Since he first presented his vision of health care reform, President Obama has addressed the issue of how his plan would affect people's current coverage with varying degrees of accuracy and honesty. He frequently has made flat-out guarantees that cannot be squared with the details of his plan, such as this one, from a June 2009 speech to the American Medical Association:
No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.
Or this one, from a weekly radio address he gave the following month:
Under our proposals, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story.
Obama and his underlings, apparently responding to sharp questioning from reporters (conspicuously including ABC's Jake Tapper), have intermittently spoken more precisely on this point, saying his plan would not "force" or "require" Americans to change their coverage or their doctor. That's true if we're talking about direct legal compulsion of the individual policyholder, but it's still misleading, since the president's reforms would lead to changes in coverage for several reasons. His minimum benefit mandates would make some forms of cheap, bare-bones coverage illegal. At the other end of the spectrum, his tax on "Cadillac" health benefits is designed to change people's health plans by discouraging excessively generous coverage. And once taxpayer-subsidized insurance is available through government-sponsored "exchanges," some businesses will stop offering medical coverage to their employees. These are just a few of the reasons why people won't necessarily be able to keep their current insurance or doctor. Yet the latest explanation of the president's health care plan, displayed prominently on the White House website, not only glosses over these dynamics; it reverts to the patently false assurances for which Obama has been repeatedly criticized (by our own Peter Suderman, among others):
Q: Will my coverage at work change?
A: No. If you like the health plan you have, you will be able to keep it.
Nothing in the health reform bill will require you to change your coverage. What the bill will do is strengthen the coverage you get at work by making it easier to understand and adding some clear rules to rein in the worst insurance company abuses….
Q: Will the government take my choice of doctor away?
Nothing about the President's proposal will interfere with the choice of doctors you have today. The legislation will not cause you to change the coverage you have at work today.
Those highlighted statements are not technically true yet misleading. They are simply false, and the president knows they are false. Is lying a smart way to sell skeptical Americans on the merits of a plan they already view as the complicated handiwork of scheming politicians?