Rachel Maddow has had an ongoing battle with Politifact over various ratings they have given. Oft times they will rate something one way, while admitting the truth is the opposite in the explanation they provide for their score. Politifact is up to it again.
Nancy Pelosi appeared on Meet The Press to defend Obamacare. Regarding the firestorm that has engulfed the administration due to the cancellation of certain policies in the individual market, Pelosi said:
“The law does not demand that all of these cancellations go out”.
Politifact has ruled that this claim is mostly false while explaining how it is technically true:
We have looked at variations of this claim before and our conclusion remains the same. While there’s some technical truth to the statement, it ignores the ways that the Affordable Care Act pushes insurance companies to change the plans they offer.
Some health policy experts told us that yes, in a technical sense, insurers are pulling the plug on these old, grandfathered policies. Timothy Jost, a Washington and Lee University law professor, said that “if a grandfathered plan is being terminated, it is the insurer’s decision — nothing in the law requires it.”
Pelosi did not imply that Obamacare does not mandate higher standards for the insurance industry. She only said that the law did not demand grandfathered plans be cancelled, which Politifact admits is technically true. Politifact is using a standard to judge that statement that is not in question by Pelosi and the supporters of the ACA. I’m quite certain that Pelosi would agree that Obamacare mandates that insurance must meet higher standards going foward, but substandard insurance in place before the law was signed did not have to be cancelled.
Politifact admits it is the insurance companies that are issuing the cancellations.
“The Affordable Care Act pushes insurance companies to change the plans they offer.”
“Pushing” is not mandating. Insurance providers may be motivated to cancel substandard plans because they cannot enroll new members or for a plethora of other reasons (including automatically enrolling customers into more expensive plans in some circumstances) and that motivation may be due to Obamacare, but motivation does not equal mandate. Or, as Nancy Pelosi put it, the law does not “demand” these cancellations.
So why are insurance providers cancelling these policies? Because grandfathered plans could not substantially change and maintain grandfather status… naturally. I mean you can keep your plan means your plan. Not the next substandard plan the insurance company offers (while full well knowing the consequences under the law of changing the grandfathered plan). Keeping the plan you had does not equal changing the plan and then keeping the new one.
This entire debacle is a serious messaging failure by the Obama administration and supporters of Obamacare particularly in congress. It may be a bit difficult to spell out and defend what the truth is. It does not fit well into a 10 second sound bite suitable for cable news. But from the start of this controversy the Democratic response has been weak and defensive, allowing for another conservative falsehood about Obamacare to sprout into a full-fledged crisis for the president and the laws defenders.
The controversy was kick started at the end of October when NBC reported on the cancellation letters being received by millions of Americans. Republicans immediately went into a full on, blood in the water feeding frenzy, claiming that the president had knowingly lied by claiming people who liked their coverage could keep their coverage.
President Obama never promised that he would mandate that insurers must maintain grandfathered coverage. Can you imagine the freak-out on the right if Obamacare mandated that substandard coverage be continued, even if the insurer wished to cancel the policy?
The initial Democratic response was to agree that the president could have been more precise in his promises and that only a small percentage of Americans would be affected. There were some halfhearted attempts to defend the truth, but the stampede was on and most Democrats let themselves be carried away.
Justifying a small percentage of Americans losing coverage is just another way of saying Republicans are right, when they are not. Saying the president could have been more precise in his language is basically allowing that he was not trustworthy to begin with. That has led to a full-fledged crisis, not just over Obamacare, but the veracity of the president going forward. The extremes to which Republicans have been able to take this particular issue is best measured by the fact that Mitt Romney, who proudly ran a campaign that was widely noted for being singularly, even absurdly dishonest, has repeatedly called the president’s credibility into question.
This weak kneed wheedling by Democrats in the face of another manufactured controversy over the ACA culminated when the president went to NBC with an apology to the people whose plans were cancelled (by their insurance providers) followed by Bill Clinton calling for the administration to let the folks whose insurance was cancelled to keep what they got. Does Clinton think the administration should mandate the old policies be reinstated? I’m quite certain that would not be controversial in the least, and once that mandate is set the controversy will simply disappear, allowing Obamacare to proceed apace with the willing compliance of mollified conservatives… right?
Of course none of this is helping to quell the controversy or stopping the relentless attack by conservatives on the law. The Democratic response has only strengthened the opposition. What would you expect? Do Democrats think acting like panicked rabbits is going to make them more electable in 2014? Voting for “fixes” in response to the insurance industry acting like robber barons and Republicans acting like children is counterproductive!
After the president apologized and the ex-president added fuel to the fire it is a bit late in the game to grow a spine and tell it like it is. But that will not stop me, being a huge fan of Rachel Maddow, from calling foul when Politifact rates something as mostly false after they have proven it is true.