Fact-checking Nancy Pelosi on 'Meet the Press'
President Barack Obama and Democratic supporters of the health care law took another beating on the Sunday news shows, with hosts across the dial criticizing the president’s rhetoric as well as the law’s troubled rollout.
ABC’s This Week declared "Presidency in Crisis," while NBC’s Meet the Press called it the "Obamacare ‘fumble’."
"It may be the lowest moment of his presidency," Meet the Press host David Gregory said to open his show.
Panelists debated whether Obama’s fix -- to allow insurance companies to reissue health care plans that were supposed to be canceled -- will amount to a fix at all. They singled out Democrats who appear to be jumping ship ahead of the 2014 midterm elections. And they again zeroed in on Obama’s suffering poll numbers.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi defended Obama and his signature health care law in an interview on Meet the Press, saying that the law is working in states that opted to open their own insurance marketplaces and that insurance companies are the ones opting to cancel policies for potentially millions of Americans.
"The law does not demand that all of these cancellations go out," Pelosi said. "The laws says if you had your plan before the enactment of the law, you can keep it. And that's what the president said. So there's a distinction between those who had it before."
That claim, however, hinges on a technicality. PolitiFact rates it Mostly False.
It is technically correct that the insurer pulls the plug on a plan, but that’s because of the law and its regulations. Sooner or later, old-fashioned plans will inevitably pass into oblivion -- as the law intended.
The Affordable Care Act sets standards for the services pretty much every plan must cover. There are 10 "essential health benefits" and the list includes emergency services, maternity care and mental health care.
If policyholders bought plans before Obama signed his reform into law on March 23, 2010, they’re considered "grandfathered."
But it doesn’t take much for a plan to lose its grandfathered status. A hike in a co-pay of $5 plus the rate of medical inflation could tip a plan over the edge.
"Insurance companies cannot continue to sell individual policies that don’t meet the requirements of the essential benefit package, either to individuals or to small businesses, as of Jan. 1," said Gail Wilensky, the head of Medicare and Medicaid under President George H.W. Bush. "But since the insurance companies are not allowed to continue to sell these plans that the person previously had bought and may have liked, they are effectively being forced to change their plan."
Pelosi clearly was the biggest interview of the day, and she and Gregory sparred over politics and policy. Gregory declared that Democrats are in "revolt" and noted that 39 House Democrats voted last week for a GOP proposal that would allow insurance companies to not only renew canceled policies but sell them to new customers.
Pelosi argued that the vote totals shouldn’t be a surprise and that a minority of Democrats have supported other GOP efforts to amend or soften parts of the health care law.
"I remind you that 39 voted for this resolution the other day, the number has been in the 30s when it was to agree with them on the mandate for businesses, the mandate for individuals ... so this is approximately the same number."
Pelosi isolated two votes on two measures: one to delay the health care law’s employer mandate, and another to delay the individual mandate. Her point was that about the same number of Democrats that voted with Republicans last week voted with Republicans in the past.
That’s partially accurate.
On July 17, the House took two votes. One, to delay the employer mandate businesses, passed 264-161, with 35 Democratic yeas. The second, to delay the individual mandate for all Americans passed 251-174, with only 22 Democrats joining the Republican majority.
So while Pelosi is close on the employer mandate, she’s off by a significant margin when considering the vote on delaying the individual mandate.
Times staff writers Jon Greenberg and Katie Sanders contributed to this report. Read the full fact-checks at PolitiFact.com.