Barack Obama may not have the 53% approval rating MSNBC accorded him yesterday, when the network swapped the percentages of his approval and disapproval ratings in a Pew Research poll, but he does have the support of 41% of Americans. Those with media credentials are taking their best shot at diffusing the seemingly irreparable harm the president did himself by stating again and again that Americans who like their health plans could keep them.
The latest effort at whitewashing Obama’s record comes from a non-American. Dean Baker, co-founder of the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), has an item at the Huffington Post that argues optimistically that the president was speaking the truth when he made this claim.
The argument goes something like this: The Affordable Care Act grandfathered all the individual policies that were in place at the time the law was enacted, including policies that failed to meet all the standards laid out in the ACA. The plans being terminated now, which meet the minimal standards, were all introduced after the passage of the ACA. Therefore, it is the insurers who lied (they told a lie of omission) by writing policies they knew would not meet the standards and be subject to cancellation. So any blame for deception “would seem to rest with the insurance companies, not the ACA.”
It’s a swell argument except that it never addresses Obama’s message on at least 36 separate occasions. The message was not, “You can keep your insurance if it complies with the stringent requirements written into the ACA.” Rather, he said, with slight variation from time to time, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Often, he punctuated his declaration with the word “Period,” which implies no ifs, ands, or buts.
But Baker’s argument is valid only insofar as the president’s pledge is qualified by an if, viz., if your plan meets the 12 essential requirements of plans under the ACA. That makes the statement a falsehood by every available measure.