Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

November 9, 2013

Fact Check: Obama said you could keep your plan, right?

Barack Obama says that what he’d said was you could keep your plan ‘if it hasn’t changed since the law passed’

Our ruling: Pants on fire

President Barack Obama’s attempt at explanation has only fanned the flames of controversy over his campaign line, “If you like your health care, you can keep it.”

Obama was already dealing with a troubled rollout of the healthcare.gov website when reports of health insurance cancellation notices for many Americans started arriving.

Such notices have been common only for people purchasing insurance on the individual market, which accounts for about 5 percent of Americans, a small minority. But the existence of people in that situation struck many critics as contradicting his like-it, keep-it promise on its face.

Obama’s speech on Nov. 4, 2013, at a meeting of Organizing for Action, his campaign organization, seemed to offer a new, and confusing, wrinkle.

“Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed,” Obama said.

The way we read that comment — and, judging by the contentious White House press briefing the following day, the way other Washington journalists read it — was that Obama was saying that people had been misreporting the pledge he had made.

It wasn’t that he said “if you like your plan, you can keep it” — it was “if your plan hasn’t changed since the law passed,” you can keep it.

We wondered whether there was any evidence that Obama had used this particular caveat in the past.

Some background on “grandfathering”

First, a brief reminder of why some Americans are getting cancellation notices.

Under the new law, policies must cover a comprehensive set of benefits, including emergency care, maternity care, mental health or prescription drugs. If they don’t, they can be “grandfathered” in, but only if the plans have not been changed at all.

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