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Let's start off with a sample of the Obama quotes making the rounds:

"If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period," Obama said in a speech to the American Medical Association on June 15, 2009. "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."
In selling the Affordable Care Act to the American public, the president often repeated the same refrain: "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," he said in St. Charles, Mo., March 10, 2010.

"If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.  If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," he said five days later in Strongsville, Ohio.

Until a few hours ago, such quotes hadn't really fazed me, for I'd taken them to be truthful untruths rather than cunning lies. Hence I'd posted comments such as this:
I'm not really concerned about his statement in itself (there's plenty of other shit to be concerned about), for I suspect it was an unfortunate untruth that he sincerely believed, not a lie. A truthful untruth is a false claim uttered with sincere belief in its veracity. Even some right-wing pundits don't think he'd be stupid enough to lie so boldly.

However, it's disheartening that people would defend a lie on the basis of "what's good for the goose is good for the gander." I hope I'm not being some Kantian freak show when I say that words and the truth still mean something to a vast number of Americans.

And this:
For starters, it won't wash with the people who knew what they were paying for and had first-hand experience of approved claims with nice deductibles.

Besides, it's no better for Obama's image if the defense is that he was talking about "real" insurance when he said you could keep your existing insurance. This amounts to saying he was speaking as a politician, and that won't sit well with the public either.

Not all untruths are lies, however, and I don't think Obama lied. A president has many responsibilities, and the specialized wonks in any administration no doubt know more about the nuts and bolts of particular policies than the president does. It's an embarrassing untruth, not a lie, but it still needs to be handled fast.

And this:
As I mentioned elsewhere, I don't think it was either a cunning lie or something completely non-problematic.

It was an embarrassing untruth, but I have a feeling Obama legitimately believed it at the time.

There's no getting around the untruth with the kinds of acrobatics that we know damn well don't fly when the right tries them.

Now I check the news and see that some PR genius has decided the best strategy is to engage in revisionist history. The ABC News headline from the link above reads "Obama Tweaking 'If You Like Your Plan, You Can Keep Your Plan'" -- "tweaking" is putting it generously:
Obama explained that if you have or had a substandard plan before the Affordable Care Act became law and "you really liked that plan, what we said was you could keep it, if it hasn't changed since the law passed."
In other words, the messaging machine has decided to insist on a semantic equivalence between, e.g., this:
"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."
And this:
"If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period (if it hasn't changed since the law passed). No one will take it away, no matter what (if it hasn't changed since the law passed)."
Look, I had no good ideas on the messaging front for what I still believe was an unfortunate untruth, not a cunning lie. But strategies such as this spin job are worse than nothing.

The good news is that the untruth, even with the addition of the inane messaging, probably won't have any negative repercussions IF Obamacare is a smash hit with Americans. This is largely thanks to self-interest -- nobody force-handed a million bucks in a suitcase would, out of principle, complain if the benefactor failed on a promise to deliver a thousand bucks in a paper bag.

Even with the technical glitches, Obamacare still pretty much has a clean slate in whether it's going to be a smash hit with Americans. I see two main areas of concern for Obamacare supporters:

1. The mandate. Will Americans, especially many young Americans, who don't want health insurance and would rather spend their money on basic necessities or even luxury items, be thrilled about having Obamacare/penalties forced on them? It doesn't take a marketing wizard to see the problem of a "great deal" with a penalty attached.

2. Cases of higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, and unwanted coverage. Once the dust of the technical glitches settles, I think there are going to be many cases of people unhappy about higher premiums, higher co-pays, higher deductibles, and unwanted coverage. We'll see sober analyses of the financial facts, and aggressively attacking people as liars or incompetents will prove to be an outdated strategy. At this point, the "junk insurance" defense will bear the brunt, and it remains to be seen how many people that defense is going to placate. It's going to be especially difficult to use that defense against people who knew exactly what they were paying for and had a history of approved claims and acceptable prices.  

