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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan May 21, 2012

Crossroads says health care law will force millions into "government pool"

UPDATE: We have adjusted the statement to clarify that we are fact-checking the Crossroads GPS claim that "millions could lose their health care coverage and be forced into a government pool." The ruling is unchanged. 

Featured Fact-check

The conservative advocacy group Crossroads GPS has a new ad that says President Barack Obama has broken his campaign promises.

If you love your iPad, beware: The ad shows a tablet computer with its screen cracking apart. Each broken promise shatters the glass with a stomach-churning crunch.

"President Obama’s agenda promised so much," the ad says, then launches into a litany of broken promises.

One promise is about health insurance: The ad shows Obama saying, "If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan."

"Broken," the ad’s narrator says. "Millions could lose their health care coverage and be forced into a government pool."

We’ll fact-check the ad’s other claims in separate reports. Here, we’ll look at people losing their health care.

Here at PolitiFact, we consider ourselves experts on the president’s campaign promises. Our Obameter tracks more than 500 campaign promises Obama made during the 2008 campaign, including many promises about health care.

Obama’s promise

Obama often said during his 2008 campaign for president that if people liked their health insurance, they wouldn’t have to change it under his proposal, and he continued to say it as president.

"If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan," he said at a 2009 town hall meeting.

What Obama was talking about was the way his plan left in place the current health care system in the United States. Instead of completely revamping the system, Obama’s plan put more regulations on insurance companies, and it offered subsidies to coverage for the uninsured so they could either buy insurance on their own or sign up for the existing program of Medicaid. Most significantly, his plan left in place both Medicare for seniors and employer-provided insurance for workers.

The problem with the promise, though, was that some of Obama’s regulations will change how health insurance companies offer plans. It’s also likely it will change the decisions employers make about health coverage, at least to some extent.

Some workers might see improved coverage, while others see more expensive coverage. Some might see major changes, while others might see trivial changes. In many cases, Obama’s law beefs up requirements on insurance companies.

On the whole, we rated Obama’s statement Half True.

Having said that, the health care law that Obama signed looks a lot like what he promised on the campaign trail. It leaves in place employer-provided insurance and Medicare. It puts new regulations on health insurance companies. It offers assistance to the poor and people of modest means to obtain coverage. (Want more detail? Read our story "Everything You Want to Know about the Health Care Law.")

Millions lose coverage?

The Crossroads ad adds a new wrinkle on this fear-laced claim: "Millions could lose their health care coverage and be forced into a government pool."

Text on the screen sources the claim to The Hill’s "Health Watch" column of March 15, 2012. The Hill is a newspaper that covers Washington and Congress.

When we dug into this claim, we found The Hill’s coverage referred to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, a respected independent agency that conducts economic analysis of pending and existing law.

Here’s how The Hill described the CBO report:

As many as 20 million Americans could lose their employer-provided coverage because of President Obama's healthcare reform law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a new report Thursday.

The figure represents the worst-case scenario, CBO says, and the law could just as well increase the number of people with employer-based coverage by 3 million in 2019.

The best estimate, subject to a "tremendous amount of uncertainty," is that about 3 million to 5 million fewer people will obtain coverage through their employer each year from 2019 through 2022.

We’ve looked into the CBO report ourselves for other fact-checks.

CBO and other independent groups project that the number of uninsured will actually decrease because of the health care law. Estimates vary, but the CBO has projected that between 29 million to 31 million uninsured Americans will gain access to coverage.

The law will cause some shifting around of how people get their insurance, though. That’s what the CBO report documents. Many of those people that leave employer-provided insurance would get coverage some other way, such as buying it on their own with help from a government subsidy. (Read a more detailed analysis of the CBO report here.) Actually, some of those people will prefer to buy insurance on their own in order to get health insurance that better suits their particular preferences.

Significantly, the Crossroads ad doesn’t mention any of those specifics. Its point seems to be simply that a lot of people will lose coverage. This is deeply misleading, because the law will increase the number of people who have coverage.

Then there’s the part of the claim that says millions would be "forced into a government pool." We couldn’t make heads or tails of this sentiment, but Crossroads responded to our questions by saying that people who buy insurance on their own are being "forced into a government pool."

The exchanges are new virtual marketplaces where people who buy insurance on their own will be able to comparison shop for plans. And technically speaking, this is a pool, because people who buy on the exchange will be able to buy plans regardless of any pre-existing health conditions.

Under the terms of the plan, some of the people will be buying insurance with a government subsidy, but some will be buying with their own money. But they’ll be buying plans from private insurance companies, to be treated by non-government doctors and hospitals.

Given the contours of the health care debate over the past two years, the ad seems like it’s trying to confuse people into thinking they’ll be signed up for a government-run health plan like Medicare. That’s actually not the case.

Our ruling

The Crossroads ad says Obama "promised" people could keep their health plans, but "millions could lose their health care coverage and be forced into a government pool."

Actually, Obama’s plan leaves the existing health system largely in place. And "millions" of uninsured will actually gain coverage, according to independent analysis.

Also, there’s no option for a government-run health care option under the new health insurance exchanges. The term "government pool" seems aimed at confusing this issue.

In fact, the health care plan Obama promised on the campaign trail looks an awful lot like what was put into law: Leave the existing health care system in place, beef up regulations on insurance companies, and offer assistance to the uninsured to help them sign up for health coverage.

We rate the statement False.  

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Crossroads says health care law will force millions into "government pool"

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