NYT Puts Michael Shear's Pathetic Coverage of Obama's 'You Can Keep Your Plan' Excuse-Making on Page A14

In a Thursday evening writeup (HT Twitchy) which appeared on Page A14 in its Friday morning print edition, Michael D. Shear at the New York Times reported on President Barack Obama's attempt to clean up the four-year mess he made (from June 6, 2009 through September 26, 2013) in over three dozen statements and published items. The mess was Obama's guarantee — not a promise, a guarantee — that "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."

Despite the fact that Obama's serially made guarantee doesn't square with what has really happened, and that Obama and his administration have known for over three years that the millions of individual plan cancellations which have occurred would indeed occur, Shear blandly accepted Obama's claim that "Mr. Obama said he had not purposely misled anyone." He also accepted an almost definitely untrue contention Obama made as an indisputable fact: "[He] (Obama) emphasized that most people who were forced off a current plan would be able to find new insurance that was cheaper and provided better coverage." People who have been able to do that and have said so publicly have thus far been very few and far between. Excerpts follow the jump.


The report starts with a stinkeroo of a headline. The relevant criticism involved here isn't of "the law," Mr. Shear; it's of the President's dishonest guarantee:

Apologizing, Obama Yields to Criticism of Health Law

MichaelShearNYTwide

President Obama bowed Thursday night to mounting criticism that he had misled the American people about the health care law, apologizing to people who were forced off their health insurance plans by the Affordable Care Act despite “assurances from me.”

In an interview with NBC News, Mr. Obama said that he did not do enough to ensure that the law did not force the termination of insurance policies that people like because they do not meet the law’s new coverage requirements.

“It means a lot to them. And it’s scary to them. And I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me,” Mr. Obama told Chuck Todd of NBC in an interview in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “We’ve got to work hard to make sure that we hear them and that we’re going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”

For years, Mr. Obama has repeatedly said that Americans who were satisfied with their health insurance plans could keep them even after his health care program took full effect at the beginning of next year. “If you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan,” he said in speeches and at campaign rallies and town hall meetings.

But hundreds of thousands of people across the country began receiving letters of cancellation from their insurance companies in recent weeks, prompting accusations that Mr. Obama lied about the impact of the health care law for political reasons.

Shear's construction could be construed to indicate that he accepts that Obama lied. Now the line of defense is against "accusations" that he didn't do it "for political reasons."

That doesn't fly. As the Wall Street Journal reported a week ago, White House policy advisers had deep concerns about Obama's unqualified and clearly false guarantee as the law was being drafted, but were overruled by White House political operatives. They knew it was a lie, but they continued with the lie anyway, for political reasons.

Continuing:

In the NBC interview, Mr. Obama said he had not purposely misled anyone. He said it was always his intention that no one should lose a plan he wanted to keep. But he emphasized that most people who were forced off a current plan would be able to find new insurance that was cheaper and provided better coverage.

The interview transcript does not have Obama saying anything close to "it was always his intention that no one should lose a plan he wanted to keep." What really happened is that NBC's Chuck Todd tried to do it for him. But in his answer, Obama did not directly speak, as Shear falsely indicated, to the "intention that no one should lose a plan":

PRESIDENT OBAMA: And so we're going to have to work hard-- to make sure that those folks-- are, you know, taken care of.

CHUCK TODD: Do you feel like you owe these folks an apology for misleading them?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know--

CHUCK TODD: Even if you didn't intentionally do it, but at this point, they feel misled. And you've seen the anger that's out there.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know-- I regret very much that-- what we intended to do, which is to make sure that everybody is moving into better plans because they want 'em, as opposed to because they're forced into it. That, you know, we weren't as clear as we needed to be-- in terms of the changes that were taking place.

It would seem that Obama "intended" to "make sure" that "everybody" would move into "better plans," meaning that he really didn't want them in the old plans. Consistent with that intention, in June 2010, Kathleen Sebeluis wrote regulations which made grandfathering of old plans very difficult by limiting how they could change from year to year.

Obama's claim not to have knowledge of what Sebelius did expired on November 4, when he said the following at a meeting of supporters:

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

Obama is part of "we," and he was the person who "said" that "you can keep your plan." This means that he knew about the impact of Sebelius's 2010 regulations which would force cancellations.

Therefore, when he told NBC's Chuck Todd that, in the Times's words, "it was always his intention that no one should lose a plan he wanted to keep," Obama himself was not being truthful. Shear's writeup compounds that lie.

It's clear that Obama didn't have the sense of moral clarity to stop issuing his unconditional guarantee for over three years after Sebelius's regulations appeared, even though he knew it was untrue. He did so because backtracking would have been politically dangerous, if not fatal, and there was a reelection campaign to win.

Finally, Shear let Obama get away with pretending that the scope of the problem is limited to the individual market. That simply isn't so. A growing wave of small employer group plan terminations has already begun. Additionally, employer-sponsored plan terminations affecting tens of millions of those who are currently covered are on the horizon when the employer mandate kicks in on its already once-deferred date of January 1, 2015.

As to the paper's Page A14 placement, others have astutely noted recent front-page Obamacare-cheerleading stories, including one about mental health parity which appeared on Friday as Schear's report was relegated to the back pages. But the Old Gray Lady's burial of this story is probably independent of those other placements, and has two equally relevant causes. The first is the need to minimize a deep Obama humiliation. The second is to keep as many people from seeing Schear's shameful brand of "journalism" as possible.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.