President Barack Obama, besieged by political fact-checkers calling him out on what turned out to be a false pledge, sought to explain what he really meant when he previously promised anyone who liked their old insurance could keep it under the Obamacare law.
He spoke Wednesday in Boston, to celebrate the Massachusetts health care system – also known as Romneycare – for which the federal law was modeled after. He said if anyone gets a cancellation letter for their current insurance, they can shop for a new plan on the marketplace – even though the marketplace website isn’t working. He said people can still sign up over the phone or the old fashioned way.
President Barack Obama speaks on healthcare at Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 30, 2013. Obama arrived in Boston to speak on the importance of providing all Americans with quality, affordable health insurance and the experience in Massachusetts, which passed its bipartisan health care law in 2006. (Getty)
“If you’re getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new market place,” Obama said. “That’s what it’s for. Because of the tax credits we’re offering, and the competition between insurers most people are going to get better comprehensive health care plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected. You’re going to get a better deal.”
There have been numerous headlines in the past week about possibly millions of people who could lose their current health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Further, NBC News first reported this week the administration knew that millions would lose their existing policies under the new law and Obama persisted to promise no one would.
The Washington Post gave Obama “four Pinocchio’s” the highest rating for falsehood. PolitiFact, which last year gave a similar Obama claim a “half-true” rating, today gave White House aide Valerie Jarrett a “false” rating for making the assertion in a tweet.
Those losing their insurance are people who bought it on the individual market, rather than getting employer-based coverage.
“It is also true that some Americans who have health insurance plans that they bought on their own through the old individual market are getting notices from their insurance companies suggesting that somehow because of the Affordable Care Act, they may be losing their existing health insurance plans,” Obama told the Boston crowd. “This has been the latest flurry in the news, because there has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about this.”
The president explained that some people chose to buy very cheap, unreliable and “substandard.”
“If you have one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law, and you really liked that plan, you were able to keep it,” Obama said. “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 is under the law, 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 beginning.”
Obama also took responsibility for fixing the failed marketplace website, Healthcare.gov.
“The website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck and I am not happy about it,” Obama said. “Neither are a lot of Americans who need health care. And they are trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible. So there is no excuse for it. And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP. We are working overtime to improve it every day.”