If You Like Your Sound Bite, You Can Keep It

« November 2013 »

Memo to Barack Obama: ON THIS ONE, I GOT YOUR BACK. SORT OF.

"If you like your plan, you can keep it."

To hear anyone on the right in the past week or so tell it, this is the greatest example of presidential perfidy since Obama lied about Benghazi, which was the worst thing a President did since Obama ordered the Watergate burglaries.

And it is, strictly speaking, not 100% true. This is not Obama's fault. Also, it's Obama's fault. Allow me to explain.

Here's the part that's not his fault. In countering wildly fantastical oversimplifications and lies about his plan, and under pressure to more actively sell his health care reform to the American people, came up with a slogan that was mostly, but not entirely, correct.

Some people like their plan and can't keep it, because, like Two And A Half Men and The O'Reilly Report, some people like shitty things that aren't actually any good. So they're losing their old plan and getting a new, better one. This new, better one might be more expensive, and government subsidies might make the more expensive plan less expensive, or it might just be more expensive.

And health insurance companies, which consistently manage to combine the worst aspects of a Kafkaesque bureaucracy and a classic sociopath, have been sending these people letters saying their health insurance is being cancelled and freaking these people right the fuck out.

In addition, health insurance companies are pulling other shit, like rate hikes, or leaving entire markets, and blaming it on Obamacare, because did I mention sociopaths? Sociopaths. But for the most part, people with existing health insurance are largely unaffected by Obamacare. Was the oversimplified catchphrase slogan less than 100% accurate? Yes. Like every other catchphrase slogan. Still more true than "death panels".

Ultimately, of course, this is Obama's fault. Why? Because there's no single payer, no Medicare expamsion, and no public option. Obamacare is, essentially, an interface skin for the health insurance industry. Like the added layer phone manufacturers put over vanilla Android. Sometimes it's helpful, sometimes it's annoying, sometimes it's broken, but underneath is still the same system that was there before.

And that system is made up of health insurance companies, who, in addition to the fine qualities I mentioned above, are corporations that exist to maximize profits. Obamacare does some stuff to try to keep them honest, but if insurance companies are good at anything, they're good at wringing the maximum amount of money out of a set of convoluted, arbitrary rules.

Of course they're taking advantage of the system. Staph takes advantage of agar. A public option would have forced Incompetence, Evil, and Greed to compete with Just Plain Incompetence, leading to a drastic reduction in evil and greed. But we don't have one, and that's ultimately Obama's fault. And so when the problems caused by private insurance land at Obama's feet, while it's not exactly fair, I'm not exactly sympathetic, either.

Plus, apparently, none of his speechwriters thought "If you've got a good plan, you can keep it" was pithy enough, and instead pinned one of the key soundbites of the ACA rollout on the obviously fucked-up likes and dislikes of the American people. Can't imagine how that went badly.