15 Nov 2013

What Did Yglesias Know About Health Insurance Cancellations, And When Did He Know It?

Health Legislation, Matt Yglesias 34 Comments

I’m still trying to find a mea culpa where Yglesias discusses his off-the-mark predictions about how great the ObamaCare rollout would be. Nothing yet, but in the meantime I ran across this:

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” That was the promise Barack Obama made to insured Americans when stumping for his signature health insurance overhaul back in 2009 and 2010. It’s a promise that’s coming back to sting him now that it isn’t coming true. It was an irresponsible promise, a cowardly cave-in to focus-group findings that it was what Americans wanted to hear. But it didn’t make sense as a promise and didn’t make sense as a description of any plausible insurance reform. While Obama ought to be sorry he said it, the idea of actually trying to make it a policy goal is insane.

Now hang on a second. Did Yglesias know that this major plank of Obama’s plan–which Obama said at least 37 times, apparently, in different venues–was “insane” all along?

I’m not being a wiseguy here, I really think somebody who knows the guy should ask Yglesias to clarify. As recently as late May, Yglesias was predicting that the ObamaCare rollout would be a tremendous success. Now that it’s blowing up in supporters’ faces, Yglesias is saying matter-of-factly that a major component of the promised outcome was “insane.” So what gives?

==> Did Yglesias not realize that this aspect of the plan was insane, back in May when Yglesias was telling us how great ObamaCare was? Isn’t that a big deal? Is there anything else that Yglesias hasn’t considered?


==> Did Yglesias realize millions of Americans were going to have their policies canceled, but didn’t speak up because he was afraid it would possibly upset passage of the ACA?

34 Responses to “What Did Yglesias Know About Health Insurance Cancellations, And When Did He Know It?”

  1. Ash says:

    Would it be so hard to “grandfather in” older plans, maybe something like include a line of legislation that says, “all insurance plans in effect before January 2014 will not be subject to the regulations in the ACA”?

    Or am I seriously misunderstanding core tenets of the ACA?

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      I believe there already is a grandfather clause just like that except that it states that ANY changes to your plan (including minor adjustments to co-pays) immediately exempt it from being grandfathered.

    • Yancey Ward says:

      It would be hard to do it now, with just 6 weeks left in the year, and with the companies and the state insurance regulators having already eliminated/banned the plans to be cancelled. Even worse, however, is that a lot of these plans didn’t have the added benefit packages and they were high deductible plans purchased by people who paid out of pocket for routine care. Letting them continue guts a good piece of the funding for the ACA plans. The exchange plans need lots of people paying for services they don’t use, and coverage they don’t need. This is explicitly why the grandfathering was narrowed down by HHS- they know the financing of the law requires it.

  2. Ken B says:

    We know that the WH speech writers knew it was a lie from the get go. There are articles but I have no link handy. Yglesias is pretty well-connected to those folks so I would assume he knew too. At the time that the the law about grandfathering was debated Republicans in Congress pointed out that the Democrats were voting for changes that would allow insurance companies to get around the grandfathering rule. the Democrats acknowledged this at the timr and once again I would assume that Matt knew that.

    • Rick Hull says:

      If so, would you say he is more of a cheerleader than a journalist?

      • Ken B says:

        I would say hes more of a disingenuous prpoagandist.

    • valueprax says:

      It’s nice to see you fighting the good fight for a change, Ken B, instead of arguing with everyone about how to tie our shoelaces (which confuses as because we’re all wearing velcro and slipons).

      • Ken B says:

        At least you get I’m a free marketer VP. MF thinks I’m a Keynesian central planner.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Central planning definitely. It’s based on your repeated hostility towards anarcho-capitalism.

          The implication of anti-anarchy is of course archy, or statism, and thus an advocacy of whatever-central-planning-may-or-may-not-occur-but-let’s-not-make-any-of-it-explicit-so-that-I-can-make-a-positive-case-of-statism-through-accusations-of-straw-men.

          Or, the shorter version, if you’re not an anarchist, you’re in favor of central planning of whatever you don’t want people to do in the market.

          • Ken B says:

            Gary Becker, Central Planner.

            Mises too of course.

            • valueprax says:

              Yes, to the extent he specifically wrote against anarchy in his literature and didn’t manage to quite get there himself before he died.

              I think a strong case can be made that if you actually applied a lot of Mises own ideas with full consistency (such as his ideas about unlimited secession) it was clear Mises already had the seeds planted and just hadn’t watered them enough.

              But yes. I don’t know why you would rely on an argument from authority. You know better than that.

              • Ken B says:

                Its not an argument from authority. It’s suggesting MF uses planner in an idiosyncratic and misleading way. “You keep using that word planner….”

              • Major_Freedom says:

                You mean a central planner over security and protection should not be called “central planning”, because then vast swaths of the human race would end up being identified as “pro-central planning”, which in and of itself is sufficient for calling into question the stated meaning of central planning?

                Or is it the case that central planning does not imply only a pure socialist state where every conceivable activity is controlled and regulated?

                Far from being “idiosyncratic” or “misleading”, the phrase “central planning” is an accurate description of all states.

                What distinguishes one central planner (state) from another central planner (state) is just how much activity it “allows” the individual to decide for themselves without being threatened by force.

                Yes, Mises was pro-central planning…in security and protection. This was of course due to his assessment of the technicalities of the world that he believed prevented his moral ideal of individual sovereignty as an actual possibility.

                But this is neither here nor there. I thought you would at least attempt to respond to my response about your claim that I allegedly believe you’re a “Keynesian central planner.”