Interesting times ahead.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Your point is muddled. Interesting (0+ / 0-)

    articulation ahead?

    •  That sucks (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CenPhx, blueoasis, DRo

      Try this:

      1. Obama more than likely said what he believed to be true at the time. I don't see enough evidence of a lie, which requires not only an untruth but also knowledge that it's an untruth.

      2. Obama's PR dept. has decided, for some incomprehensible reason, to give even more ammo to critics.

      3. Luckily, Obama's old quotes won't determine the success of failure of Obamacare. There are far more important factors to consider.

      •  My answer is: Who cares what Obama said? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If your insurance company cancels your plan, get on the web and find a new policy.
        The isn't working right? Go to Google and search "health insurance" and whatever state you're in. Click on the insurance sites, enter your information, and get a quote.
          That's how I bought insurance long before Obamacare went into effect. It still works.
          I'm tired of all this whining.
          As for the youngsters who don't want insurance? A myth. I teach college students. They'd love to have affordable insurance (if they're not still on their parents' policy.) They don't know how to sign up for subsidized Obamacare, but when they find out, they will enroll.

  •  This is not as big an issue as this alarmist (12+ / 0-)

    diary suggests.  We're starting to see much better reporting which indicates that insurance companies simply did not take advantage of the safe harbor/grandfather clause that the law provided them and that they are purposefully obfuscating the options that customers have to get a better deal in the exchange.  That reporting also indicates that most people know that junk plans are junk and that the ACA is providing significant additional value at a cost that is either lower or a marginally acceptable increase over the junk premium.

    The bronze plans are a step up from these junk plans because they are ACA compliant and they have low premiums. There is a very high likelihood that a currently insured person will be able to keep their doctor under one of these plans.

    When people go through the options, evaluate them and their subsidy eligibility, most will be assured that Obama has given them a much better deal.  This obsession with gotcha literal truth politics has no real impact. It is hardly the same thing as pledging no new taxes or that WMD were in Iraq.

    Global Shakedown - Alternative rock with something to say. Check out their latest release, "A Time to Recognize": Available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and other major online music sites. Visit

    by khyber900 on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 11:14:17 PM PST

    •  Hmm (0+ / 0-)
      This is not as big an issue as this alarmist diary suggests.


      This obsession with gotcha literal truth politics has no real impact.

      Granted I beat around the bush a little, but did you catch where I wrote this:

      "The good news is that the untruth, even with the addition of the inane messaging, probably won't have any negative repercussions IF Obamacare is a smash hit with Americans. This is largely thanks to self-interest -- nobody force-handed a million bucks in a suitcase would, out of principle, complain if the benefactor failed on a promise to deliver a thousand bucks in a paper bag."

      So we're in agreement about the practical impact of the untruth, at least in the case of Obamacare's turning out to be a smash hit. I do, however, think the inane spin contributes to an unnecessary amount of noise.

      •  That it amounts to noise is correct. (4+ / 0-)

        But the 'you didn't build that' misquote of Obama also created a lot of noise and had no impact on the polls or the election result.

        The noise itself is not something to worry about.  What we need to do is look to see if there is a real, valid issue underlying the noise that needs to be addressed.  In this case, we need to make more people aware of their options and let them determine whether or not they're getting an acceptable deal, rather than to take NBC's or CBS's word for it.

        Global Shakedown - Alternative rock with something to say. Check out their latest release, "A Time to Recognize": Available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and other major online music sites. Visit

        by khyber900 on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 11:55:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  My wife and I got one of those cancellation (0+ / 0-)

        letters from Regence Blue Cross of Oregon. And having been hit with a rate raise from them every fucking year for expensive insurance we almost never use, we immediately thought the insurances bandits were just stealing from us again. And as it turns out they were trying to steal from us again.

        Independently purchased insurance is always subject to cancellation or rate hikes yearly. The government or Pres. Obama didn't create this situation, the free to steal from the people market did.

