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Address the big lie

Published November 04. 2013 4:00AM

President Obama needs to offer an explanation and apology for the big lie. Or should it be the big oversimplification? Doesn't much matter, same difference.

"And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you," President Obama told a crowd in Portland, Maine, in April 2010. He repeated the contention often.

Hasn't turned out that way. And, according to a Washington Post "fact checker" analysis, the administration had to know the president's pledge would go unfilled. They recently gave the president's assertion "four Pinocchios," its worst rating, reserved for a "whopper" of a political lie.

What would have been true is the president explaining that, with few exceptions, those Americans with employer or government plans - about 80 percent of the insured - would keep their insurance policies.

For the estimated 19 million people with individual insurance coverage, the story is different. To keep the costs down, many of these individual plans do not include the "essential benefits" now mandated by the Affordable Care Act. These include treatment for mental health and substance use disorders; rehabilitative services; laboratory services; and maternity and newborn care.

Now many of the policy holders - the magnitude remains unclear but could be huge - are learning their bare-bones plans are being canceled and the alternatives, with all the mandated trimmings, will be far more expensive.

Exacerbating the situation is the continued problems with the health exchanges, making it difficult for these individuals to figure out what alternatives they have. Some will qualify for Medicaid coverage under the new ACA income rules, but that won't help the millions living in states where, for obstinate political reasons, conservative leaders have refused to expand Medicaid programs.

While this provides an opportunity for Republicans to give President Obama a well-deserved roasting and score political points, what the nation and these folks really need are solutions. Congress and the White House should figure out a way to keep these individuals in their insurance plans if they so choose, or make the alternative plans more affordable.

The problem is that such a solution would require amending the Affordable Care Act and Republicans only want to keep talking about repealing it.

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