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Politifact: The ACA has had 'more erroneous attacks' than any other legislation

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Even political conservative and former Presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan noted last Friday December 27th, on the McLaughlin Group broadcast, that the "Most Over-reported Story for 2013" was the unending coverage of the Affordable Care Act:

"It's day and night, day and night on the cable channels and it is blocking out, John, stories about what is going on in Asia, what is going on in the Middle East, what is going on in the Ukraine. It's dominating everything and I think it's overdone."

Host John McLaughlin suggested that the award for the Best Political Theater ought to go to President Barack Obama:

"Trying to explain away his "broken promise" to millions of Americans that if they wanted to keep their health insurance under Obamacare, they can keep it. He squirms, he rationalizes, he splits infinitives, and all the while his credibility plummeted."

The underlying truth behind the statements President Obama made relates to what's known as the "Grandfather" provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

He tried to explain last month:

"Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.

So we wrote into the Affordable Care Act, you're "grandfathered in" on that plan.

But if the insurance company changes it, then what we're saying is they've got to change it to a higher standard. They've got to make it better, they've got to improve the quality of the plan they are selling. That's part of the promise that we made too.

That's why we went out of our way to make sure that the law allowed for "grandfathering."

If we had allowed these old plans to be downgraded, or sold to new enrolees once the law had already passed, then we would have broken an even more important promise -- making sure Americans gain access to health care that doesn't leave them one illness away from financial ruin.

The bottom line is that we are making the insurance market better for everybody and that's the right thing to do."

In a radio interview that aired on World News Daily on Dec. 25, featuring Larry Sabato, professor of political science at the University of Virginia and director of the University's Center for Politics, spoke about concerns relating to the President's trust factor, which can often be revealed in comprehensive polling for an overall job performance, which Sabato says is now at the lowest ratings ever:

“Right now, depending on the poll, it’s between the upper 30s and the low 40s. Obviously that’s not a very good position to be in when you’re the incumbent president and you have more than three years to run in your term. This is going to be a long, long lame duck period.

One thing that I think all historians and political scientists look for in a Presidency is the moment, if it occurs, when the credibility gap opens, and it’s happened for Obama, not because of the rocky roll-out of Obamacare, not because a website doesn’t work -- although it should have -- It’s because of that oft-repeated statement, which many people bought because the president said it, and people said, ‘Well, if he’s got all these advisers, surely they checked.’ If you like your doctor you can keep him; if you like your insurance plan you can keep it and it turns out – for many Americans - that’s not true. The fact that a president would say that over and over again creates a credibility problem.”

Professor Sabato took note of a number of other Presidents who had found themselves in similarly unsettling situations, including Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton:

“There are these moments in a presidency when people can focus on whether a president is telling the truth or not. And once you’ve found out that somebody can lie to you over and over again and do it pretty convincingly, you’re a little less inclined to be gullible."

The facts are, though, that United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had covered this ground in her Teleconference explaining the provisions of the Affordable Care Act in September of 2010; and any number of responsible journalists clarified further in subsequent weeks.

Allison Young, writing in USA Today, explains:

"The law contains provisions that allow some existing plans — those that don't significantly raise prices or reduce benefits — to maintain a "grandfathered" status. The goal was to help smooth the transition to major changes mandated by the law in 2014."

Ms. Young also quotes Steve Larsen, Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health (HHS):

"Grandfathered plans were the law's answer to addressing the desire by individuals and employers who like their current coverage to keep that coverage."

Young writes:

"Among benefits beginning this week that don't apply to certain grandfathered plans:

• Free preventive care. Both individual and group health plans with grandfathered status can still charge co-payments and deductibles for preventive services such as vaccinations and mammograms. Yet new health plans that began on or after Thursday must completely cover recommended preventive services.

• Increased annual coverage limits. Grandfathered individual plans — but not grandfathered group plans — can continue their current annual caps. New plans of all types and grandfathered group plans must phase in an increasing amount of annual coverage.

