A straight hand, Mr. President
The president of the United States didn't level with us. Look at clips of what he repeatedly told the American people about his health care reform and the message was clear -- if you like the health care policy you have, you can keep it.
No qualifiers, no caveat about having to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. You like what you have, you'll get to keep it.
Well, that's actually mostly true for most Americans with health insurance, those with coverage through employers or in other programs. But for many with individual policies, the rules have changed drastically.
You can understand how people feel ambushed. If this were some private transaction, somebody would be telling us we should have read the fine print. Let the buyer beware and all that.
But Obamacare is a public program using private suppliers and the power of coercion. And here's a political fact -- when the president of the United States stands up and repeatedly tells us something, we don't expect to be blindsided by the fine print. When we're talking about the home front and taking care of our families, we want to be able to take him at his word, right out front. That may be an example of the proverbial triumph of hope over experience, but it's no less real for that.
Obama's defenders rightly point out that Obama's "simplifications" aren't the worst lies a president has ever told the American people. Nothing Obama has said about Obamacare will take the country to war -- as the Bush administration's bogus talk of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction did.
That's good perspective. But it's a playground defense to say "the other guy was worse." Besides, we're talking about 2013 now, not 2003. I don't know what was in Obama's heart when he made unequivocal promises he knew his law wouldn't allow him to keep. I do know that Uncle Sam at his best forces the fine print to be writ larger, protects us from the treachery of the asterisk. He's not supposed to set his own traps, even "for our own good."
Americans don't like to be conned or condescended to, and there have been elements of both in the campaign for Obamacare -- along with good, substantial reforms.
I think the jury is still out on Obamacare. It's not the last word in American health-care reform; I'm betting on amendments to come, and it's the long run that counts. But however it goes, I hope from now on the president deals us a straight hand. He'll keep more of us at the table that way.
-- Frank Gerjevic