President Obama deserves forbearance on the bungled rollout of his health care initiative. After all, Republicans have dedicated themselves to sabotaging the law — withholding funds required for a smooth inauguration, harassing the experts hired to explain the law to consumers, and even threatening the National Football League when Obama asked teams to advertise it to their audiences.
Still, Obama deserves all the blame for the deception that may be the biggest threat to his signature legislative achievement — and his legacy. He must have known better when he told Americans repeatedly over the past five years that they could keep their insurance policies if they were happy with them. As countless policyholders have learned over the past few weeks, that’s simply not true.
Early on, the president was careful in his descriptions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Speaking to a joint session of Congress in 2009, he said, “If you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.” The veracity squad at Politifact rated that statement “true.”
But as Obamacare, as it is now widely known, picked up a dedicated and vociferous group of critics, the president grew careless. In countless speeches in the last three to four years, he dropped the nuances: “If you like the [health insurance] plan you have, you can keep it.”
Just as more Americans were beginning to pay attention to a mandate that will go into effect in 2014, that flawed description became Obama’s mantra. Now, as insurers send out cancellation notices, many consumers feel betrayed. And that includes some of Obama’s most loyal supporters.
Writer Peter Richmond, who has purchased his health insurance through a small group affiliated with a local Chamber of Commerce in upstate New York, was stunned to learn recently that his insurer was dropping the group.
“(Obama) spoke so vehemently about our being able to keep our coverage. … I feel betrayed for the first time by [this] president. … I resent it a great deal,” he said.