As millions of people receive notices that their health insurance is being canceled, the White House said Tuesday that President Obama didn’t mislead the public when he repeatedly and emphatically promised that everyone could keep their plan under Obamacare.
Top aides to the president said that, although Mr. Obama never mentioned it specifically, his promise referred only to people who have had uninterrupted health insurance coverage dating back to before the law’s enactment in 2010.
But even Obama allies such as House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, acknowledged that the president’s promises were overly broad. Mr. Hoyer said Mr. Obama’s message “was not precise enough.”
“Clearly, it should have been caveated with, ‘Assuming you have a policy that, in fact, does do what the bill is designed to do,’” Mr. Hoyer said.
Republican lawmakers, and some of the nearly 7 million consumers who could receive cancellation notices, say Mr. Obama has been lying to them.
“If the president knew that these [cancellation] letters were coming and still indicated that you could keep your health care plan if you liked it, now, that raises some serious questions about the sales job of Obamacare,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican.
On social media, the reaction was more harsh. In a comment that was typical of the mounting criticism, a woman on Twitter with the handle of @KatLadyNE called the administration “pathetic liars.”
“If you had a plan before the Affordable Care Act that you liked on the individual market, and your insurance company provided you the same plan this whole time, you can keep it.”
But that was not what millions of Americans heard the president pledging over the past five years. In August 2009, for example, Mr. Obama decried what he called “outrageous myths circulating on the Internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls across this country” about the health care legislation.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, under the reform we seek, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” Mr. Obama said. “If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. Period.”
In a June 2009 speech to the American Medical Association, Mr. Obama declared emphatically: “No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”
Even as late as March, Mr. Obama spoke in the present tense when he told Americans, “If you like the plan that you have, you can keep it, period.”
Critics noted that the Affordable Care Act is forcing insurers to drop many of their plans that don’t meet the law’s 10 minimum standards, including maternity care, emergency visits and mental health treatment.
As a result, insurance companies across the country have sent cancellation notices to more than 2 million people who had purchased policies on the individual market. In New Jersey, there are 800,000; in Florida, 300,000; in California, 279,000; and in Michigan, 140,000.