We've gotten several e-mails from readers who remembered then-candidate Barack Obama giving rousing stump speeches on how his health care plan would allow people to get new health plans like the members of Congress once health reform passed.
That did ring a bell with us, so we searched Obama's stump speeches, and found his specific remarks.
"If you don't have insurance, or don't like your insurance, you'll be able to choose from the same type of quality private plans as every federal employee -- from a postal worker here in Colorado to a congressman in Washington," Obama said in Newport News, Va., on Oct. 4, 2008. "All of these plans will cover essential medical services including prevention, maternity, disease management and mental health care. No one will be turned away because of a pre-existing condition or illness."
President Obama made similar remarks several times, describing a new national health care exchange by describing the way federal employees pick health plans. Because the federal work force is so large, many insurers are willing to offer them plans, and employees can select from very basic options with high deductibles to more expensive, comprehensive coverage. The system covers more than 9 million employees, retirees, former employees, family members and former spouses, according to the Office of Personnel Management's Web site.
The comparison to Congress seems to be a way of describing the concept of the health insurance exchange, which is part of Democratic plans for health reform currently under consideration.
But it's Obama's comments that people would have access to the exchange if you "don't like your insurance" that aren't addressed by the Democrats' health care plan. That clearly implies that anyone unhappy with their current coverage could go into the exchange, and that is not the case under the current proposals for reform.
Bills in the House and the Senate would limit the exchanges to individuals and small businesses. If your employer offers a policy, you would not be able to reject that insurance and enter the exchange.
In fact, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has been promoting an amendment that would open the exchange to people who get insurance from a large employer.
"Under the nation's current employer-based system, most people have little if any choice about where they get their insurance," Wyden wrote in an op-ed in the
New York Times
. "They just have to accept the plan that comes with their job. That insurance company, in turn, is provided a captive group of customers, so it has no incentive to earn their loyalty."
But right now, it doesn't look as if his amendment will be part of the final plan.
So we're adding Obama's promise about people being able to use the exchange to buy insurance "if you don't have insurance, or don't like the insurance." Because the bills under consideration don't open the exchange to people who want another option, we're rating the promise Stalled.