Reason editor Welch examines the web of Obamacare lies

Matt Welch of Reason devotes a column in the latest magazine to the “death” of President Obama’s “noble lie” about Obamacare.

As recently as November 2012-more than two years after the administration published grandfathering regulations as part of its health care legislation, rendering ludicrous the president’s frequently repeated pledge that “if you like your health plan you can keep it”-much of the liberal commentariat was calling the electoral contest between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney a referendum on political honesty. The only way for truth to prevail, they argued, was to vote for the Democrat.

“We may find out whether a ‘post truth’ candidate can be elected president,” Washington Post “Plum Line” blogger Greg Sargent warned just before the election. “If there is one constant to this campaign, it’s that Romney has startled many observers by operating from the basic premise that there is literally no set of boundaries he needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of his assertions.”

One year later, as the mainstream press was filling up with blow-by-blow accounts of Obama-Care’s brutally inept rollout and extravagantly broken promises, once-proud truth tellers like Sargent found themselves in the unintentionally comical position of downplaying the president’s mendacity. “The White House could have been clearer in laying the groundwork for this political argument: It wasn’t sufficient to say people who like their plans will be able to keep it, which is narrowly untrue,” Sargent wrote. Then he pivoted to the real culprits, declaring that “the GOP outrage about Americans supposedly ‘losing’ coverage is largely just more of the same old misdirection. It’s a subset of a larger Republican refusal to have an actual debate about the law’s tradeoffs-one in which the law’s benefits for millions of Americans are also reckoned with in a serious way.”

Such euphemistic apologia and subject changing was common in October and November, as insurance cancellation letters flew into mailboxes by the hundreds of thousands. New York Times editorialist David Firestone, in a piece with the sneering headline “The Uproar Over Insurance ‘Cancellation’ Notices,” referred to Obama’s lie as “President Obama’s unfortunate blanket statement.” The paper’s editorial board averred that Obama “clearly misspoke,” then claimed the canceled policies were “not worth keeping.” House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters: “I don’t think the message was wrong. I think the message was accurate. It was not precise enough.” …

… The estimated scores of millions of eventual health-plan cancellations that Americans will soon face are not some weird unintended consequence of ObamaCare. They are fundamental to making the law work as written. The Affordable Care Act relies on previously uninsured young people to overpay for coverage they don’t need, and for previously insured adults to pay for health contingencies they will never face, be it childbirth for men or pediatric dental care for grandparents. That is what is supposed to allow more people to be covered and to keep overall rates in check. Since making people’s health insurance more expensive is not particularly popular, Obama lied about it, and not only when he claimed you could keep your plan and your doctor.

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