LOS ANGELES, November 8, 2013—President Barack Obama sat down on Thursday with his go-to news guy, MSNBC’s F. Chuck Todd, to discuss Obamacare and foreign policy. Todd began by asking about the fallout from 2 million people (and counting) receiving insurance cancellation letters, even though the President made the promise over 29 times that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”
“Even though it’s a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them,” Obama told Todd.
“And it’s scary to them,” he continued. “And I am sorry that they — you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”
Most of the media is reporting this as an “apology”. Actually, the President’s statements fall into the category of what Australian skills coach and author Joshua Uebergang calls a non-apology Apology.
“A non-apology apology is a comment that we feel compelled to say to please the offended person.”
Those 2 million and counting who had their policies cancelled are more than offended, they are downright angry. ProPublica reported on Lee Hammack and his wife, JoEllen Brothers, “cradle Democrats” and Obama supporters who were excited about the Affordable Care Act—until they received their cancellation notice:
“We’re not changing our views because of this situation, but it hurt to hear Obama saying, just the other day, that if our plan has been dropped it’s because it wasn’t any good, and our costs would go up only slightly,” Hammack said. “We’re gratified that the press is on the case, but frustrated that the stewards of the ACA don’t seem to have heard.”
Another smart citizen decided to mount a Facebook, Twitter, and webpage called “My Cancellation,” and is encouraging people who have received cancellation letters from their insurance providers to take pictures and post them to any of the sites. The response has been tremendous, with new photos appearing daily, if not several times a day.
However, the most heart wrenching and damning victim story to date has been Edie Littlefield Sundby of southern California. Sundby is a seven-year survivor of stage-4 gallbladder cancer. The survival rate for this type of cancer is less than 2 percent in five years, and Sundby credits good luck, blessing, and her incredible medical team with beating the odds.
That will change now that her insurer has cancelled her policy and replaced it with a policy that not only limits the doctors she can see, but disallows her from seeing her current oncologist at the prestigious Stanford University Medical Center in northern California.
Sundby wrote in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal, “My choice is to get coverage through the government health exchange and lose access to my cancer doctors, or pay much more for insurance outside the exchange (the quotes average 40% to 50% more) for the privilege of starting over with an unfamiliar insurance company and impaired benefits.”
Obama and his spokeshold Jay Carney tried to blame the insurance companies for this, saying that the policies were junk anyway, and that once Healthcare.gov was fully up and running, they would be able to find better offerings. That went over like a lead balloon.
The administration then decided to blame the victim. Carney called Sundby’s account “sensational”, and Dan Pfeiffer, the President’s senior adviser for strategy and communication (rightly) subjected himself to much scorn when he tweeted a ThinkProgress article “The Real Reason that the Cancer Patient writing in today’s Wall Street Journal lost her Insurance”.
Pfeiffer is apparently not working too hard to live up to his title.
In an effort to get ahead of the narrative (too late), Obama did the one thing at which he is proven effective: he decided to talk. Yet this talk which supposedly included an apology did not express any accountability for lying over 29 times, the current mess those lies are producing, nor did he offer any real solutions to fix it.
If you actually listened to the President’s words, he kept emphasizing the “only 5 percent”, or “a small percentage” of the population that are receiving cancellation notices. By his consistent usage of “only” and “small”, Obama delegitimizes the anger and concern of the people whose policies have been cancelled.
The President continued, “Keep in mind that most of the folks who are gonna—who got these cancellation letters, they’ll be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper in these new marketplaces. Because they’ll have more choice. They’ll have more competition. They’re part of a bigger pool. Insurance companies are gonna be hungry for their business. So—the majority of folks will end up being better off, of course, because the website’s not workin’ right. They don’t necessarily know it right now.”
From my reading of the comments on the news reports, blogs, and articles covering this topic, every individual who has received a cancellation letter can lay out in detail what their original plan was and how it benefitted them, and how the “new and improved” Obamacare plan will give them less coverage, but will cost them twice as much money. The President continues to patronize the legitimate outrage of citizens who are losing what was of value to them for the sake of supposedly “fixing” a broken insurance marketplace.
Even the journalists who are covering the story use terms like “complicated” and “confusing”, when talking about insurance, as though people who pay their hard-earned money to insure themselves and their families do not know or understand the workings. This is condescension at its worse.
Joshua Uebergang plainly lays out the real reason for the non-apology: “We use non-apology apologies to take the heat off ourselves to keep the offended person quiet. It puts the onus on those we upset by implying the victim has [done] something wrong.”
The President is in New Orleans today to talk about exports and jobs. Apparently he feels his non-apology apology is enough. He desperately wants to move to the next thing, and is doing so by changing the subject—or so he thinks.
From social media, particularly the #ObamaisSorry Twitter hashtag, you get a clear indication that many Americans are not going to let him. Smokey @SmokeEater1978 tweeted, “#ObamaIsSorry you were too stupid to understand what he was saying.” and @MyCancellation “$100/month increase overnight due to #ObamaCare for Bradley, a healthy 27 year old. But… #ObamaIsSorry.”
The American people would be happy if the President just stopped talking at all, and actually fulfilled his promise of “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”
If the President does “truly regret” the “misunderstanding”, then he should stick to the words he used to sell the public on this, and allow Congress to change the Affordable Care Act so that insurers can restore the policies that Sundby and others are relying upon for their very life and health.
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