Is Obama's Broken Health Insurance Promise a Matter of Fact or Opinion?

The other day Matt Welch

that the insurance cancellations triggered by Obamacare
represent “a gut-check moment for the mostly left-of-center
journalists who have made such a show these past few years of
dropping false equivalence and calling out political bullshit at
the source.” So far The New York Times has risen to
the challenge pretty well. A few days ago, reporters Jonathan
Weisman and Robert Pear matter-of-factly
that cancellation letters received by people who buy
their medical coverage on the individual market “directly
contradict Mr. Obama’s oft-repeated reassurances that if people
like the insurance they have, they will be able to keep it.”
Meanwhile, in an article published the same day, Reed
Abelson perceived a
“debate” about “whether President Obama misled Americans when he
said that people who like their health plans may keep them.”
Apparently Abelson no longer considers that proposition
controversial. In today’s paper, he and Katie Thomas

The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by Mr. Obama in
2010. Since then he has assured Americans: “If you like your
insurance plan you will keep it. No one will be able to take that
away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the

But it is happening.

Furthermore, Abelson and Thomas say “insurance companies are
canceling millions of individual plans that fail to meet minimum
standards,” up from the “hundreds of thousands” estimated by
Weisman and Pear on Tuesday. In other words, according to the
Times, it is indisputable that Obama broke his
promise and that millions of Americans are bearing the

That seems clearly accurate to me, but yesterday Obama
that it’s not:

If you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable
Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you’re able to
keep it. That’s what I said when I was running for office. That was
part of the promise we made. But ever since the law was passed, if
insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans,
what we said under the law is you’ve got to replace them with
quality, comprehensive coverage—because that, too, was a central
premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very

Note that “substandard” means “below the standard I have set,”
which is another way of saying that you may like your health plan
the president does not
. Still, Obama is not claiming that his
personal distaste for your health insurance choices is enough to
void his guarantee. Instead he is retroactively adding a caveat to
his promise: If you like your plan, you can keep your plan—provided
it is exactly the same as the coverage you had before the law took
effect. If any of the terms have changed, all bets are off.

It will be illuminating to see whether the
Times and other news outlets dignify this
Clintonesque evasion by presenting it as a plausible alternative to
the view that Obama has not delivered what he said he would. As
Welch observed, “You can subject the policy and politics of
Obamacare to truth-scans, or you can carry water for the president.
You cannot do both, at least without a laugh track.”

from Hit & Run

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