Byron York rescues from the memory hole a prescient June 2009 exchange between Georgia Rep. Tom Price and Obama CEA Chair Christina Romer. The exchange took place in a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on a draft of Obamacare. As Byron explains, “Price pressed Romer to cite a basis for the president’s [“if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan”] promise, and in the process predicted much of what would happen more than four years later, in late 2013. Obama’s promise fell apart right there in the hearing room.” Here is the exchange:
REP. PRICE: You also mentioned, as other folks have, that the president’s goal — and it’s reiterated over and over and over — that if you like your current plan or if you like your current doctor, you can keep them. Do you know where that is in the bill?
MS. ROMER: Absolutely. And things like the employer mandate is part of making sure that large employers that today — the vast majority of them do provide health insurance. One of the things that’s —
REP. PRICE: I’m asking about if an individual likes their current plan and maybe they don’t get it through their employer and maybe in fact their plan doesn’t comply with every parameter of the current draft bill, how are they going to be able to keep that?
MS. ROMER: So the president is fundamentally talking about maintaining what’s good about the system that we have. And —
REP. PRICE: That’s not my question.
MS. ROMER: One of the things that he has been saying is, for example, you may like your plan and one of the things we may do is slow the growth rate of the cost of your plan, right? So that’s something that is not only —
REP. PRICE: The question is whether or not patients are going to be able to keep their plan if they like it. What if, for example, there’s an employer out there — and you’ve said that if the employers that already provide health insurance, health coverage for their employees, that they’ll be just fine, right? What if the policy that those employees and that employer like and provide for their employees doesn’t comply with the specifics of the bill? Will they be able to keep that one?
MS. ROMER: So certainly my understanding — and I won’t pretend to be an expert in the bill — but certainly I think what’s being planned is, for example, for plans in the exchange to have a minimum level of benefits.
REP. PRICE: So if I were to tell you that in the bill it says that if a plan doesn’t comply with the specifics that are outlined in the bill that that employer’s going to have to move to the — to a different plan within five years — would you — would that be unusual, or would that seem outrageous to you?
MS. ROMER: I think the crucial thing is, what kind of changes are we talking about? The president was saying he wanted the American people to know that fundamentally if you like what you have it will still be there.
REP. PRICE: What if you like what you have, Dr. Romer, though, and it doesn’t fit with the definition in the bill? My reading of the bill is that you can’t keep that.
MS. ROMER: I think the crucial thing — the bill is talking about setting a minimum standard of what can count —
REP. PRICE: So it’s possible that you may like what you have, but you may not be able to keep it? Right?
MS. ROMER: We’d have — I’d have to look at the specifics.
UPDATE: John pulls me back here: “The ACA as enacted does clearly say that if you like your coverage, you can keep it. It is Section 1251, which I quoted in a post a week or so ago. It’s possible that it was added after the Price/Romer exchange, or more likely Romer just didn’t know about it….I think [Byron] is mistaken about this one, and that the problem lies not with the text of the statute, but with the 2010 regulations and, perhaps, with the ultimate futility of the pledge regardless of intentions.” I think we can at least salute Rep. Price for having seen the future and, unlike Lincoln Steffens, seen that it wouldn’t work (as advertised).