        We were advised to let Regence move us into a new plan on Jan. 1st. The new plan would have cost us $2,400 more a year and we really had to dig around on their website, which wasn't broken, to find this out. It was like they didn't want us to know what the new charges would be.

        Oregon has a Cover Oregon website. It took us minutes to find new plans and prices. We were able to find a plan better than the Regence swindle for about the same money we pay now. And we will enjoy all of the freedom from the fear of being dropped or fear of our rates going up for using our insurance.

        This whole outrage over cancellation is misdirected at O-Care. Our insurance company was plainly using the new standards and reforms to the healthcare system as cover to rob us. And since the ACA is not a government take over of healthcare, how can Pres. Obama stop these greedy shit heels from trying to bamboozle their customers?

        This cancellation bullshit should be about what the insurance companies are doing, not what Obama said.

  •  It isn't possible to lie about the future, since (0+ / 0-)

    the future is unknown.
    Some people do have the unfortunate habit of taking the intent for the deed and believe, as the Mobil Exxon ad asserts, that "all it takes is the idea." In real life, while an idea may come first, turning it into reality is something else and, in may cases, just not possible. Politicians talk about what they like and what they assume their audience likes. Making it come to pass is something else, especially when other people have to be relied on.

    We hire agents of government and pay them to do what we want, so that, if they don't, we can fire them and hire someone else. The insurance reform agenda is an effort to hire private contractors with subsidies, not their whole earnings, to get them to comply with standards of service we have developed. While private industry has gone to great lengths to persuade us that they are more efficient than full time public servants, for the purpose of getting access to the guaranteed revenue stream the public sector enjoys by virtue of levying taxes, history does not show that the claimed efficiencies actually show up.

  •  all he had to say was that you can keep your (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    doctor and your insurance plan if they are not junk insurance. The law makes you buy a minimum of car insurance, not junk, and he could have said it that way the first time if he wanted to.

    Except that, it's not only the "junk" insurances being cut that won't let you keep your doctor. We lost our insurance due to a layoff and so we went shopping on the exchange since we didn't have any employer insurance to choose. We could keep our plan and the doctor and hospital that I like and trust- if we choose to pay $1150/month in COBRA costs. If we shop on the Exchange, our State has decided that since only one Insurance Co. even deigned to participate, that insurance company doesn't have to offer the full plan on the exchange- only 14 out of 26 NH hospitals will covered and even though we are in a river valley that shares many other things and all the other insurances I've had include the hospital and doctors just across the river, BS doesn't have to. So even if I choose a plan from the not-choice known as the Exchange in NH, I can NOT keep my doctor or hospital on it.

    So if what he meant was that through COBRA I could keep my former plan, well bleah. that's not helpful.

    ps-the fine print also says that new people on an employer sponsored Anthem plan will also lose the choices they have come to expect in order to match up with people who buy through the exchange. That's helpful too. Not. Thank NH politicians for letting BS get without giving.

    We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

    by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 04:49:48 AM PST

    •  Before PPACA (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice, Pluto

      you could have kept your plan - through COBRA.

      As a side note: In 2009, 14,000 people a day were losing insurance - that number was mitigated a bit when this President instituted some help in paying COBRA for those out in the cold.)

      Your situation did not arise because of Obamacare, but because you got laid off. The only difference now is that you can get a plan that will be affordable (and if anyone in your family has a preexisting condition, that you can get any plan at all).

      So because of Obamacare, you're in the same position or better off than you would have been previously. The President really can't control what the private companies decide to do regarding layoffs.

      •  right, and we should have been requiring all the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Pluto, quill

        things like no pre-existing conditions long, long ago just by law. Recission, it seems should have been illegal unless all the premiums previously paid were refunded, etc. Even under the ACA, BS got to write the rules of what they would do or not in NH.

        Yes, I like Obamacare, and, yes I could keep my plan with COBRA, but it's not cost-effective and yet my state's version of the Exchange offers nothing comparable at all. So no, he's not responsible for the layoff (unless you look at it that the employer made a choice and kept the younger men with less seniority over the older guy who used every inch of the healthcare benefit that was offered. Then it does become about the price of health insurance.)

