November 11, 2013

There is nothing to focus the presidential mind like finding out that your Gallup approval rating has dropped below George W. Bush’s in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. So little wonder that after spending weeks denying he had promised Americans they could keep their health plans, President Obama finally said the words “I’m sorry.”

But let’s be clear: He didn’t really apologize.

Look closely at what Obama actually said: He did not apologize for misleading the American people. And he did not apologize for people losing the plans he promised they could keep. He apologized that they can’t get into Obamacare.

Big difference.

Obama said, “I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.” Well, what situation is that, Mr. President? The situation that they can’t access the Obamacare exchanges. The president went on to say, “Keep in mind that most of the folks who got these cancellation letters, they’ll be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper in these new marketplaces. . . . The majority of folks will end up being better off, of course. Because the Web site’s not working right, they don’t necessarily know it.”

So if you’re one of the 4.8 million people (and counting) who’ve lost their health insurance, congratulations! President Obama thinks you’re better off — you just don’t know it yet.

The problem, in Obama’s telling, isn’t that Americans can’t keep the plans they like — the plans he promised they could keep. The problem is that because the Healthcare.gov Web site does not work, they just can’t see how much better Obamacare really is.

His non-apology apology is revealing, because it underscores what his administration’s 2010 regulations proved — that his plan all along was to forced millions of Americans out of the individual market and into Obamacare. He needs those people in the exchanges because most of them are healthy and don’t use a lot of services — and he needs them to join Obamacare so they can subsidize the poor and the sick. His plan all along was to force a seamless, involuntary transfer of millions out of the individual market into the exchanges.

But the White House did not anticipate that the Web site would fail. That’s what the president is “sorry” about. He’s not sorry you lost your plan. He’s not sorry he lied. He’s sorry you can’t get Obamacare.

Now Obama faces a disaster of his own making: Millions of Americans are losing their insurance on Jan. 1 and can’t get or afford replacement coverage. So in his interview, Obama hinted at a proposed “solution” — taxpayer-funded premium subsidies for people who are losing their insurance.

Sorry, Mr. President, but premium subsidies won’t fix this mess. For one thing, premium subsidies don’t help if your deductible is doubling. And premium subsidies won’t help if you are losing your doctor. Remember, Obama’s promise wasn’t just that you could keep your plan — it was that you could keep your doctor. Well a taxpayer subsidy isn’t going to bring your doctor back.

And even if those problems could be overcome, why should taxpayers get stuck with the bill for Obama’s dishonesty? Millions who were happy with their insurance, and happy to pay for it on their own, are now losing those plans because of Obamacare. They now face huge premium increases they cannot afford, because Obamacare mandates coverage for all sorts of things they don’t want or need, such as maternity care, pediatric care and substance abuse services.

And Obama’s ingenious solution is more taxpayer subsidies? Already, in the Obamacare exchanges lower-income people were going to get premium subsidies to pay for coverage they don’t want or need. Now middle-income people are going to get premium subsidies to pay for coverage they don’t want or need? Pure genius.

So millions of Americans get to lose the plans they liked, and lose the doctors they liked — and taxpayers will lose their shirt on top of it all.

In his interview, the president declared that when he said Americans could keep their plans, “I meant what I said.” No he didn’t. He didn’t say, “Yes, you’ll lose your plan, but we’ll give you a better one.” He didn’t say, “You can keep your plan so long as it is not sub-par.” He said, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Period.”

Obama didn’t apologize. And he didn’t offer a workable solution to the mess he created. Until he does both, he’s not going to recover the trust of the American people.

Read more from Marc Thiessen’s archive, follow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.