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Obama's simple promises vex complex health rollout

By Jim Kuhnhenn & Josh Lederman

Associated Press

POSTED:


WASHINGTON >> It sounded so simple. Too simple, it turns out.

President Barack Obama's early efforts to boil down an intricate health care law so Americans could understand it are coming back to haunt him, leaving a trail of caveats and provisos in place of the pithy claims he once used to sell the law.

In the summer of 2009, Obama laid out his health care agenda in a 55 minute speech to the American Medical Association. It was, his former speech writer Jon Favreau recalls, "one of the longest speeches he ever gave."

Fine as an initial policy speech, Favreau thought, but not a communications strategy.

"My lesson from that was, well, he can't be giving a speech this long and complicated every time he talks about health care," Favreau said.

Indeed, a good sales pitch must be brief, compelling, accurate. But when it comes to a complex product like health insurance, brevity and persuasiveness can take a toll on precision.

For example, Obama had promised, "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period."

Instead of a period, the statement required an asterisk. It turned out that, yes, some plans would be taken away as an indirect result of the law's tougher standards.

The enrollment experience, Obama said, would be simple: Hop online and comparison-shop "the same way you'd shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon."

Instead, as the entire country now knows, October was a website disaster.

Then there was the cost. "Through the marketplaces," Obama said, "you can get health insurance for what may be the equivalent of your cell phone bill or your cable bill, and that's a good deal."

A good deal, indeed -- for those who qualify for federal subsidies to offset the cost. But not for all.

By last week, the president had added a new, though little-noticed line to his health care speech: "There's a fraction of Americans with higher incomes who will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and protections."

David Cutler, a Harvard economist who advised Obama on health care during the 2008 campaign, warned the White House in a 2010 memo that the administration was not properly prepared to implement the new law. One result, Cutler said Monday, was that new premium rates under the law's insurance marketplaces were not ready before insurance companies sent some customers notices that their current policies did not meet new federal standards and were being terminated.

"That means that many people who will do better - better coverage, lower price - cannot know that," Cutler said in an email exchange with The Associated Press.

It may be that Obama and his allies in Congress overlearned the lessons of 1994, when President Bill Clinton's push to overhaul health care collapsed. Many Democrats walked away convinced they had fallen victim to a colossal effort to scare Americans out of supporting it, illustrated by the "Harry and Louise" television ads that showed a typical couple at their kitchen table, lamenting how a health plan they'd liked had been yanked out from under them, replaced with bad choices and higher prices.

Jonathan Gruber, who played a central role in crafting Obama's health law, said the moral of that story was that most Americans are happy with their health care and are resistant to change. So rather than cast Obama's effort as ripping up the health care system and starting from scratch, Gruber said, the administration emphasized that most Americans wouldn't be affected.

"The view was, 'Look, we've got to get this across the finish line.' To do that, you have to explain to people in a way that they understand," Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said. "You present the facts in a way that's ultimately not 100 percent accurate for every person, but tries to get across the gist of what you're trying to do."

To be sure, Republicans set out to lambast and undermine the law from the beginning. Democrats claim a deliberate campaign to misinform the public about the law made explaining it clearly that much harder. The law's critics argued it would hurt small businesses and kill jobs, drive up costs, lead to rationing and put health care decisions in the hands of politically-motivated bureaucrats.

Each of those allegations could be easily captured in a sound bite. So Obama fought back by being equally straight-to-the-point.

"You have to pay attention to what your opponents are saying, and do what you can to correct the record," said Nick Papas, the White House's spokesman for health care for the first three years after the law passed. "The Republicans in Washington were lying to people and leaving tens of millions of Americans with the impression they were going to lose their health insurance, that this was going to be an apocalyptic development for the American health care system."

Such differing interpretations of the same set of facts is reflected in polling that suggests the public doesn't quite know what to think about the law more than three years after Obama signed it. Although the figures have ebbed and flowed, Americans remain relatively split, with 38 percent viewing the law favorably and 44 percent viewing it unfavorably, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's monthly tracking poll.

Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who has studied public opinion on health care, said what's been missing from the White House's message is how completely dysfunctional the health insurance system was before "Obamacare."