                I guess I’ll just wait for your head to roll once you realize that “central planner” as you understand it, implies Keynesianism, since in order to even bring about central planning (again, as you understand it), there has to be more government spending where less government spending would lead to government job layoffs. If it did not spend more where less would result in government job layoffs, and there were government job layoffs, and those individuals laid off went ahead and made productive decisions on their own without being threatened with violence, then poof goes central planning (as you understand it).

                In other words, “Keynesian” is superfluous in the phrase “Keynesian central planner”. So you are really saying “MF thinks I’m a central planner.” Well, I don’t think you are a central planner yourself, although I am sure you have dreams where you are, but the absence of any rebuttal to my response, kind of shows you agree with my conclusion that you are pro-central planning.

            • valueprax says:

              See what I (unintentionally) did there?

              “Only an illogical moron would argue from authority like you did… you’re not an illogical moron, are you?”

  3. Bob Roddis says:

    The executive regulation predicting 40-67 termination of individual plans was issued in the Code of Federal Regulations in June, 2010 for everyone to read.

    EBSA Final Rules

    Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Coverage Relating to Status as a Grandfathered Health Plan Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Interim Final Rule and Proposed Rule [6/17/2010 ]

    Using these turnover estimates, A REASONABLE RANGE FOR THE PERCENTAGE OF INDIVIDUAL POLICIES THAT WOULD TERMINATE, AND THEREFORE RELINQUISH THEIR GRANDFATHER STATUS, IS 40 PERCENT TO 67 PERCENT. These estimates assume that the policies that terminate are replaced by new individual policies, and that these new policies are not, by definition, grandfathered.

    Filed 6-14-10 ; 11:15 am


    • Bob Murphy says:

      Thanks Bob. I was going to look this up but you saved me the trouble!

  4. Bob Roddis says:

    Since my new “basic” individual policy is going from $195 per month (with a $5000 deductible) to $255 per month (with a $13,000 deductible), what exactly is considered a “junk” policy? Under my new plan, I apparently get two free general practitioner and two free specialist checkups per year that I didn’t get before.

    I’m always astonished at how the concept of the pricing process as applied or not applied to the medical field never enters the tiny minds of the statists.

    • Richie says:

      They’ve been administratively fixpriced.

  5. Major_Freedom says:

    I think he was secretly hoping that the statement repeated 37 times would come true, but didn’t pipe up then, so that he could hedge himself. But now that it was revealed a lie, Yglesias can say the statement repeated 37 times is insane.

  6. Yancey Ward says:


    Good luck finding a single pundit on the left who pointed out at the time that Obama was being deceitful, or even wrong. Sure, all of them say they knew it was not true, but I never saw any of them actually say so until now, and I bet it isn’t hard to find a good number of examples where they contradicted critics of ACA by repeating Obama’s claim.

  7. Yancey Ward says:

    Next year will be lots of fun as the defenders of this law have to finally explain why most people’s bronze plan is covering about 20-30% of their medical costs, and the silver plan is covering half or less.

    • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

      Why would they “have to” explain it? No journalist will actually ask them those kinds of questions. Instead, the media will dig up some homeless guy who was able to get a life-saving surgery thanks to the wondrous glory of Obamacare.

  8. peter says:

    Correct me if i’m wrong, but i don’t think that reason for making the ” keep your plan…” statements was not because of focus groups, but it was the key reason why the damn thing got passed in the first place. If he had said ” you most likely will lose your policy and have it replaced with a different policy that may or may not have your doctor in it and may or may not have higher premiums” , not so sure if it would have passed.

  9. joe says:

    Obama did not “break a promise.” He told a lie about a piece of legislation. Big difference.

    “Read my lips, no new taxes” is a broken promise.

    “you can keep your health insurance” is a lie.

    It’s the difference between borrowing $10 and not paying it back because you’re broke (broken promise) and borrowing $10 while never intending to pay it back.

    • Richie says:

      I promised, “I will not raise taxes.” Two years later I did. What just happened?

      • Ken B says:

        Joe,s point seems pretty simple. Bob vows not to cheat on his wife. He resists temptation for years but one day drunk he is seduced by a hot chick. He broke his vow, but that doesnt retro actively make his vow a lie.

        • Bob Roddis says:

          Except Joe ain’t so bright. Obama made a vow and a promise which were lies and which he knew he couldn’t keep when he said them, And then broke them.

          Two distinct acts of fraud.

          • Ken B says:

            Huh? Joe is arguing Obama lied and that Bush I did not, just broke a promise. Right or wrong about Bush I its a legitimate distinction.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              No it isn’t, because one can break a promise AND lie in the same sentence.

              Both Bush I and Obama broke a promise and lied (assuming of course that they both knew that what they said were untrue).

              • Ken B says:

                That you can do both does mean they are the same. You misunderstand science and you misunderstand law, but these are still different misunderstandings.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I didn’t say they were the same.

                I said one can break a promise and lie with the same statement.

                You misunderstand lies and you misunderstand breaking of promises, but that doesn’t mean that they are mutually exclusive activities.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      When you’re the signer of the legislation, you are the promiser of whatever that legislation entails.

  10. jb says:

    Based on my reading of Matt Y over the years, yes, he knew it was insane, but he didn’t particularly care, because he has admitted on several occasions that it is acceptable (and in fact, wise!) for politicians to lie to his or her constituents as required to get a bill passed.

    What I think MattY didn’t quite realize was the breadth and depth of anger and backlash the exposure of the lie would eventually reveal. And he didn’t realize or expect that backlash, because he had already internalized the idea that Obama was lying, and simply assumed everyone else knew that as well.

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