WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama is the insurance industry’s most powerful pitchman these days as he drums up interest in the health-insurance markets opening for business Tuesday. Whatever the merits of his product, there are reasons to be skeptical of his rhetoric.
The president is being a bit slippery on the costs of coverage, in particular.
His opponents are taking their own liberties as they talk up the ills of what they deride as “Obamacare” and defend their approach to the budget impasse that threatens to close parts of the government Tuesday. On these points, let the buyer beware:
Family plan costs
Obama: “Knowing you can offer your family the security of health care, that’s priceless. Now, you can do it for the cost of your cable bill, probably less than your cellphone bill. Think about that, good health insurance for the price of your cellphone bill or less.” — Speech in Largo, Md., on Thursday.
The facts: The family coverage you can get for the cost of a monthly cable or cellphone bill is going to expose you to a hefty share of your medical expenses.
Plans that cost more in premiums cover more of the bills along the way.
Obama: “Premiums are going to be different in different parts of the country depending on how much coverage you buy, but 95 percent of uninsured Americans will see their premiums cost less than was expected.” — Largo, Md., speech.
The facts: Less than who expected? Obama is referring to an administration analysis that finds premiums are coming in 16 percent lower than had been estimated by experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Independent analysts find similar results. But it’s a stretch to suggest that numbers crunched by CBO’s experts would reflect the expectations of regular consumers.
Keeping your coverage
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.: “When we started this health-care debate, the president led with a very big promise to the American people: If you like the health care that you have, that you currently have, you can keep it.” — At a Sept. 20 House Republican rally.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “If you have insurance with your employer that you like … Nothing changes in this new market.” — CNN, Thursday.
The facts: McCarthy is correct, Obama said exactly that. It was an empty promise, made repeatedly. Sebelius picks her words more carefully but still offers misleading assurances. Nothing in the health-care law guarantees that people can keep the health insurance they already have. Costs can rise, benefits can change and employers can drop coverage.
‘Strong’ bipartisan vote?
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas: “Today, the House of Representatives did what Washington pundits only a few weeks ago said was impossible: A strong bipartisan majority voted to defund Obamacare.” — Statement after the Sept. 20 House vote.
The facts: Bipartisan might be in the eye of the beholder, but the vote passing the resolution was far from it. Only two Democrats voted with the Republican majority. The 230-189 vote illustrated bitter partisan divisions, not a harmonious moment. A strong bipartisan vote to do away with the health-care law remains implausible.