"You need to have a coherent framework for why we're doing it that allows you to get through the glitches that were inevitable," Greenberg said.







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Oakie wrote:
It's simple, the president lied to the country!
on November 5,2013 | 03:32AM
MalamaKaAina wrote:
Lies, lies, and more lies, and somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing its I D I O T.
on November 5,2013 | 03:44AM
HD36 wrote:
The hallmark of a good con artist.
on November 5,2013 | 06:01AM
cojef wrote:
"Snake Oil" barker who pitched his wares from a wagon and fooled the American electorate. The spin currently is "now you see it, now you don't". The irony is he got re-elected by stretching the truth. Americans are most gullible people on this earth, and I believe it.
on November 5,2013 | 06:13AM
thruther wrote:
It doesn't help when the "free press" is in the sack with him and supports his phony agenda with and around-the-clock in the news cycle. It's non-stop propaganda that has destroyed our psyche.
on November 5,2013 | 06:24AM
st1d wrote:
the main reason he was reelected was his stonewalling the benghazi murders of american diplomats. while the administration and clinton denied any wrong doing, the terrorists involved in the attack and murders walked away with hundreds of high tech rifles, including sniper rifles, handguns, night vision goggles, secure communication devices and cyphers.

still wondering why obama has stonewalled benghazi.


