It is now painfully evident to millions of Americans that President Obama’s promise that they could keep their current health coverage under Obamacare wasn’t true. But what has received less attention in the current uproar is that back in 2009, when Obamacare was under debate and Obama was making the promise, some Republicans saw precisely what was wrong with it, and said so. And when those Republicans challenged the White House, the White House had nothing to say.
Go back to June 23, 2009. The House Education and Labor Committee, chaired by Democratic Rep. George Miller, held a hearing on a draft of Obamacare. Christina Romer, then chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, testified. Among the Republicans who questioned Romer was Rep. Tom Price, who is also a doctor. Price pressed Romer to cite a basis for the president’s 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 Price-Romer 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.