As the White House flails to defend President Barack Obama's discredited pledge about keeping your old insurance even under Obamacare, it's not just Republicans pointing out that the administration has being less than honest when explaining what it really meant.
On Thursday, The Washington Post's Fact Checker gave Obama and White House press secretary Jay Carney three out of four “Pinocchios” for blaming the insurance companies, rather than the new health care law, for the growing number of cancellation letters.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action "Obamacare Summit" at the St. Regis Hotel, Nov. 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)
On Wednesday, the Pulitzer-winning PolitiFact website gave Obama its highest ranking for dishonesty, “Pants on Fire,” for his tortured defense earlier this week of what he really meant when promising no one would lose their current plan.
“The provision in the law was the manifestation of the assurance that if you have a plan you want to keep, you can keep it,” Carney said. “Insurance companies that chose to strip away benefits from existing plans in the interim, that canceled existing plans in the interim, they took away that grandfathering opportunity. And that’s a reality.”
Except it's not, according to the Post, which pointed out that the administration determined the grandfathered dates for these plans would be effective only before the signing the legislation.
“Blaming the insurance companies can only go so far,” the Post stated. “First of all, the administration wrote the rules that set the conditions under which plans lose their grandfathered status. But more important, the law has an effective date so far in the past that it virtually guaranteed that the vast majority of people currently in the individual market would end up with a notice saying they needed to buy insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.”
The newspaper called the White House effort to blame insurance companies "a classic case of misdirection. Between 75 and 95 percent of the problem stems from the effective date, but the White House chooses to keep the focus elsewhere.”
The administration even had the chance to pre-empt these cancellations by delaying the grandfathered cut-off date, the Post reported -- an option it didn't take.
“During the drafting of the health-care law, insurance companies had wanted to extend the effective date for grandfathered plans until Dec. 31, 2013, which would have meant that few at this moment would be complaining that they had lost a plan they liked,” the Post stated. “Of course, that would have also meant fewer potential customers for the Obamacare exchanges in the first year.”
Meanwhile, PolitiFact focused on Obama's explanation at a Nov. 4 Organizing for Action event, about how what he had said was not false.
“Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed,” Obama said.
PolitiFact said: “The way we read that comment—and, judging by the contentious White House press briefing the following day, the way other Washington journalists read it—was that Obama was saying that people had been misreporting the pledge he had made. It wasn’t that he said "if you like your plan, you can keep it" -- it was "if your plan hasn’t changed since the law passed," you can keep it.”
Obama and top administration officials insisted that anyone who likes their current insurance will keep it on 37 occasions, according to PolitiFact. Ten of those assertions came after the law was enacted.
One example offered was speaking to the American Medical Association on June 15, 2009, where Obama said: “No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
Just days after signing the Affordable Care Activist, Obama told an audience on April 1, 2010 in Portland, Maine: “If Americans like their doctor, they will keep their doctor. And 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 future.”
PolitiFact said, “we never found an instance in which he offered the caveat that it only applies to plans that hadn’t changed after the law’s passage. And seven of those 37 cases came after the release of the HHS regulations that defined the 'grandfathering' process, when the impact would be clear.”
The website did say that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius once offered the caveat, but “her one mention of the extent to which grandfathered plans might be doomed strikes us as the equivalent of the fine print on a television commercial running in heavy rotation. Obama is ignoring the overwhelming majority of times he addressed the issue, where most people would have heard it. We rate his claim Pants on Fire.”
Last month, The Washington Post gave Obama “four Pinocchios,” the highest rating for falsehood, for claiming anyone who liked their plan could keep it.