I am not cheering as I write this column. The Presidency of Barack Obama is spiraling downward largely because of Obamacare and it is not clear to me that Mr. Obama can avoid a Presidential face plant.
Earlier this week Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius testified before a House committee about the ongoing disaster that is the Obamacare website.
She didn't know who was responsible or what went wrong any more than she could have pulled out a stack of code three feet high and walked the Committee Members through it line-by-line.
Republicans were ugly to her. Democrats tried to find some way to defend her. They were both wrong.
But, the Secretary's lack of knowing what had gone wrong actually paled before a pretty simple question asked by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo) as to whether she would join members of Congress and their staff in purchasing insurance on the federal insurance exchange, even though the law did not require her to.
As CNN reported on its website:
After consulting with Office of Health Reform Director Mike Hash, who was seated behind her, Sebelius responded that it would be "illegal" for her to join the exchange because she receives insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
That, it turns out, is true for employees of the Executive Branch, but that is not why she wouldn't be allowed to join Obamacare.
The reason is, she was born on May 15, 1948 making her 65 years, 5 months and 2 weeks old. That means she is eligible for, and required to join, Medicare.
Medicare recipients are not allowed to go into the exchanges under Obamacare. According USA Today, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website states:
Consistent with the longstanding prohibitions on the sale and issuance of duplicate coverage to Medicare beneficiaries (section 1882(d) of the Social Security Act), it is illegal to knowingly sell or issue a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) to a Medicare beneficiary.
Medicare is run by CMS. CMS is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Secretary of Health and Human Services is Kathleen Sebelius.
I would have been far more comfortable if she had known that as a Medicare recipient, Obamacare was not an option for her. Or if any of the crack HHS staff sitting behind her had known that.
On the other end of the Truth-or-Consequences scale is the President said during the sales job for Obamacare and continues to say that if you like your health care plan you can keep it.
According to the Washington Post, the exact quote was:
"If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."
This is, to put it mildly, a lie. Ok, maybe not a lie but an untruth. All right, not an untruth but a mis-lead.
The Post has a "fact check" that links to a YouTube video in which Obama is quoted no less than 23 times saying "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."
The Post ends its lengthy examination of the "If you like your plan …" statement with this:
The president's promise apparently came with a very large caveat: "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan - if we deem it to be adequate."
It is such an egregious lie, that the Post gave it its highest (or lowest) score for honesty: Four Pinocchios.
It is fair to ask why the national press corps, which is now hot on the trail of the "If you like your plan …" statement didn't notice the regulations issued by HHS (run by Kathleen Sebelius) that negated that promise, even as the President kept making it.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to fact checks of Sebelius' statement it was illegal for her to join Obamacare because she's a federal employee, to the WaPo fact check on "If you like your plan …," and to that fascinating YouTube compilation of Obama repeating and repeating and repeating his statement.
Also a really good Mullfoto by Mullpal Tom Sweet.