Right-Wing Media Pick Up Health Insurance “Cancellation” Story NBC Has Walked Back

Right-wing media picked up a misleading NBC News report that claimed President Obama knew millions of Americans would receive “cancellation” letters terminating their health insurance -- a report NBC News later clarified by explaining many of the policies would be “replaced” and not canceled.

In an October 28 NBC News report, senior investigative reporter Lisa Myers claimed that “50 to 75 percent” of individual health insurance consumers “can expect to receive a 'cancellation' letter or the equivalent over the next year” because their existing policies do not meet Affordable Care Act standards. Right-wing media have used similar language to claim “thousands of people across the country receiving cancellation notices from their insurers.”  In a New York Post columnNational Review's Rich Lowry claimed “hundreds of thousands of people in states around the country are now receiving notices that their insurance is getting canceled.” Fox News' Charles Krauthammer described the issues with the discontinued policies as “almost a parody of the definition of a liberal.”

However, on the October 29 edition of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown, host Chuck Todd challenged Myers' description of policy letters sent to insurance consumers as policy replacements, not cancellation. Myers agreed:

TODD: NBC's senior investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, joins me now. OK, Lisa, so the White House is arguing that somehow what's going on, number one, the letters that people are getting are not cancellation notices, that they're notices to say your policy no longer meets standards, here's a new policy, but for some people it's coming with a premium hike. Is that right? 

MYERS: That's correct. Some of them actually use the word cancellation, others use the word termination or saying it's being replaced. But in both cases what you have are individuals who are not able to keep the policies they had, even if they want to. 

Myers was also forced to concede that insurance companies, not the Obama administration, determine whether an individual's policy would be “grandfathered” in and not changed under ACA.

This information is not new. It was widely reported in 2010 that the Obama administration acknowledged that “40 to 67 percent” of customers would likely not be “grandfathered” in if insurance policies were significantly changed by insurance companies. And as Wonkblog's Sarah Kliff has pointed out, insurance companies are required by law to tell customers whose policies are discontinued about other options the company offers.