Monday, October 20th, 2014

10 things Obamacare supporters say that aren’t entirely true

Supporters of health care reform stand in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on March 28, 2012. (AP Photo)
Supporters of health care reform stand in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on March 28, 2012. (AP Photo)

The marketplaces for Obamacare launched this week, and jammed websites meant some people couldn’t quickly shop for insurance plans or find out if they’re eligible for subsidies.

Messy reality: It also shows up in our fact-checking of the law’s supporters. We’ve noticed that politicians who support the Affordable Care Act tend to paint an overly rosy picture of the health care law -- even when evidence contradicts their optimistic statements.

Here, then, are claims from Obamacare supporters that come up short on accuracy. Some statements leave out important details or take things out of context. Others are flat-out wrong.

Additionally, President Barack Obama has made three high-profile promises on health care that he has been unable to keep. Because we rate outcomes on our Obameter (not intentions), we’ve rated those campaign pledges as Promise Broken. Here’s the rundown:

1. "Everybody" will get more and pay less under the new health care law. False.

-- U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on July 1, 2012 in an interview

Claiming one law is good for "everybody" is a broad statement. For back up, Pelosi’s office pointed us to a Congressional Budget Office report, which suggested people who have to buy insurance on their own will pay lower rates, depending on their specific circumstances. However, those numbers were averages, meaning some people would also pay more. Another part of the study, though, predicted that people would spring for better plans after costs have gone down, seeing that as a better investment for their health as they age. Those buyers would spend more money. We rated Pelosi’s claim False.

2. For people with insurance, the only impact of the health care law "is that their insurance is stronger, better and more secure than it was before. Full stop. That's it. They don't have to worry about anything else." Half True.

-- President Barack Obama on June 28, 2012, in a speech at the White House

Obama was trying to reassure people who are fearful of change, but he glossed over many aspects of the law. Those include higher taxes on the wealthy and higher premiums for people who prefer "bare bones" catastrophic coverage. Meanwhile, new regulations will force a variety of changes on employers, insurers and health group providers. Yes, some people will be left largely unaffected. But to suggest they will see no changes whatsoever ignores the significant changes to the health care system. We rated his statement Half True.

3. Job growth is more robust than it was during the last recovery, when there was no Obamacare. Half True.

-- President Barack Obama on July 24, 2013, in a speech in Galesburg, Ill.

Obama has responded to critics of his law by saying that job growth is better than the last recovery. "Our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as they had at the same point in the last recovery, when there was no Obamacare," he said. But Obama is counting jobs using the most advantageous time frame to support his claim; other reasonable time frames for counting job growth show much less impressive results. Those metrics show job growth is on par with or even a bit weaker than the recovery that took place under President George W. Bush. We rated Obama’s claim Half True.

4. Thanks to Obamacare, millions of people can expect rebates of about $100 each from insurance companies. Half True.

-- President Barack Obama on July 18, 2013, in a White House speech

The health care law said that insurance companies have to give rebates to customers if administrative costs get too high or if they don’t spend an appropriate amount on patient care. In a speech at the White House, Obama gave the impression that people could expect to get back money. In reality, we found that 61 percent of the rebate money went to employers. Since not every policyholder got the $100 directly, we rated Obama’s claim Half True.

5. "Already, the Affordable Care Act is helping to slow the growth of (Medicare’s) health care costs." Half True.

-- President Barack Obama on Feb. 12, 2013, in his State of the Union speech

Medicare costs are indeed growing more slowly. But we found no strong evidence to suggest that the credit should go to the Affordable Care Act. It’s hard for experts to definitively pinpoint the reasoning, but they told us that the recession could easily be responsible (people spend less on health care when times are tough), coupled with Obamacare’s structural changes. Due to the uncertainty, we rated Obama’s claim Half True.

6. Obamacare is aiding 17 million children who could be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. Mostly False.

-- President Barack Obama on March 16, 2012, in the campaign film The Road We've Traveled

Obama’s number came from an analysis from the Department of Health and Human Services. However, he cherry-picked the higher of two estimates: The range was four million to 17 million kids. It’s also worth noting that many of those hypothetical children already have insurance, despite their pre-existing conditions. By our math based on the study Obama’s video cited, the true number of children who are uninsured due to pre-existing conditions is somewhere between 160,000 and 1.1 million. We rated the claim Mostly False.

7. Health care premiums have recently gone up slower than any time in the past 50 years because of Obamacare. False.

-- President Barack Obama on Oct. 3, 2012, in a presidential debate

Back in 2012, Obama said that the two previous years have seen the slowest increase in health care premiums in the past half-century. His source was a Health Affairs study, but he got into trouble by saying "premiums" instead of "total health care spending." The premiums people pay to buy coverage represent just one part of health care spending. Granted, premiums were growing at the slowest rate in 14 years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but that’s not quite the same as 50 years. Health care economists attribute that slow-down to the recession, not Obamacare. We rated the president’s statement False.

8. Obama’s promise to cut the cost of a typical family's health insurance premium by up to $2,500 a year. Promise Broken.

-- Barack Obama on June 23, 2007, in a speech

Before the 2008 election, the president pledged to reduce the average premium cost. But when we last updated his promise in 2012, we found no evidence that that will be the case. It was difficult for experts to say for sure before the law is slated to go into full effect in 2014. An economist who advised Obama in 2008 said the $2,500 figure was never meant to refer to premiums alone. We rated this Promise Broken.

9. Obama’s promise to negotiate health care reform in public sessions televised on C-SPAN. Promise Broken.

-- Barack Obama on Aug. 21, 2008, in a town hall meeting

Obama promised televised negotiations for the health care law, but that didn’t happen. Instead, his administration reached agreements behind closed doors with the drug industry and hospitals. In Congress, some of the committee bill writing sessions were open, but the most substantial negotiations took place privately, before bills came to committee or the House or Senate floor. We rated this Promise Broken.

10. Obama’s promise to create a public option health plan for health care coverage. Promise Broken.

-- candidate Barack Obama’s health care proposal, 2007

To the dismay of many liberals, the final health care bill that Obama signed into law did not include a public option. Supporters of the idea argued that a government-run insurance plan would force private insurers to offer fair prices for basic services. Opponents of the idea said it would mean the government would end up putting private insurers out of business. Congress ultimately refused to go along with the idea for a public option, and it was left out of the final bill. When asked in 2010 about why the public option wasn't part of the law, Obama said, "Because we couldn’t get it through Congress, that’s why." We rated this Promise Broken.