Pinocchio in the White House


The Washington Post today gives President Obama four Pinocchios for his oft repeated promise, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.”

That’s the highest number of Pinocchios on WaPo’s Fact Checker rating scale. Too bad it doesn’t go to five, because that’s what the promise deserves.

I had a lot of negative things to say about the health care legislation as it was being debated and written. From the very beginning it had some serious shortcomings, and it had even more by the time it was finally passed.

But at no time do I recall reading or hearing about the regulations that are now resulting in hundreds of thousands of people being dropped from their existing insurance plans — the ones they chose, the ones they liked, the ones they could afford.

I have an excuse for my ignorance, however. According to WaPo’s story, the regs I overlooked begin on page 34538. 34538!! I’ve never seen a page number that high. War and Peace only runs to 1,000 or so pages, and I passed on it.

I had no idea, or simply did not understand, that Obamacare included regulations that would result in insurance companies discontinuing certain policies and leaving holders of those policies with no insurance. Clearly the regs should have been written in a way that required existing policies to be amended, not dropped, so that no one would lose their existing coverage.

Those disenfranchised policyholders liked and could afford those policies. The policies might not have been comprehensive Cadillac policies, but they included what the insureds wanted and/or could afford. Not everyone can afford a comprehensive policy. Some people think catastrophic coverage is enough. And that should be their choice, not the government’s. It’s one thing to force everyone to buy some kind of insurance. It’s quite another to force them to buy Cadillac policies.

My ignorance and the intricacies of Obamacare aside, the president, for several years, repeatedly and very publicly misrepresented/misstated his signature program. And some would say if he did it knowingly, he was lying.


26 thoughts on “Pinocchio in the White House

  1. I’d like to tell myself that he just didn’t know PT. Yeah, I’d really like to tell myself that. But, as they say, “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” What really irks me though is how this feed into to the dingbat exhortations against big government intruding into our lives, even though they did everything in their power to riddle the Affordable Care Act bill with all sorts of flaws (to help assure its failure?) before enough of them would sign on before it could pass…

    1. Agreed. Opponents decimated the bill before it was passed. In fact, what little remained of the original legislation should never have passed, in my opinion. So yes, they share a lot of the blame for this mess.

      Like you I don’t believe the president has been unaware of what’s in his crowning achievement, his history-making legislation. (And if he has been unaware, well, that’s a pretty big problem too.)

    2. The president is speaking in Boston right now. He just said, “No insurance company will ever be able to drop you from coverage. Those days are over.” No, those days aren’t over. People out there are being kicked off their insurance plans as he speaks!

  2. What are some of the sources that are reporting patients being dropped by insurance companies? Because if this is happening, it just bolsters the argument for a single-payer system. I know some insurance plans are dropping providers. I do think insurance companies still have too much power and need to go the way of the dodo, because I do not believe there should be a profit motive in health care.

    FWIW, the ACA is a good thing for me. It has made health insurance roughly $150 cheaper per month than the lowest prices I’d been quoted before. There is an abudance of choice in NY, too, with 700 plans to choose from, ranging from the basics to the “Cadillac plans.” I still haven’t sorted all of them out yet.

    1. You’re the second person I’ve heard from (the other is also a freelancer) who has benefited from the new Obamacare policies. And I’m thrilled for both of you. I’ve been caught out there without insurance, when my only option was the state’s very expensive high risk pool. I was in my 60s by then and afraid to not have insurance.

    2. My premium is less than half of what my previous premium was with my previous job. Currently, since I’m now a contract employee, I don’t have insurance. It was waaaay too expensive on my own. But the ACA is allowing me to get affordable coverage. And I don’t qualify for subsidies, so my payment is all mine – and still 50% of what it previously was.

  3. Ah, wait, look at this from CBS: “Obamacare forces [insurance companies] to drop many of their plans that don’t meet the law’s 10 minimum standards, including maternity care, emergency visits, mental health treatment and even pediatric dental care.”

    So basically, the insurance companies want to protect their profits. Rather than add services to existing plans, they just tell patients the plans are being discontinued and the patients have to sign up for a more comprehensive plan. This is nothing but a vituperative maneuver done for political reasons because some fat cats at the top are upset that the ACA has slaughtered their cash cow: The cheapo plans that people pay for that don’t really cover anything. Ridiculous that there should even be a plan that does NOT cover emergency visits and mental health care. Heaven forbid a health insurance company actually have to pay for health care.

    1. Yes, that’s what I’ve been hearing on CNN. And NBC did a report that actually earned it an irate response from the White House. Also Nightline a few nights ago. I forget what network they are.

