“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” So said President Barack Obama on March 15, 2010, at a rally in Strongsville, Ohio, in support of the Affordable Care Act.
It wasn’t the only time he made such statements. In dozens of other locations and settings, he repeated variations of both of these statements to reassure the electorate that attacks on his signature health care reform legislation were groundless, and that no one would be forced to give up an insurance plan they liked.
Yet three years later, hundreds of thousands of Americans are receiving letters from their insurance providers telling them their policies have been cancelled under Obamacare’s new requirements, and many of them will be forced to choose a new doctor.
It’s now clear that the ACA’s opponents were correct and the president was not. Or perhaps even he was unaware of the consequences such a mammoth program would set in motion.
It has become common practice in modern politics to label partisan opponents as liars, so much so that the epithet has lost much of its stigma. Politicians, as all of us, are imperfect human beings, and when they’re called upon to speak in front of large crowds on a daily basis, it is inevitable that they will occasionally stumble and get facts wrong. Rivals will too often seize upon such errors and brand them as lies, when in fact they are no such things. Lies, unlike mistakes, are statements made with the intent to deceive.
While accusations of dishonesty are ubiquitous, it is still a rare thing for a president of the United States to knowingly and purposely say things he knows to be untrue. In the past century, two presidents faced the prospect of impeachment, and, in both instances, the central issue was the integrity, or lack thereof, of the president’s word.
Certainly, President Obama would have known that the fallout from a false statement eventually would cause great damage to his administration. This suggests he wasn’t aware of the consequences of his massive new health care plan, which is no less troubling.
As with all government programs that overreach, the Affordable Care Act seeks to dictate behavior. It qualifies as acceptable only those health insurance policies that comply with its own definitions. The act’s requirements inevitably limit market choices and constrain consumer behavior.
President Obama and his administration are now making every effort to qualify his previous false statements and somehow reconcile them with the current reality that stands in stark contrast to them. They would be better off proposing legislative fixes that allow for greater freedom of choice within health care coverage.
The recent ill-conceived government “shutdown” showed that Obamacare isn’t going to disappear any time soon. But that doesn’t mean lawmakers shouldn’t work together to make it more acceptable.
Given the bipartisan fury over the president’s misstatements about one’s ability to keep a preferred plan and doctor, the opportunity for such a bipartisan effort seems ripe.