Over the last day, liberals have been on the defensive explaining why so many Americans are finding out their insurance plans have been discontinued. These explanations have been fundamentally correct, but they have failed to grasp why Americans are so infuriated by this. The Washington Examiner’s Phillip Klein gets closest to it in a piece yesterday:
When Obama took office and made health care his top priority, he understood that one of his main tasks was to convince Americans that he had a plan that could improve the health care system for those who it wasn’t currently working well for (such as those with pre-existing conditions) while leaving it untouched for those who were satisfied.
This is exactly right. Obama sold the law on the idea that for all those who liked their coverage, nothing would change. For those that didn’t or didn’t have coverage, it would be an improvement. Sure, there would be losers, but Obama assured Americans that they could keep the insurance they had.
If he was being honest, this is what he would’ve said:
For the vast majority of Americans, the Affordable Care Act won’t disrupt your health coverage. You’ll get to keep your plan and your doctor. But there are some people for whom I can’t make that guarantee, because your current health insurance is too weak to provide adequate protection. In creating this law, we set out not just to ensure Americans have access to the most basic coverage that leaves them on the hook for huge out-of-pocket costs. We sought to make health care coverage more comprehensive and that required creating a minimum benchmark that insurers must meet.
This will only affect the individual market where around 5% of Americans purchase health insurance. Plans that existed before 2010 will be grandfathered in, but we know insurers change these plans frequently and will likely do so again. That means they will have to comply with these new standards and that will require discontinuing some plans that they currently offer. I can’t guarantee that everyone will keep their plan, but I can guarantee that your new plan will be more comprehensive and provide a greater safety net in case catastrophe strikes.
Does that sound like a speech that would garner huge support? Of course not. You know what sounds a lot better? This:
[N]o matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.
That’s what President Obama told the American Medical Association in 2009. It’s straightforward, comforting and a lie.
That’s why many Americans are furious at the administration right now. They were promised they could keep their plan and they can’t. They don’t care about “the big picture,” the more comprehensive coverage or the subsidies that may reduce their premiums. They don’t like change and they don’t like navigating the confusing health care market. Now they are forced to do both. Most importantly, they didn’t expect this to happen. They are shocked and angry.
Liberals have done a good job explaining why this change is necessary and beneficial for Americans, but they have not done a good job understanding why this lie is so infuriating. It convinced Americans to support the law and allow its passage. It gave Americans comfort that if they had coverage, nothing would change. Finding out that such a critical component of Obamacare was a lie is a startling realization, especially for a law that has gone through such a turbulent few years. Supporters need to step back and let that sink in for a second. Instead of cramming an explanation down Americans’ throats and declaring that conservatives simply aren’t engaging with the policy arguments, liberals need to understand that anger over these cancellations does not stem from partisan bickering. It comes from a promise Obama broke. The blame lays squarely at his feet.