      Yep, I’m interpreting the dropped plans the same way you are. That’s why there should have been a law up front to ensure they couldn’t do that. They did the same thing back before the first ACA provisions kicked in. They knew the provisions were going to cut into their profits, so they jacked a bunch of rates in advance to cover their anticipated losses. Idiot lawmakers are paid off by the insurance lobby; otherwise maybe they’d make sure the new laws prevented such dodges by the insurance companies.

  4. Some people think it’s okay if the government defines a product and then sets it’s price regardless of the cost. The people who would benefit from a scheme that’s predicated on stealing and then spending other people’s money are parasites — plain and simple.

    1. I understand how insurance pools work and why certain things are necessary to make them work. But it does seem that much of this plan, particularly as explained by the president, is all pie in the sky idealism with little regard for everyday reality — like people getting kicked off plans they voluntarily purchased, or people being forced into something they’d already decided they can’t afford (can’t afford either the product or the fine).

  5. Maybe I’m not understanding some things. People don’t “buy Obamacare.” Under the ACA, they either buy plans on the open market that meet or exceed minimum standards or they buy plans through pools established by states or the federal government. There are subsidies for those with low incomes, so it is quite possible someone “forced” to drop an inadequate policy will find a better one at equal or lower cost. If the President had been saying, “No one will be forced to drop a policy that meets minimum standards,” he would have been more correct. Or, “No one who has adequate insurance will be forced to give it up under ACA” might have been better.

    I think we may be suffering more from media reports by people who don’t understand the ACA than from the provisions of the law or any slips the President may have made in talking about it. I cannot envision any circumstance that would have required President Obama to lie about it. The legislation has passed and been upheld by the Supreme Court and the will of the majority in the last election. So what would cause the President gain by lying?

    1. You’re right, there is no government insurance to buy, no public option. That was cut out of the legislation before it was passed. At least in theory, it would have been a cheaper option that competed with private insurance companies, presumably driving prices down across the board. (Sorry, I need to get back up to speed on this stuff and rewrite that paragraph.)

      I’ve stopped short of saying “lie,” since I think a lie is willful deceit. But either Obama was misinformed about what was in the legislation, which seems unlikely since it is so important to him, or he was careless (?) enough to repeatedly misstate the provisions and effects of the law. I think it’s inexplicable and inexcusable, no matter how or why it happened. People are losing their insurance coverage. It may be only a temporary loss, but that doesn’t change the fact that those people are without coverage right now if they happen to be in an accident or get seriously ill.

      Also inadequately explained before now was that people have to buy comprehensive policies covering what the government is dictating. They can’t buy a barebones policy; their policies have to include ten “essential benefits” dictated by the ACA, even if they won’t use them and don’t want them. It looks as though men have to pay for maternity care, for example. And people without children have to pay for pediatric services. Go figure. It doesn’t make sense to me.

  6. I hear both positive and negative feedback but the one thing I want to know is can’t we just get rid of the middle man. Insurance companies have made a huge mess. All they care about is profits, of course. I know, then we have to face exorbitant bills at the doctors office…the average American pays a week’s worth of wages for one doctor’s visit.

    1. I agree the insurance companies are to mostly blame. Back in the day we just saw the doctor, paid him, and then sent paperwork to the insurance company — after the fact — for them to reimburse us for 80% of the bill. They didn’t get to call all the shots, control the prices, tell us which doctors we could see, etc. Letting them remain exempt from anti-trust laws has been a huge mistake.

    1. Thanks for linking that good, fact-based article. Of course, it starts out by confirming my primary complaint here — that Obama has, for several years, been consistently misstating the facts. Some people are in fact losing their coverage, even if only briefly. That’s not what the president promised.

        1. But those people should not, for any amount of time, be left without coverage. It doesn’t matter how wonderful their spiffy new policies might be a month or a year from now. If they get sick today, they don’t have any coverage. And that’s not right.

  7. As you know, I have, and still am, an Obama supporter. But I will admit I am not happy with some of the outcome and reactions here lately. I, too, feel that he was not truthful – although I do believe he did not realize that so many people would lose their current policies. I do not believe he intentionally and knowingly flat out lied to the public. Considering this is his program, his lack of knowledge of the facts and what would happen doesn’t sit well with me at all. The way the progressive media is twisting the facts in order to save face for Obama doesn’t make me happy either. The left points out all the right-wings fact-twisting all the time, then they turn and do the same thing. Nope. Don’t care for it.

    I, myself, am surprised at the number of policies that are inferior to the minimum requirements of the ACA. Makes me wonder when I had insurance via my previous job if I was paying that high premium for poor coverage? Luckily I had no ER visit, nor hospitalization, so I didn’t have to find out.

