Three Admin Officials Swing Back Furiously at NBC Over Obamacare-Driven Health Policy Cancellations, Miss by Miles

October 29th, 2013 12:43 AM

On Monday, as Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters noted, Lisa Myers and Hannah Rappleye at NBC News reported that the Obama administration knew three years ago 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." This of course directly contradicts President Obama's repeated promises that "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."

I will get to the gambit the administration used to convince people that it wouldn't do what it originally intended to do in the runup to Obamacare's passage, a strategy which may have resulted from objections raised in a July 2009 Investor's Business Daily editorial, later in the post. But first, we have to look at tweets sent out tonight by three Obama administration officials in response to the NBC report, all of which dodge NBC's substantive point that the Obama administration knew policy terminations would occur, and claim that "the ACA" (the Affordable Care Act) is not to blame:

The tweets come from Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, Special Assistant to the President Josh Earnest (HTs to Twitchy here, here, and here):


Now let's look at why these three believe they can claim that "the ACA" had nothing to do with policy terminations.

In July 2009, an Investor's Business Daily editorial generated a firestorm of controversy when it gleaned the true meaning of the following paragraph contained in an early version of the Obamacare legislation (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day" of the year the legislation becomes law.

So we can all keep our coverage, just as promised — with, of course, exceptions: Those who currently have private individual coverage won't be able to change it.

After several days of furious pushback, IBD issued a follow-up editorial refusing to back down from their assertions.

The final version of the Affordable Care Act does not contain the language IBD cited, language which IBD predicted would effectively "outlaw individual private coverage." Instead, it included supposedly comforting language about how existing plans would be "grandfathered."

But as Myers and Rappleye documented, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius used regulations to gut the grandfathering:

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC NEWS that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”

None of this should come as a shock to the Obama administration. The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date -- the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example -- the policy would not be grandfathered.

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

Whether Sebelius had the authority under ACA as written to do what she did would appear to be a very debatable matter.

The NBC pair's use of the words "turnover" and "significant," apparent acceptances of terms Team Obama chose to twist, is unfortunate, and gave Earnest a dishonest opening, as seen above. "Turnover" should really mean "customers switching carriers and/or policies with meaningful changes in coverage." With that proper meaning, there's no way "turnover" has been 40 to 67 percent in the individual market after subtracting situations involving minor tweaks to deductibles, co-pays, and the like. Sebelius clearly chose to make "significant" a synonym for "virtually any."

So "the ACA" itself in isolation doesn't force people out of their plans. But Kathleen Sebelius's regulations resulting from "the ACA" do.

That's a "clever" gambit, but a failed one. That's because regulations issued to implement a law are treated as part of the law by regulators and the courts. Therefore, Sebelius's regulations, unless successfully challenged and eliminated, are for legal purposes part of "the ACA." Therefore, Valerie Jarrett's, Eric Schultz's, and Josh Earnest's tweets are as fundamentally dishonest as can be.

But theirs is not the core lie. That of course was Barack Obama's multiyear insistence that "If you like the health care that you have, that you currently have, you can keep it." I'll have more on that claim in a later post shortly, but for now, I will quote the scandalously late assessment of the President's statement on September 30 by Associated Press reporter Calvin Woodward — 3-1/2 years too late to matter, but true nonetheless:

Obama said exactly that. It was an empty promise, made repeatedly.

Even more empty than the defenses offered by Jarrett, Schultz, and Earnest.

Myers, for one, isn't taking the White House tweets lying down, tweeting back:

"grandfather language shows adm KNEW millions could NOT qualify to keep existing policies."

But they continued with their core lie anyway.

Cross-posted at