Romney right Washington Post wrong, Health care costs higher for families and students, Obama promised $2,500 per family per year lower by end of first term, Washington Post receives 5 Orwells

Romney right Washington Post wrong, Health care costs higher for families and students, Obama promised $2,500 per family per year lower by end of first term,  Washington Post receives 5 Orwells

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”…Barack Obama

“If you’ve got health insurance we’re going to work with you to lower your premiums by $2,500 per family per year. But we will not wait 20 years from now to do it, or 10 years from now to do it, we will do it by the end of my first term as president”…Barack Obama Ohio State University February 27, 2008

“the Times of the nineteenth of December had published the official forecasts of the output of various classes of consumption goods in the fourth quarter of 1983, which was also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. Today’s issue contained a statement of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance grossly wrong. Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones.”…George Orwell, “1984”

Any way you slice it, health care premiums are higher for families and students and we are near the end of Obama’s first term. In a speech at Ohio State University on February 27, 2008 Obama stated:

“If you’ve got health insurance we’re going to work with you to lower your premiums by $2,500 per family per year. But we will not wait 20 years from now to do it, or 10 years from now to do it, we will do it by the end of my first term as president”


From Citizen Wells September 26, 2012.

“Health Insurance Costs Skyrocket For College Students Due To ObamaCare”

“Can we stop calling ObamaCare the Affordable Care Act now?

A Young America’s Foundation activist forwarded an email from the Vice President for Finance at his school, Guilford College (Greensboro, NC), informing him that, “For the 2012-13 academic year, the annual cost of the student health insurance is increasing from $668 to $1,179. This insurance premium has been charged to your student account.”

Why the increase? “Our student health insurance policy premium has been substantially increased due to changes required by federal regulations issued on March 16, 2012 under the Affordable Care Act.”

“Guilford joins a long list of colleges raising their premiums. Virtually all current student insurance plans do not meet ObamaCare’s mandates, and Forbes reports colleges have been forced to drop their plans or raise their premiums rates as much as 1,112% (and no, that’s not a typo).”

“Lenoir-Rhyne University (Hickory, NC) raised theirs from $245 to $2,507″

“During his first run for president, Barack Obama made one very specific promise to voters: He would cut health insurance premiums for families by $2,500, and do so in his first term.

But it turns out that family premiums have increased by more than $3,000 since Obama’s vow, according to the latest annual Kaiser Family Foundation employee health benefits survey.

Premiums for employer-provided family coverage rose $3,065 — 24% — from 2008 to 2012, the Kaiser survey found. Even if you start counting in 2009, premiums have climbed $2,370.

What’s more, premiums climbed faster in Obama’s four years than they did in the previous four under President Bush, the survey data show.

There’s no question about what Obama was promising the country, since he repeated it constantly during his 2008 campaign.”

Romney was right and the Washington Post was wrong.

From the Washington Post July 3, 2012.

““Promise: President Obama promised to lower annual health insurance premiums by $2,500…Result: Annual health insurance premiums have increased by $2,393….Gap: health premium costs are $4,893 higher per family than President Obama promised.”

— new Facebook/Twitter post by the Romney campaign

Promises made during the heat of an election campaign sometimes come back to haunt politicians.

The campaign of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is trying to nail President Obama for making an iffy promise during the 2008 campaign — that premiums will be $2,500 lower under his health care plan. Instead, the Romney campaign argues in an effort to create a viral Facebook post, the swing has gone $4,893 the other way.

The Romney graphic is false on several levels, though Obama certainly left himself open to scrutiny with imprecise language in the 2008 campaign. Let’s take a look.

The Facts

The Romney campaign cites a statement from a 2007 speech by Obama, but it’s a pledge that was repeated often: “When I am president, we will have universal health care in this country by the end of my first term in office. It’s a plan that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family’s premiums by $2,500 a year.”

This particular quote is not very clear on when the savings would be realized, but in another speech, in 2008, Obama suggested it would be at the end of his first term — though to be fair, it is not clear if he is talking about the savings or enacting a new health care law:

 “In an Obama administration, we’ll lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year. And we’ll do it by investing in disease prevention, not just disease management; by investing in a paperless health care system to reduce administrative costs; and by covering every single American and making sure that they can take their health care with them if they lose their job. We’ll also reduce costs for business and their workers by picking up the tab for some of the most expensive illnesses. And we won’t do all this twenty years from now, or ten years from now. We’ll do it by the end of my first term as President of the United States.”

The details of this number were further explained in an Obama campaign memo:

“Combining all of these effects — from improved health IT [information technology], better disease management, reduced insurance overhead, reinsurance, and reduced uncompensated care — under our “best-guess” assumptions, we estimate that businesses will save $140 billion annually in insurance premiums. The typical family will save $2500 per year.”

But note that Obama’s pledge came with an asterisk: He was not saying premiums would fall by that amount, as the Romney graphic asserts, but that costs would be that much lower than anticipated. In other words, if premiums were expected to rise by $5,000, they would only rise by $2,500 — that’s what Obama’s pledge meant, even if he was not too clear about it.

Michael Dobbs, our predecessor as The Fact Checker, awarded Obama Two Pinocchios for the pledge, saying it was based on shaky assumptions (such as a Rand Corp. study that was criticized by the Congressional Budget Office) and there was no guarantee that any savings would be passed on to consumers. Our colleagues at also thought Obama’s pledge was highly dubious.

Of course, once Obama became president, the health care proposal he advocated as a candidate was significantly changed, even to the point of accepting the individual mandate that he had so criticized when Hillary Rodham Clinton promoted it. But the White House more or less stuck to the idea that costs would not rise as quickly as previously estimated — except that it would result in $2,000 in savings by 2019. (Recall also that the health care law will not be implemented until 2014, making a first-term pledge problematic.)

Now, let’s look at what the Romney campaign has done with the pledge. First, it assumes that Obama was saying that premiums would actually decline by $2,500, rather than decline from a projected increase. Then, it takes the 2011 Kaiser Family Foundation survey estimate (Exhibit 1.11) and subtracts the cost of a 2008 family premium ($12,680) from the cost of a 2011 premium ($15,073). Viola, an increase of $2,393—and a promise gap of $4,893.

The Romney campaign’s math is nonsensical. First of all, the Kaiser survey is conducted from January to May each year, so starting with the 2008 date makes little sense, since that is still George W. Bush’s term. Then the health care law was not passed until 2010, so the first year in which any impact could be seen from the law was in 2011.

But, as the Kaiser report notes, most of the provisions of the new law will not take effect in 2014. Thus far, other provisions, such as providing coverage for adult children up to age 26, appear to have had a modest impact on premiums–perhaps 1 to 2 percentage points. (The White House disputes even that effect.) Still, the full effect on premiums — including any possible savings — will not be seen until the law is completely implemented.

We had previously given the Republican National Committee Three Pinocchios for an ad that had focused on the single data point — the increase in premiums from 2010 to 2011 — and blamed all of the increase on the health care law. Now the Romney campaign has quadrupled the same error in an effort to claim that “health premium costs are $4,893 higher per family than President Obama promised.”

The Pinocchio Test

Obama in 2008 made a foolish, dubious pledge about health care premiums. As we have noted, he will have to answer to Americans if his law fails to live up to that promise by 2019 or if people feel misled by his lawyerly wording. He was warned when he got Two Pinocchios back in 2008.

But two wrongs don’t make a right. The Romney campaign has twisted the meaning of that pledge, and then blamed a partially implemented, one-year-old law for three years of premium increases, in order to concoct an absurd claim.

For their efforts to discredit Romney and protect Obama the Washington Post is awarded 5 Orwells.

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