The Legacy of Obama’s Health Care Lies

Less than a week before the
October launch of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance
exchanges, President Obama delivered a speech in Largo, Maryland
explaining how the new health care would work, and what Americans
in different circumstances could expect.

“Even before the Affordable Care Act fully takes effect, about
85 percent of Americans already have health insurance—either
through their job, or through Medicare, or through the individual
said the president
. “So if you’re one of these folks, it’s
reasonable that you might worry whether health care reform is going
to create changes that are a problem for you—especially when you’re
bombarded with all sorts of fear-mongering. So the first thing
you need to know is this:  If you already have health care,
you don’t have to do anything.”

For the millions of Americans who already had health coverage in
the individual market and have since been informed that their
existing plan was being canceled in the wake of Obamacare, that is
plainly not true. Despite Obama’s assurances, their coverage was
not secure from changes brought on by the law.

Obama said these people were wrong to worry that the law would
negatively affect them. It turns out those worries were not

That’s worth keeping in mind when looking at polls showing that
people who lost their individual market coverage are not the only
ones worried about the effects the law will have on their current

Survey data shows a “a striking level of unease about the law
among people who have health insurance and aren’t looking for
government help,” according to
an AP report from yesterday
. The report draws from information
in a newly released Associated Press-GfK poll which finds that
almost half of individuals with private coverage say their coverage
will be changing next year, and generally those changes will not be
for the better: rising costs, high deductibles, and the like. For
most people, the culprit is clear: Some 77 percent say Obamacare is
to blame.

The reality is more complicated. In some cases, Obamacare may be
partially responsible for the insurance changes these Americans are
seeing. In many instances, however, there’s no obvious, direct link
between the health law and shifts in coverage. Even in cases where
it’s possible to establish some connection, it’s often not the
entire story. 

But for these Americans, that doesn’t really matter. What
matters is that President Obama and his fellow Democrats promised a
sweeping overhaul that would improve the nation’s health care
system for everyone.

It’s worth taking a few minutes to go back and read President
Obama’s big health care
from September of 2009. He argued that reform was
necessary not only to help the uninsured, but to help middle class
Americans facing rising costs and coverage insecurities. The law,
he said, would “provide more security and stability to those who
have health insurance” and would slow the growth of health costs
for families and businesses as well as for the government.
Obamacare, in other words, was supposed to fix what most Americans
felt was wrong with the health care system—not simply expand
coverage to the uninsured.

That speech, and others like it, contributed to a sense that
Obama, along with the rest of the Democratic party, was not merely
attempting to reform a small segment of the health insurance
market, but was instead taking responsibility for fixing the entire
health care system. When Obamacare passed the next year, that’s
essentially what the president and his party did.

So in an important political sense, President Obama, and by
extension Democrats in Congress, own the American health care
system now. And they own all of it. So when any part of it breaks
or goes wrong, Obama, the Democratic party, and the health law they
passed will be blamed, regardless of whether or not the law is
directly responsible. 

The instinct for the White House and its defenders will be to
protest that most of these changes in employer coverage are a
longstanding part of the existing market, that they happened before
Obamacare, and that the law isn’t the cause of every health
insurance woe in the nation. Obamacare, they’ll say, is responsible
for the part of the system that’s getting better, not the part
that’s staying bad.

But Democrats will have a hard time selling this argument to a
skeptical public. Partly because it sounds awfully self-serving,
taking all the credit and none of the blame. Partly because the
impression has already sunk in that
Congress doesn’t understand
the real-world effects the health
care law is having. But mostly, however, because President Obama
has already lied about who the health law will affect, and how. For
lots of Americans, it won’t be easy to trust the president or his
party on the subject again. 

from Hit & Run

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