on November 5,2013 | 08:37AM
AhiPoke wrote:
If the president were white he'd would have already been run out of office. By constantly playing the race card he's been insulated from significant criticism as people are afraid to be labeled "racist".
on November 5,2013 | 09:01AM
niimi wrote:
Obama lied, people died.
on November 5,2013 | 06:09AM
Smiley7 wrote:
Check your coverage for 2014. I did and was surprised. No wonder "They" are exempt from Obamacare! Some may benefit but we were told a pack of lies and the worst part is he won't ever acknowledge it. Auwe!
on November 5,2013 | 03:53AM
frontman wrote:
obama will be known as Liar-in Chief
on November 5,2013 | 04:24AM
Maipono wrote:
Words mean something, now the president is trying to pull words back. My Mom always said "A thousand horses can't pull the words you said back." Apparently Obama never learned this lesson from his Mom. Obamadon'tcare is a titanic mess that will be like a brontosaurus on his back for the rest of his life , and a big "L" on his forehead.
on November 5,2013 | 04:29AM
palani wrote:
Simple promises from a simpleton. Obama lied, some losing their health insurance will die. Oh well, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, isn't that what Marx said?
on November 5,2013 | 05:13AM
Pacej001 wrote:
I like Stalin better: "If one man dies (from Obamacare), it's a tragedy. If millions die (from Obamacare) it's a statistic." That's a pretty close match with the "just a small percentage" lose their insurance coverage.
on November 5,2013 | 06:05AM
hawaiikone wrote:
The last comment, by Anna Greenburg, says it all for me. After all, why should we listen to medical professionals and Harvard economists when we can listen to a democratic pollster?
on November 5,2013 | 05:19AM
Pacej001 wrote:
"President Barack Obama's early efforts to boil down an intricate health care law so Americans could understand it are coming back to haunt him"??? ------------- Well, that explains it. Obama wasn't LYING, he was OVERSIMPLIFYING. Makes all the [insert your on choice of very bad words here] difference in the world, right? Because being OVERSIMPLIFIED into supporting the passage of Obamacare is much better than being LIED into supporting it.---- Why was OVERSIMPLIFICATION necessary. Sadly, it's because you, the American Public, are just too stupid to know what's best for you. (note for Obama supporters: this post is intended sarcasm)
on November 5,2013 | 06:01AM
niimi wrote:
It really depends what is is. Oh, I know, he forgot to inhale.
on November 5,2013 | 06:10AM
cojef wrote:
His TV explanation yesterday was a farce. At least on the surface he looked horrid on TV, like being caught with his hands in the cookie jar. He looked pathetic.
on November 5,2013 | 06:18AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Worse than that. He actually pasted another lie over the last one by assuring listeners that they just had to dial and 800 number to resolve their problems. Isn't so and is/was known not to be so. It's amazing that he and his staff think they can skate by the obvious problems and publicly pretend they don't exists.
on November 5,2013 | 06:41AM
niimi wrote:
Obama lied, people died.
on November 5,2013 | 06:08AM
thruther wrote:
Benghazi, IRS, O-Care, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iran, TPP free-trade scam, immigration, Fast &Furious, the list goes on because our supposed "free press" is in the sack with "O" and can't get enough of him.
on November 5,2013 | 06:17AM
AhiPoke wrote:
Why such a long wordy article? Why not just state, the president lied to the country in order to pass a law that mandated insurance that people didn't want. Whether you like obamacare or not, whether you like the president or not, you can't dispute that he knowing made statements that he knew were not true, period. That's lieing.
on November 5,2013 | 06:41AM
Pacej001 wrote:
Long and wordy for a reason, distortion. That and trying to find the right combo of words to muddle people's views. AP does this over and over again. In this case they are trying to convert a direct, in your face, over and over again lie into "an oversimplification". Next week it will be an unfortunate oversimplification and the week after that it will be a purely unintentional deception caused by the Tea Party wing nuts. That is the Obama media progression in a nutshell.
on November 5,2013 | 08:01AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
AhiPoke, well said.
on November 5,2013 | 01:01PM
JAFO wrote:
Shame on Hawaii and America. Got fooled twice. LOL
on November 5,2013 | 07:15AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Obamacare became law because of bribery and extortion within the ranks of Congress and known lies told by the President of the United States. It is mindboggling that the law should be allowed to stand. It is a felony for Americans to make false claims with the government and it should be a felony for government officials to knowingly make false claims with the people. Enough already. It is time for the House of Representatives to do the right thing and hold impeachment hearings against Obama.
on November 5,2013 | 08:14AM
gari wrote:
loose lips
on November 5,2013 | 08:51AM
Dolphin743 wrote:
"Obama and his allies in Congress overlearned the lessons of 1994:. Yes, they learned that you have to blatantly lie about the law's effects and blatantly lie again to discredit criticism. Then, if almost the entire media conglomerate joins you in your lies, there is no way for the public to ahve a fair chance at understanding the truth-until it affects them directly years later. I hate to drag Orwell into the argument, but it so clearly applies in this case: If the people only get to hear propaganda, there is no way they can make an educated choice. Obama was elected on a platform of lies and supported by a chorus of media propagandists who willingly suspended their skepticism (and that's a generous assessment). The strength of our country will be measured by how each of us responds to this flagrant insult to our intelligence and the threat to self-determination associated with it. Obama has shown his colors: Yesterday he tried to revise history by adding more lies to his legacy--now he claims he never said those horrible lies and was misunderstood. He's doubled down. What will your response be?
on November 5,2013 | 09:12AM
DAGR81 wrote:
I hope we don't make fools or ourselves and welcome him with open arms on his next trip to Hawaii...he's not a local boy.
on November 5,2013 | 09:31AM
AhiPoke wrote:
You're dreaming. This state is the most lopsided pro democrat state in the nation. People here follow the party they don't study the facts.
on November 5,2013 | 09:47AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Nick Papas, per the article, said, "[t]he Republicans in Washington were lying to people and leaving tens of millions of Americans with the impression they were going to lose their health insurance...". Well turns out the Republicans weren't lying after all huh Nick? The true story here is that Barry campaigned on LIES like this, got ELECTED on lies like this, and now we are faced with a law that DOES NOT WORK as advertised. How's all that HOPE and CHANGE for you Obama supporters working out?
on November 5,2013 | 12:57PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
This is such a BLATANTLY, DEMOCRATIC/LEFT SELF-SERVING ARTICLE is it pathetic. Listen to the tone, to how apologetic it is over the plain truth of this situation, that OBAMA LIED. Just like so much else he did to get elected both times, all LIES. Shibai, such such SHIBAI.
on November 5,2013 | 01:00PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
mikethenovice, you proud Democrat/liberal commenter on SA articles and basher of Republicans/conservatives, where's your GUSHING LOVE OF THE DEMOCRATS NOW? That's what I thought. Cat got your tongue now.
on November 5,2013 | 01:04PM
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