• Coverage for sick children. Grandfathered individual plans — but not grandfathered group plans — are exempt from rules against denying coverage to children with medical conditions.

All plans, regardless of whether they are new or grandfathered, are subject to several other provisions that take effect after Thursday. They include requirements that insurers let young adults be covered by their parents' health plans until age 26 and that prohibit insurers from setting lifetime coverage limits or using a technicality to cancel coverage after a person gets sick.

Far fewer consumers will be in grandfathered health plans in the next few years than the federal government estimated, according to a survey released in August by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting firm. HHS had estimated that next year, 71%-87% of large employers would have plans in grandfathered status."

Young also quotes Ron Pollack of the health consumer group Families USA, who said that he "doesn't expect a significant outcry from consumers in grandfathered plans:

"There might be some, but I don't think it's going to be enormous because the number of plans that will qualify for grandfathered status will keep diminishing."

In their article "New health-care rules could add costs, and benefits, to some insurance plans," Washington Post staff writers David S. Hilzenrath and N.C. Aizenman noted on June 15, 2010, that the President's statement that "If you like your health plan, you can keep it, had specific new rules issued on 14 June, that fulfilled that promise, yet pointed out that the plan "might not be quite the same -- it could offer more benefits, and it could cost more."

"The tempest involves an issue known as "grandfathering." Consistent with Obama's promise, the legislation said health plans in existence when the law was enacted are exempt from some of its requirements. But the law left it to the administration to decide how much a health plan can change without forfeiting that exemption.

The rules issued Monday begin to answer the question.
For instance, health plans would lose their protected status if they significantly raise deductibles or other out-of-pocket charges patients pay when they seek medical care.

Some plans require members to pay a percentage -- 20 percent, for example -- of the hospital or doctor bill. If plans want to remain grandfathered, they can't raise the percentages.

For increases in deductibles, the trigger is medical inflation plus 15 percentage points."

The folks at the Tampa Bay Times' Politifact, "Truth-o-Meter" rated the President's statement made at a New Hampshire town hall meeting on Aug. 11, 2009, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan," to have been "overly optimistic given the bill’s details at the time," and they they rated it Half True.

When the President gave a speech to a joint session of Congress in September 2009, those same folks rated as true the following claim:

"If you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have."

In this case, the Truth-o-Meter concluded that "nothing in Obama’s proposal proactively forced such changes, and the bills clearly intended to leave much of the current health care system in place."

In explaining their Ruing further, they write:

"Obama has a reasonable point: His health care law does take pains to allow Americans to keep their health plan if they want to remain on it. But Obama suggests that keeping the insurance you like is guaranteed.
In reality, Americans are not simply able to keep their insurance through thick and thin. Even before the law has taken effect, the rate of forced plan-switching among policyholders every year is substantial, and the CBO figures suggest that the law could increase that rate, at least modestly, even if Americans on balance benefit from the law’s provisions. We rate Obama’s claim Half True.

Yet, at the close of 2013, when it came time to sum up, the folks at the Tampa Bay Times' Politifact, "Truth-o-Meter" note:

"For four of the past five years, PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year has revolved around the health care law, which has been subject to more erroneous attacks than any other piece of legislation PolitiFact has fact-checked."

This year was no exception to that rule. Earlier this month, Angie Drobnic Holan writes:

"Lie of the Year: 'If you like your health care plan, you can keep it'

We counted dozens of times that President Barack Obama said that if people liked their health plans, they could keep them.

It was a catchy political pitch and a chance to calm nerves about his dramatic and complicated plan to bring historic change to America’s health insurance system.

"If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," President Barack Obama said -- many times -- of his landmark new law.
But the promise was impossible to keep."

In his article "Obamacare claims rarely get clean bill of health, on Friday, Jim Tharpe observes that not only did the editors of PolitiFact designate the aforementioned quotation as "The Lie of the Year," its readers also reached the same conclusion, with with 59 percent of the vote. The next-highest in that category was Texas Senator Ted Cruz's contention that "Congress is exempt from the health care law."



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