Sunday, November 10, 2013

What Obama should have said

"If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan. Unless, of course, your policy is so cheap and bare-bones that it doesn't meet our new minimum standards (in which case, do you really like your policy?). And it's also possible that your insurance company will decide on its own accord to alter your policy, because they do that all the time, with or without reform. My point is, the government isn't going to forcibly take your existing plan away from you and force you into the exchanges. But you're smart, so I don't really have to stipulate all that, right?"

Perhaps President Obama shouldn't have been so absolute in saying no one's health insurance would change as a result of the Affordable Care Act. But did he really have to apologize? Are we such a sanctimonious populace that we're willing to be this stupid?

I remember years ago when Obama assured insured people that they wouldn't have to give up a plan they liked. It was a response to fears that Obamacare was going to be a centralized, government-run plan that everyone was going to be forced into. The remark was a clarification that the act was meant for those who couldn't afford or secure insurance before.

The debate is completely different now. People might complain about the faulty launch of, or worry about penalties for noncompliance, or moan about death panels if they're especially ignorant, but it's largely realized that people with insurance don't have to find new insurance.

As we've become more familiar with the ACA, our perceptions have changed. So should our understanding of Obama's words. It's not like he said them last week. Anyway, it's not like any adult should ever hold a politician to a literal promise of an unattainable prospect. To do so is to practically welcome disappointment. 

Count George Will among the disappointed. He's beside himself that Obamacare had a rocky start. He compares the website to Cash for Clunkers in the sense that both promised the moon and neither worked out. (Cash for Clunkers didn't? First I've heard of that.) 

I actually like this comparison in a different light — Cash for Clunkers took a lot of really bad cars off the road, just as insurance reform stands to end a lot of dirt-cheap-yet-ripoff policies. 

In neither case should we mourn the clunkers.

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