Obama lied, insurance plans died.
Okay, it’s not as catchy as the equivalent Bush-era slogan. The thought — that there are parallels between the signature initiative of the George W. Bush administration and that of the Obama administration — has nonetheless occurred to a lot of people, especially in recent weeks, as Obamacare’s exchanges have failed to launch.
In both cases, presidents undertook ambitious projects: to remake part of the world, or a huge portion of the economy, along the lines that our government wanted. Redesigning Iraq proved to be impossible, and reorganizing health care may prove impossible as well. It is at least proving to be very difficult.
The Iraq War contributed to Republicans’ losing control of Congress in 2006. Obamacare contributed to Democrats’ losing control of one of its chambers in 2010. But the political trajectory of these projects was different. The Iraq War started with a level of bipartisan and popular support that Obamacare never had. Most Senate Democrats voted for the authorization of force in Iraq, while Republicans were nearly unanimous in opposition to Obamacare. But if the Iraq venture reached greater heights of support than Obamacare, eventually it also hit lower depths than Obamacare so far has. …
… The untruths involved in selling Obamacare were smaller but more deliberate. The president continually said that the law would cause insurance premiums to drop by $2,500 per family. He surely hoped that it would restrain the growth of costs so that families would be spared a $2,500 increase that would take place in the law’s absence. But that’s not what he said. Whether his hope has come true is a matter of fierce debate among experts, with the balance of evidence on the negative side. His actual statements were clearly false.
Obama also repeatedly promised that people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it under his plan. On at least one occasion he added a verbal “period” to the promise, meant to convey that no lawyerly dodge was being executed. The administration knew better. The law’s requirement that all health-insurance plans cover certain “essential benefits” made some insurance plans illegal whether or not customers liked them. The law also will create incentives for some employers to drop their health plans even if some or many employees would prefer to keep them.
The administration reportedly considered weakening its statements in light of these features of its bill. It decided instead to keep making them. The bill ended up barely passing the House, and its chances of passage probably could not have borne much more truth.