All those stories about Obamacare canceling millions of insurance plans turned out to be mostly hype.
Over at Vox German Lopez had a nice follow up about all those health insurance plans that were supposedly canceled because of Obamacare. She cites a new study in Health Affairs about the nature of the old individual market place for health insurance which shows that under the old system a huge number of people’s plans would get canceled or end every year anyway. As she puts it:
In other words, the projected cancellations caused by Obamacare (6 million) are around the number of people (6.2 million) we’d expect to leave the individual marketplace each year regardless of the health-care law.
Which means that:
Obamacare might have caused insurance companies to cancel some plans and, in some cases, replace existing plans with more expansive coverage. But it doesn’t seem, at least based on the evidence so far, that the cancellations were any higher than a typical year of churn in the individual marketplace.
Or to put it another way, talking about all the canceled health insurance plans that Obamacare “caused” is not that different from saying, “Tens of thousands of Americans have been murdered since Obama took office.” Which is true! But that’s because loyd of Americans are murdered every year, regardless of who sits in the White House. Millions of people would have lost their plans under a hypothetical President McCain as well.
So why all the sound and fury over that infamous, “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” quote from a few years ago? As I see it the political media is largely getting political causality backwards here. The reason there is such negative coverage over Obamacare isn’t because the president said the wrong thing a couple years ago, it’s because there were a lot of problems with the initial roll out. The reality of those problems drove the negative coverage about Obamacare and for whatever reason the political media decided to focus on this one talking point as a way to convene that negativity. Had the roll out gone perfectly the media would have probably just ignored that particular quote.
You can see this dynamic in effect in past presidencies. George W. Bush’s claim that the vast majority of his tax cuts would go to the bottom was obviously just wrong. But the media never really covered this (other than liberal bloggers and columnists) because those tax cuts were popular and easily passed Congress. While Bush’s claim about Iraq’s nuclear program and links to 9/11 or the his comments that Brownie was doing “a heck of a job” during Katrina were covered heavily because Bush’s decision to invade Iraq produced a catastrophe of biblical proportions and major American city drowned on Bush’s watch. If Bush had instead told Brownie that he was doing a “terrible job” the coverage of Hurricane Katrina still would have been heavily negative, it’s just that the media would have found a different anecdote to highlight this.
Which means the overall lesson of the “like your plan” brouhaha for presidents isn’t to come up with better talking points, it’s to avoid policy disasters whenever possible (i.e. don’t invade Iraq) and when they do happen use the power of your office to fix them ASAP (like what happened with the Obamacare website). That’s basically it.
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