    I see the point that people should be able to pay for the coverage they want. I’m the same way. However, life happens. I don’t want to cover the costs of someone who cannot afford what bills the rack up b/c their insurance didn’t cover it. Therefore I do understand, and agree, that there needs to be a minimum coverage.

    I did find out that the exchange offers much more competitive pricing as my premium is less than half of what I used to pay. I hope many others will decide to research the exchange pricing rather than automatically paying higher premiums. Many insurance companies are not happy b/c the ACA will cut into their profits, so they’re going to do anything and everything they can to try to make this fail. Sad. Because if everyone worked together, fixed the problems, I do firmly believe that this program could be the best thing that’s happened to our health care. But it takes total cooperation, which will never happen. So we will continue to the pay the price.

    1. I’ve been upset and perplexed by what Obama kept insisting vs. what we know now. And his trying to walk it back now is just making it worse. He can’t add “if” or “but” exceptions now after what he’s been saying for several years; he’s just losing more credibility. And I agree too about the liberal media trying to spin it in his favor. There’s no spinning this. There might be a way to fix it, but it’s going to require techies and spinmeisters like he doesn’t have and doesn’t know how to get. He doesn’t know enough to understand why he needs.

      I am so glad you found some good affordable coverage. There haven’t been a lot of reports about the success stories. And I do understand how if some people buy cheapo policies they could end up getting a free ride at someone else’s expense. At the same time, I’ve had options with my insurance policies for about 60 years, buying what I think I’ll need, saving a little by not buying stuff I think I won’t need. Right now I don’t have any dental coverage because I’ve calculated the premiums, co-pays, and deductibles are such that the insurance won’t save me anything.

      There’s no way Obama comes out of this smelling like a rose. The only way I can make myself feel a little better about the debacle is telling myself how much worse it would have been with McCain and Palin ….

      I’m glad you have a state exchange to work with. Sounds like they’re doing much better that

      1. I actually went through the website. No problems. No hang-ups. A few times the page took longer than it should have to process, but never timed out.

        I wish Obama would just admit he wasn’t aware of all the facts – but he can’t do that. Imagine the heyday everyone would have if the POTUS admitted something like that. So I think rather than trying to cover up the errors, just focus on the fixes and moving forward.

        RE: dental. I shelled out $2,000 for a full set of partials in August. I looked at buying insurance, but the restrictions were ridiculous. For partials, I would have had to had coverage for a full year – which is understandable. That way someone won’t come in, pay for a couple months for expensive dental work, then drop the coverage.

        But even after a year, the maximum amount that would be paid (for the policies/companies I researched) was $1,000. So after a year of premiums (which really were not that much… $30/month is a high end), then paying everything over $1000, it wasn’t worth it to me. I wanted my partials now. Not in a year. I chose the dentist I now use because they have an inhouse “membership.” Paid $130 and received a significant discount on all services. Ended up being better than any insurance policy.

        Now I have a full smile. 🙂
        I had lost a lot of my back teeth because my teeth are genetically soft (thanks, mom) and nearly every root canal ended up cracking my teeth down thru the root. They all had to come out. I was done with any type of oral surgery. Implants are too expensive, as are bridges – plus I really did not want any more drilling like that. I’m done. It’s all seemed to cause more problems than help. So I went the way of partials. Some of my missing teeth are visible when I smile (the teeth just after the canines), so I have been very self-conscious about it. I still have enough back teeth on one side to eat fine. But my vanity took over. Now when I smile, I smile big.

        But getting back to the primary topic… insurance. Dental insurance is bogus. Only if it’s a package with health insurance would it be worth the cost. Otherwise, a lot of dentists offer their own in-house “memberships.”

        1. If can remember the details, I’d be paying a premium of about $18 a month, for a policy that only pays 50% on routine procedures like cleaning and fillings, only 30% on a couple of other things, and nothing for crowns. I only go in every couple of years. Just doesn’t sound worth it to me. (Right now I think I need a couple of fillings and a crown). Especially not since some of my medicare stuff is going up for 2014 (more than twice as much as my SS increase). I would like a really good whitening, though. And I doubt it would be covered. Oh well, gotta screw up my courage and go. I finally remembered to ask my doctor for some Valium. (Yes, I’m one of those fear-of-dentists types.)

          1. Oh, me, too. Big time. Had a horrifying experience as a small child. I get nitrous just to have my teeth cleaned. I had two extractions in prepping for my partials as they were bad, too. Doc had the nitrous up as high as he could and I was still white-knuckled the whole time.

          2. The only time I ever relaxed at a dentist’s office was when they knocked me out to pull my wisdom teeth. Wish I could do that every time.

... and that's my two cents