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President Obama’s Talking Point Fix

In yesterday’s press conference, President Obama offered what he characterized as a fix to the problem of the growing number of people being kicked off their insurance plans because of the Affordable Care Act.

By decree, the President announced a one year reprieve; insurers may go back to offering the non-compliant ACA policies the law had forced them to cancel.

Now this “fix” should sound very strange.  Up until this press conference, the President and supporters of the Affordable Care Act had been making the case that the cancellations had nothing to do with the law.  Here are two of my favorite examples: one of the law’s architects, Ezekial Emanuel, and New Jersey Senator, Frank Pallone.  No, no, the insurance companies are just making business decisions to cancel these policies, you see, because they simply can’t compete.  It has nothing to do with the fact that policies millions of people voluntarily purchased were made illegal to offer.  People would really rather pay more for insurance policies the IRS will force them to buy from a website that doesn’t work.

Apparently, this particular talking point was falling flat.  The press conference made clear that the President’s “fix” was designed to shore this up.

Pointing out that the President’s “fix” would leave it up to the state insurance commissioners and the insurance companies whether these policies would actually be offered, a reporter asked, “How confident are you that they will do that?” 

Before addressing his level of confidence that his “fix” would actually work, the President prefaced his reply with this:  “What we’re essentially saying is the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the factor in what happens with folks in the individual market.”

In other words, the President’s “fix” is an attempt to offer more credible blame on the insurance companies.  Question: ‘Will this actually help those who have lost their insurance?’  Answer: ‘It won’t be my fault if it doesn’t.’  Amazing.

By not answering the question, “how confident are you,” the President showed he has no interest in the question whether the insurance companies and state insurance commissioners would actually revive these plans.  After all, when they wanted the insurance companies to STOP offering the policies, in order to dump people into the exchanges, they didn’t take any chances; that was enforced by law.  Instead of dwelling on the question whether his “fix” would really work, the President returned to the “key point:”

But the key point is, is that it allows us to be able to say to the folks who receive these notices, look, I, the President of the United States, and the insurance model of the Affordable Care Act is not going to be getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have.  (Emphasis added.)

In other words, what the President was really trying to fix was a laughable political talking point.

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