        I think that we should not be "subsidizing" any for-profit insurance companies anyway. Get rid of the middle-men and offer a single-payer plan nationwide that pays for Health care, not health insurance.

        We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

        by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 05:57:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't disagree (4+ / 0-)

          I want single-payer.

        •  There is another option (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nuclear winter solstice

          You do not have to use the exchange to buy insurance. There are many insurers and plans outside the exchange for the individual market. Walgreens and CVS and Rite Aid pharmacies have signed on to help folks shop and enroll both on the exchanges and off. They are acting as brokers during the enrollment period and have in-store advisors and navigators.

          I'm not sure why this is not publicized, but it is a fact, and I hope it helps.

          "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play."
                  -- Joshua, aka WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) automated nuclear-launch super-computer. "War Games," 1983.

          by Pluto on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 06:22:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Insurance advice from the same Walgreens that just (0+ / 0-)

            shifted its workers to private health exchanges?

            Their advice website redirects to Bankratedotcom.

            I will say that my local Walgreen's pharmacy staff went out of their way to help me compare prices and save on our prescriptions every which way. Many thanks to them, although we ended up using Walmart's $4 plan.

            Meanwhile, hubby is happily employed again although we are still waiting on the exact details of the company's plan.

            We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

            by nuclear winter solstice on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 01:20:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thousands of Americans died (0+ / 0-)

    in Iraq after "mission accomplished," and the same assholes who want to bitch about Obamacare applauded and laughed, so fuck them.

    I'm living in America, and in America you're on your own. America's not a country. It's just a business.

    by CFAmick on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 06:56:16 AM PST

  •  Personally the ACA is the law of the land. (0+ / 0-)

    How the President sells it or doesn't sell it at this point makes no never mind to me.  I'm not paying attention to what he says about it, to be truthful.  I'm paying attention to what it does and what it is going to do.  It's apparently already been sold and bought if the 2012 elections are any indication.

    The GOP will destroy anything they can't own.

    by AnnieR on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:02:09 AM PST

  •  Messaging (0+ / 0-)

    What I don't understand is this thing about young people not appreciating the importance of quality health insurance. I guess it's how you were raised. But we should be going at it from this angle:

    It's a shame that what President Obama said about being able to keep insurance if you like it applies only to the vast majority of people instead of to virtually everyone. But what's more important to focus on is the ability of more people to have insurance that protects them from bankruptcy. Maybe some young people with higher incomes will have to pay more for this protection. But..

    What is more important than your health and that of those you love? What else comes close? Every week you go without health insurance is a significant risk. I know I once had to go without insurance for one week in between plans, and that made me very nervous.  After all, one attack of appendicitis and BAM! you're in the hole $20,000. Assault requiring surgery and an ICU stay? $100,000. Cancer? Autoimmune disease? Many times more!! Bankruptcy time! Sell everything you've got time. None of these are things you could've prevented by clean living. This shouldn't be, oh, some stupid calculation about the cost versus the chance of getting sick (unless you make less than the federal poverty level and your state didn't expand Medicaid.) This is your life! If you are young at least get a catastrophic ACA exchange plan. The ACA won't fine you if the cheapest exchange plan is more than 8% of your income. Isn't your health worth 8%? The ACA is complicated but not too complicated. It's doable. It's affordable. It doesn't "kill jobs". Please get insurance if not out of respect for yourself then out of respect for those you love, who will be sacrificing for you when you get sick.

    •  I'm sure they'd love it (0+ / 0-)

      The thing is that many young people are more likely to place material priorities over their health.  

      The list of "must haves" for young people today is staggering, and expensive.  

      It only makes sense that a young person who is not as practiced at considering the long term consequences of their actions on themselves and others would think that they shouldn't have to pay for health insurance.


      by otto on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 07:44:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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