"If You Like Your Insurance, You Can Keep It."

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 29 2013 10:53 AM

"If You Like Your Insurance, You Can Keep It."

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FACT: This is Valerie Jarrett.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For all the work conservatives have done to legitimatize their alternative media, the Obama administration has never felt the need to respond to them. It hasn't felt the need to respond to local media reports (collated, helpfully, by Republicans) about individuals losing their current insurance plans because they didn't comport with the Affordable Care Act's regulations. But NBC News weighs in, proves that "the administration knew that more than 40 to 67 percent of those in the individual market would not be able to keep their plans, even if they liked them," and Katy bar the door. Senior adviser Valerie Jarett became (via Twitter) the highest-level Obama official to try to refute the NBC story.

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This is a funny use of the word "fact." As has been reported for some time—as is only being felt now that it's real—the regulations that followed the passage of the ACA removed the protections on plans that had been changed, by insurers, after March 2010. Conservatives claimed that people who currently enjoyed their smaller health care plans would be forced off, in the long march to single-payer. The president repeatedly denied this. The president was not telling the truth.

Jonathan Chait, fresh from being named one of the president's favorite columnists, calls out the dissembling while saying that the administration "never denied" that some plans were going to be phased out. Well, true. In the first presidential debate, for example, Mitt Romney repeatedly said that people who enjoyed their current coverage could lose it. "Right now, the CBO says up to 20 million people will lose their insurance as Obamacare goes into effect next year," he said. "And likewise, a study by McKinsey and Company of American businesses said 30 percent of them are anticipating dropping people from coverage." On the spot, the president didn't "debunk" him—the rhetoric of a set speech was not sturdy enough for a format where Romney could prove the president wrong.

The point: It was known and fretted about, for three years, that the phase-in of the Affordable Care Act would push millions of people off the plans they were used to and into more comprehensive, often more expensive, plans. Obama won re-election despite this. That seems to have made the administration overconfident about how it could avoid blowback when the phase-in continued.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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