Does ProPublica Accept Obama's Retroactive Revision of His Health Plan Promise?


White House

Last week I noted that President Obama was trying to retroactively revise his promise that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would allow people who were happy with their health plans to keep them. That guarantee, he explained, applies only to policies that have not changed in any way since the law took effect. The problem, of course, is that Obama never mentioned that caveat until now. I wondered whether reporters would nevertheless treat this explanation as something other than a bald-faced lie. Judging from a new ProPublica story, the answer appears to be yes. In an article that otherwise admirably seeks to explain the actual consequences of Obamacare, including the costs it imposes on some for the benefit of others, Charles Ornstein says this:

First, President Obama's now-infamous pledge that those who liked their health plan could keep it applied only to people enrolled in those plans as of the day the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, March 23, 2010. That became known as the "grandfather" clause.

That phrasing makes it seem like Ornstein accepts Obama's revisionism—which is odd, because Ornstein later notes that "Politifact has labeled the pledge 'pants on fire.'" Actually, the analysis to which Ornstein links deals not with Obama's promise itself but with his attempt to amend it after the fact. Here is PolitiFact's conclusion:

According to Obama, "What we said was you can keep [your plan] if it hasn't changed since the law passed."

But we found at least 37 times since Obama's inauguration where he or a top administration official made a variation of the pledge that if you like your plan, you can keep it, and we never found an instance in which he offered the caveat that it only applies to plans that hadn't changed after the law's passage. And seven of those 37 cases came after the release of the HHS regulations that defined the "grandfathering" process, when the impact would be clear.

So yes, it's true: Obama is a liar. Reporters should not let a lingering attachment to "false balance" blind them (or their readers) to that fact.