December 13, 2013

I'm completely unsurprised that Politifact chose this particular line for their lie of the year. I'm equally sure Politifact views themselves as unbiased and informative on some level, so they surely blamed the lie on insurers, right?


It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America’s health insurance system.

"If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," President Barack Obama said -- many times -- of his landmark new law.

But the promise was impossible to keep.

So this fall, as cancellation letters were going out to approximately 4 million Americans, the public realized Obama’s breezy assurances were wrong.

Boiling down the complicated health care law to a soundbite proved treacherous, even for its promoter-in-chief. Obama and his team made matters worse, suggesting they had been misunderstood all along. The stunning political uproar led to this: a rare presidential apology.

Politifact failed to note the pending lawsuits in California against Anthem Blue Cross, who intentionally rolled their insureds out of grandfathered plans in order to line up their ducks for the 2014 healthcare exchange rollout, but let's roll back to 2010 and the strongarm marketing tactics employed. From an actual transcript of a sales call in 2010 from a company rep trying to switch their customer to a non-grandfathered plan:

What that means to you specifically is if you make a change after March 23rd, you'll be subject to a [?] requirement [unintelligible] and more specifically - you'll be stepping outside of one underwritten pool of people that were upgraded due to pre-existing health conditions -- and you would be stepping outside into a non-regulated, non-grandfather classed plan.

More specifically, what will be in that pool that you'll be in? You may be very healthy but you will be a healthy fish, so to speak or a healthy person -- you'll be put in the pool of other persons that are in there and insurance is just a pool of people that come together to indemnify a particular [unintelligible].

So when you move from one pool to another and in that pool you have 18-year olds, cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks, brain aneurysms, doesn't matter what it is they could not afford the insurance at that point in time. So now, in that pool is I could afford the premium that I couldn't afford before. The 18-year old. But now you're stepping in there and guess who's helping them pay their premiums?

But Politifact conveniently places all of the blame on the guy who made that statement because he was naive about how utterly craven the insurance industry is.

It is too soon to say what the lasting impact of "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" will be.

The president’s favorability ratings have tumbled in recent weeks.

A Pew Research/USA Today poll conducted Dec. 3-8 found the percentage of people viewing Obama as "not trustworthy" has risen 15 points over the course of the year, from 30 percent to 45 percent.

Much depends on the law’s continuing implementation and other events during Obama’s final three years in office, said Larry Sabato, a political scientist who runs the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

If President Obama's trust numbers have fallen in the past year, the blame for that rests squarely on the shoulders of outlets like Politifact who don't look beyond the surface to see what the real story is.

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