I.T. person,” he said. “Ultimately, the buck stops with me. You know, I’m the president. This is my team. If it’s not working, it’s my job to get it fixed.”