President Obama Continues Questionable “You Can Keep Your Health Care” Promise

By Lindsey Ellerson

Jul 16, 2009 5:48pm

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report: 

At a rally in Holmdel, New Jersey, today, President Obama continued making a promise about health care reform that he has acknowledged isn’t literally true.

“Let me be exactly clear about what health care reform means to you,” the president told residents of the Garden State. “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan.  Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.”  

But last month, as the president acknowledged during a press conference, he doesn’t literally mean that you are guaranteed to be able to keep your health care plan, and your doctor, if and when health care reform passes.

 “When I say ‘If you have your plan and you like it,… or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don't have to change plans,’” the president said after we asked him about this, “what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform.” 

Importantly, the government might create circumstances – say, a public health care option that is less expensive since profit is not a concern and overhead is lower – where you might find your business forcing you into that public plan. 

Pressed by Diane Sawyer in an interview that same day, the president acknowledged this, saying, “I can't pass a law that says, 'I'm sorry, employers, you can never make changes to the health care plans that you provide your employees.' What I can say is that the government is not going to force you to, your employer or you to join a government plan, for example.  If you're happy with it, and your employer's happy with it, keep it."

 At the ABC News’ health care forum with the president the next night, the president made a slightly different claim that “if you are happy with your plan, and if you are happy with your doctor, we don’t want you to have to change.” 

In the audience was John Sheils, senior vice president of The Lewin Group, a health care policy research and management consulting firm, who estimated that up to 70 percent of those with private insurance would end up on the public plan.  

"There are a whole series of ways that we could design this," the president responded, arguing that employers would be given a "disincentive" to shift their employees to the public plan.

 -Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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