Byron York

One striking thing about the new White House Obamacare promotion campaign is that so far it hasn't had much to say about the central focus of Obamacare, which is helping Americans buy affordable health insurance.

Look at the cases President Obama has highlighted. There are young people who say they have benefited from being allowed to stay on their parents' health policies until age 26. There are people suffering from serious illnesses who say they are thankful there will no longer be lifetime caps on insurance benefits. There are stories of people with pre-existing conditions who will be able to purchase coverage.

Obama's pitch for those features of his national health care scheme is one he could have made -- and did make -- a year, or two years, or three years ago. Indeed, in the years after Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010, the president and his Democratic allies often stressed the same topics they're stressing now.

The difference, of course, is that the Obamacare exchanges now exist, and Americans have just days to go before a Dec. 23 deadline to purchase coverage that will begin on Jan. 1, 2014. And while tens of millions of people are being affected, many negatively, by the changes in insurance markets brought on by Obamacare, the benefits the administration often cites involve far smaller groups of people.

Take the issue of pre-existing conditions. Beginning a recent press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney said the White House particularly wants to highlight "the Affordable Care Act's protections for consumers with pre-existing conditions." A short time earlier, Carney claimed that "up to 129 million Americans who have a pre-existing condition for which they could have been denied coverage or charged more up to now are protected, because denying them coverage is prohibited beginning in 2014."

The White House's numbers are vastly overstated. In 2010, Rep. Henry Waxman and other Democrats then in control of the House Energy and Commerce Committee tried to determine how many people had been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. They did not come up with a definitive number, but they found that in the previous two years, the nation's four largest for-profit health insurance companies had denied coverage to 651,000 people based on pre-existing conditions.


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner