October 31 2013
Patrice J. Lee
Yesterday was a day of contrition for the Administration as both President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius faced the public about the failure of the ObamaCare rollout and false claims that under ObamaCare Americans could keep their preferred healthcare plans.
While both were contrite about how badly the rollout was bungled, they were defiant that the law must stay.
Speaking in Boston, the President took responsibility (sort of) for the healthcare.gov debacle and walked back his untrue promise that “if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan.” However, he passed the blame to what he called bad apples – not the economics behind his faulty healthcare plan:
Fact-checkers and journalists have ruled that Obama wasn't being truthful when he claimed that people who liked their insurance could keep it. Obama during a speech in Boston sought to cast the issue Wednesday as trying to weed out "bad apple insurers" who don't provide enough coverage.
"One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured but also the under-insured," Obama said. "And there are a number of Americans, fewer than 5 percent of Americans, who've got cut-rate plans that don't offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.
"Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy."
Let’s be clear, not providing coverage of certain services or managing the risk attached to patients with pre-existing conditions through higher premiums does not make insurance providers bad apples. It makes them realistic businesses that can continue to function.
Consumers have always had the choice to shop around for plans that cover the services they desire, even if those are bare-bones plans that cover little. So to paint these insurers as “bad apples” is unfair. The President knows he can pick up brownie points with the public by framing the issue as a David-Goliath scenario. He is no David though.
Speaking in Boston, the President repeatedly invoked former Governor Mitt Romney and drew parallels between ObamaCare and the Massachusetts healthcare reform bill signed by his former opponent. It’s funny how we all become allies when it’s convenient.
Needless to say, Governor Romney didn’t take it too kindly and ripped into the President and ObamaCare in a Facebook posting:
“…nothing has changed my view that a plan crafted to fit the unique circumstances of a single state should not be grafted onto the entire country. Had President Obama actually learned the lessons of Massachusetts health care, millions of Americans would not lose the insurance they were promised they could keep, millions more would not see their premiums skyrocket, and the installation of the program would not have been a frustrating embarrassment. Health reform is best crafted by states with bipartisan support and input from its employers, as we did, without raising taxes, and by carefully phasing it in to avoid the type of disruptions we are seeing nationally."
Meanwhile, back in Washington Kathleen Sebelius had to eat large servings of humble pie:
Ms. Sebelius told lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that she was as surprised as anyone when the website collapsed on Oct. 1 under pressure from millions of users and was crippled by technical problems in subsequent days. While she was aware of the risks in a big information technology project, she said, “no one indicated that this could possibly go this wrong.”
Ms. Sebelius told the committee: “Hold me accountable for the debacle. I’m responsible.”
In Washington-speak, ‘I’m responsible’ is weasel language that means considerably less than “I’m sorry and I should be fired.’ But this is the closest we may bet to an apology from this Administration. And it’s not an admission that the healthcare law was the wrong move but that the implementation was bungled.
We’ll see if Sebelius survives beyond the end of this year, or if she resigns (under pressure). As for the President, we’ll have to stick it out for another three years.