Best of the Web Today

ObamaCare Apologetics

A lie, dissociative disorder or what?



James Taranto


October 29, 2013

In “Mere Christianity,” C.S. Lewis answered non-Christians who espoused the “foolish” view that Jesus was “a great moral teacher” but not the Son of God. He posited with is known as Lewis’s trilemma:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Lewis of course accepted that Jesus was a great moral teacher, which he reasoned was incompatible with being either a lunatic or a liar. Ipso facto, “however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

At least Jesus never told the Pharisees that if they liked their policies they could keep them.

NBC News notes that in 2009 President Obama promised that under his then-proposed “reform,” “”if you like your health plan, you will be able to keep your health plan.” He sounded the same theme during his re-election campaign last year: “If [you] already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance.”

Millions of Americans are now learning that wasn’t true, as they receive notices that their insurance companies are cancelling plans that are not as “generous” as ObamaCare requires. We use scare quotes because of course insurance companies (even nonprofit ones) are not charities. They’re selling a product, not handing out alms, and if they have to provide more coverage, they have to charge for it.

Under ObamaCare they usually have to charge more for the same or less coverage, too, since insurers are now required to underwrite price-controlled policies for higher-risk clients. The Los Angeles Times yesterday published a quote that sums the matter up nicely: “I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,” an unidentified young woman wrote to her insurance company after it informed her it was jacking up her rates by half.

NBC reports that the Department of Health and Human Services, in writing regulations to implement ObamaCare, maximized the number of people who’d lose their policies:

The law states that policies in effect as of March 23, 2010 will be “grandfathered,” meaning consumers can keep those policies even though they don’t meet requirements of the new health care law. But the Department of Health and Human Services then wrote regulations that narrowed that provision, by saying that if any part of a policy was significantly changed since that date–the deductible, co-pay, or benefits, for example–the policy would not be grandfathered.

Buried in Obamacare regulations from July 2010 is an estimate that because of normal turnover in the individual insurance market, “40 to 67 percent” of customers will not be able to keep their policy. And because many policies will have been changed since the key date, “the percentage of individual market policies losing grandfather status in a given year exceeds the 40 to 67 percent range.”

The actual figure could be as high as 80%, “sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act” tell the network.

So the administration knew full well in 2010 that Obama’s promise was a false one. Yet he was still making it in 2012. The White House website still declares: “If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law.” Most astonishingly, Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett was still making it yesterday, when she tweeted: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”

The latter sentence is true if you construe it with a Clintonian literalism. In every case in which “change is required,” it is also true that “insurance companies change existing plans.” But the former sentence is a brazen falsehood. Insurance companies are changing existing plans because ObamaCare forces them to.

Marilyn Tavenner is no C.S. Lewis.

Associated Press

National Journal reports that in testimony today before the House Ways and Means Committee, Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (known as CMS and the agency that gave us that brilliant Web launch), “defended President Obama’s repeated claim that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep it.’ ”

“Half of the people in the individual market prior to 2010 didn’t stay on their policies,” Tavenner explained. “They were either kicked off for pre-existing conditions, they saw their premiums go up at least 20 percent a year, and there were no protections for them. And sometimes they were in plans that they thought were fine until they actually needed to hospitalization, and they found out it didn’t cover hospitalization or it didn’t cover cancer.” The report adds that Tavenner “maintained that premium increases were occurring long before Obamacare.”

Tavenner’s (obviously nonsensical) implication is that because ObamaCare didn’t cause all rate increases and policy cancellations, it didn’t cause any of them. It is actually more reasonable to count all post-ObamaCare cancellations, even those that didn’t result from changes in the law, against the president, whose promise that “you can keep it” was unqualified.

She added that “what I would tell [individuals] is if their carrier is telling them they’re changing the plan and they’re offering an increase . . . they would need to go take a look at what’s available in their state and in their market, which is certainly something that’s available to them through the exchange.” And wait till you see the awesome website they’ve got.

National Review Online quotes House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who admits Democrats knew Obama’s claim was false, then explains: “I don’t think the message was wrong. I think the message was accurate. It was not precise enough. . . . [It] should have been caveated with–‘assuming you have a policy that in fact does do what the bill is designed to do.’ ”

Best of the Web Today columnist James Taranto on The White House’s admittance that health care plans won’t be unaffected by ObamaCare. Photo: Getty Images

It was caveated just fine, claims Jay Carney the White House press secretary. “What the president said and what everybody said all along is that there are going to be changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act to create minimum standards of coverage, minimum services that every insurance plan has to provide,” NBC quotes him as saying. “So it’s true that there are existing health-care plans on the individual market that don’t meet those minimum standards and therefore do not qualify for the Affordable Care Act.”

We don’t remember the president’s saying that, but it’s possible that he did. The (stipulated) fact that Obama said something true does not change the fact that he repeatedly and memorably said something untrue.

That’s why in our view Lewis’s trilemma is based on a false-choice fallacy. If we stipulate that someone was a great moral teacher–that he had profound insights and the charisma and skills to propagate them–that does not preclude either of the other possibilities: that some of the things he said were deliberately deceptive, or that he was some sort of mad genius, some of whose thoughts were brilliant and others delusional.

As for the president, the possibilities are only two: Either he was lying and knew better, at least by 2012, when he said if you like your plan you can keep it, or he suffers from a dissociative disorder, a pathological disconnection with reality. It’s been years since anyone said Obama was the Son of God.

The Secret Atheist?
The unwieldily named Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, “senior religion editor” of the Puffington Host, criticizes a pair of atheists for thinking that President Obama is one of them:

First, Bill Maher professed his belief that Pope Francis is ‘secretly an atheist’, then [Richard] Dawkins responded by saying : “Like many people, I’m sure that [President Barack] Obama is an atheist.”

While not shouting it from the mountain tops, Obama has consistently professed his Christian faith, goes to church, and even welcomed daily scripture reflections sent to him via email by Joshua Dubois who has recently published a collection of those in a book entitled The President’s Devotional.

Raushenbush also criticizes Oprah Winfrey for refusing to accept Diana Nyad’s description of herself as an atheist. Winfrey told Nyad: “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, then that is what God is. That is what God is. It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

Raushenbush writes:

In both cases, Oprah and Dawkins/Maher are being simultaneously arrogant and complimentary. Arrogant, in that they assume that anyone who has a similar world view as they do is secretly “one of them”; and complimentary, in that they are saying I admire you enough to claim you for my own belief system.

What we can learn from these two vivid examples is that we all have the right to decide how to identify ourselves in terms of religion or lack thereof. It is not for others to affix their identity upon us, or strip ours from us.

Now these are actually three different cases. Winfrey’s comment was in response to a mystical rumination by Nyad, which ended: “So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.” It’s reasonable to regard that as not fully consistent with the “atheist” label.

The idea that Pope Francis is secretly an atheist is too silly to take seriously. But the idea that President Obama is secretly a nonbeliever (we’d say agnostic) is one that this columnist regards as plausible. We are generally not “complimentary” toward this president, little or none of whose worldview we share. But we fail to see what is particularly “arrogant” about doubting a politician’s religious sincerity.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas