WASHINGTON, D.C. | October 31, 2013
President Obama has intoned "if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan" hundreds if not thousands of times. Sometimes he has even added that "no one will take it away, no matter what" or "nothing will change, period."
But now that reality is repudiating the President's unequivocal promise, Democrats want you to know that there was always a secret footnote: If you're losing a health plan you liked, the President didn't mean your plan.
Liberals now argue that Mr. Obama was mostly correct but his claim should have been caveated with a clause that people could keep their plans as long as they met ObamaCare regulations. This asterisk somehow wasn't mentioned until millions of policies started to be terminated as ObamaCare-noncompliant.
Questioned about this on Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said "Well, let's just be clear," which is how he and his boss announce they're about to turn on the fog machine. "What the President said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act that create minimum standards of coverage."
On Tuesday Mr. Carney elaborated that allowing people on the individual market to continue their current coverage "would undermine that basic premise of providing the minimum benefits for the American people." That line has also been picked up by Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat. Mr. Obama was merely trying "to allay the fears of somebody that had insurance—group insurance, for the most part—that do meet the criteria," he said Tuesday.
The prize for ex post facto rationalization goes to the consultant James Carville, who on Tuesday spun Fox News's Bill O'Reilly like a pro: "Well, I think he could have said—I think the more accurate statement would have been that you will keep your coverage unless you are in an individual market and have a so-called insurance policy that doesn't meet the basic requirements. You know just calling something health insurance doesn't make it health insurance."
Leave it to an old Bill Clinton hand to say it all depends on the meaning of "insurance."
This new liberal candor was absent during the health debate, no doubt because honesty would have made the law even harder to pass. Yet Mr. Obama continued to make a claim he knew to be false.
At least ordinary Americans are now learning that their coverage isn't safe by design, and that those "minimum" ObamaCare standards are really maximal. As Democrats now admit, they knew what they were doing, and the goal is to reduce choice and raise prices in the individual insurance market to drive as many people as possible into the government exchanges.
Perhaps that's why at Wednesday's big Kathleen Sebelius hearing, Democrat Henry Waxman saw nothing amiss. "The Affordable Care Act is working," he said. "This January, the worst abuses of the insurance industry will be halted" and "that is why allowing insurers to continue offering deficient plans next year is such a bad policy."
In a world in which offering plans that consumers want is an abuse and Democrats are openly instructing adults that they don't know what's best for their own good, here is an opportunity for Republicans. They've mostly flogged ObamaCare's failures, which are real, but now that the law is no longer an abstraction they can start to build a case for a reform alternative.
The reasons for opposing benefit mandates, command-and-control regulation and the rest are now being demonstrated in the real world. The people who feel betrayed by Mr. Obama will be open to better ideas that would allow them to choose—and keep—health plans they like.
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