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November 13, 2013 10:11 AM What Should Democrats Have Promised About Obamacare?

By Ed Kilgore

With everyone pretty much agreeing that the president shouldn’t have said people who liked their existing insurance policies could keep them under the Affordable Care Act, what should he have said? After all, at some point he and other defenders of the Act are going to need to come up with a characterization of its effects that is being confirmed rather than confounded by actual experience.

Here’s a shot:

1) You’ll be able to buy health insurance, no matter what, and it’ll be insurance that won’t bankrupt you or abandon you when you are sick.

2) For people on Medicare, nothing will change, except that we will begin looking at how well the care provided under Medicare actually promotes health, and reflects the best available medicine.

3) For most people who get health insurance through your employers, nothing will change, either, unless your current insurance is really bad, in which case it will have to be upgraded, or you’ll be given a real opportunity to buy your own.

4) For people who do buy health insurance directly from insurance companies, nobody will be forced out of their current plans by the Affordable Care Act. Since insurance companies rarely offer the same plans twice anyway, new plans will have to provide basic coverage. And insurance companies in the habit of cutting and running when you get sick will be stopped from doing that. For the first time, middle-class people will get direct help in paying insurance premiums. More poor people will qualify for Medicaid, and those who don’t will get help with their out-of-pocket expenses.

5) The bottom line is that for the first time all Americans will have the chance to obtain the insurance most people have, and all Americans will be protected from common insurance company abuses.

Is there a “lie” in there? I don’t think so. Would using that rap, instead of the misleading promise that’s causing so much trouble now, have materially affected the politics of the Affordable Care Act? I don’t see why, since we’re talking about a tiny portion of the population that’s in the “non-group” insurance market to begin with, most of when are not actually thrilled with their situation.

No, it’s not a quick sound bite, but in can be conveyed in a 30-second ad. And while I’m sure it’s not ideal, I hope someone in the administration is working hard on an alternative. The best way out of a miscommunication, whether it’s deliberate or accidental, is to start communicating the truth as clearly as is possible.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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