The Obama administration has run aground on the president’s promise that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it: Scott Rasmussen finds that 55% of voters rate Obama’s performance on health care as “poor.” But, as Byron York notes, at least 27 Democratic senators made the same false promise to their constituents:
The list includes the entire Democratic leadership in the Senate as well as Democrats facing tough re-election races in 2014, like Mary Landrieu, Mark Begich, and Kay Hagan.
Let’s take just a couple of examples. First, Max Baucus:
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-Mont.): “That is why one of the central promises of health care reform has been and is: If you like what you have, you can keep it. That is critically important. If a person has a plan, and he or she likes it, he or she can keep it.” (Sen. Baucus, Congressional Record, S.7676, 9/29/10)
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D-Iowa): “One of the things we put in the health care bill when we designed it was the protection for consumers to keep the plan they have if they like it; thus, the term ‘grandfathered plans.’ If you have a plan you like — existing policies — you can keep them. … we said, if you like a plan, you get to keep it, and you can grandfather it in.” (Sen. Harkin, Congressional Record, S.7675-6, 9/29/10)
You may have noticed that Baucus and Harkin promised that you can keep your existing plan on the same day–September 29, 2010. That was the date when the Republicans brought on a resolution to disapprove and revoke the grandfather regulations that the Obama administration had promulgated in June 2010. As the Republicans pointed out, the Obama administration itself projected that these regulations would cause many millions of Americans to lose their existing health insurance, whether they liked it or not. Senator Mike Enzi introduced the resolution and began the debate:
Mr. President, the resolution we are debating today is about keeping a promise. The authors of the new health care law promised the American people that if they liked their current health insurance, they could keep it. On at least 47 separate occasions, President Obama promised: “If you like what you have, you can keep it.”
Unfortunately, the Obama administration has broken that promise. Earlier this year, the administration published a regulation that will fundamentally change the health insurance plans of millions of Americans. The reality of this new regulation is, if you like what you have, you can’t keep it. The new regulation implemented the grandfathered health plan section of the new health care law. It specified how existing health plans could avoid the most onerous new rules and redtape included in the 2,700 pages of the new health care law.
This provision was a critical part of the new law. It allowed supporters to argue that current health insurance plans would be exempt from all of the rules and regulations created by the new law. Employers and health plans were told that the grandfathered protections would mean if you have coverage on the day the law passed, you could keep that coverage without having to make any major changes.
… Unfortunately, the regulation writers at the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services broke all those promises. The regulation is crystal clear. Most businesses–the administration estimates between 39 and 69 percent–will not be able to keep the coverage they have.
What Enzi said was indisputably true. The Obama administration summed up the devastating effect that its own regulations would have on employer-sponsored health insurance plans in this chart, published in the Federal Register along with the grandfather regulations on June 17, 2010:
So Enzi wasn’t making anything up, he was merely quoting the Obama administration’s own numbers. The Republican resolution was essentially equivalent to the Upton bill that passed the House today, with 39 Democratic votes: if you like your health insurance, you can keep it. Yet every single Democrat voted against it, and Senators Baucus and Harkin, among others, delivered speeches that were delusional, if they meant what they said. They claimed, without ever acknowledging the Obama administration’s own statements about the effects of its regulations, that under Obamacare we can all keep the plans we have. That couldn’t possibly have been an honest mistake, since Enzi and other Republicans had reminded them of the administration’s projections just minutes before. So it can only have been one of the most cynical political performances on record.
Baucus and Harkin are retiring from the Senate, thankfully. But, as Byron points out, the Democratic Senators facing tough re-election campaigns next year joined in promising their constituents that they would be able to keep their existing insurance, in defiance of all the facts. And every one of them voted against the Republican resolution on September 29, 2010, when the Republicans tried to make their promise a reality. Given that stark record, it is hard to see how any Senate Democrat in a swing state can possibly be re-elected next November.