How Obama Explains Health Care: Football, Online Purchasing, and Cars

During a press conference Thursday, the president leaned heavily on metaphors to make his point.

National Journal

The Affordable Care Act adds up to about 10,000 pages, has been riddled with technical glitches, and people are receiving cancellation notices for their existing health care plans. Yes, the issue is complicated.

So, what's one way to ease the confusion? Well, if you're President Obama, you could mix in a few comparisons or metaphors.

During a press conference on Thursday, the president announced his administration would allow consumers to keep their existing, outdated health care plans through 2014, providing an easier transition period. Obama apologized for the mix-up and for the stumbled rollout of the health care law.

To explain, the president leaned on three main comparisons: football, online purchasing, and cars.

First, football. The president, an avid sports fan, said on several occasions that he and his administration "fumbled," even calling himself the captain of the team.

And, you know, that's on me. I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law.

And you know, I am very frustrated, but I'm also somebody who, if I fumble the ball, you know, I'm going to wait until I get the next play, and then I'm going to try to run as hard as I can and do right by the team. So, you know, ultimately I'm the head of this team. We did fumble the ball on it. And what I'm going to do is make sure that we get it fixed.

So again, you know, these are two fumbles on something that — on a big game which — but the game's not over.

Did that help explain things? No? OK, how about online purchasing? is a complicated website that experienced some difficult glitches. It's not as easy to use, as say, Amazon.

You know, I'm accused of a lot of things, but I don't think I'm stupid enough to go around saying, this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity, a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn't going to work.

And you know, buying health insurance is never going to be like buying a song on iTunes. You know, it's just a much more complicated transaction.

Get it? Still confused? Fine, here's another comparison: cars. We all love cars. But remember when they didn't have seat belts? Well, that's like health care plans without protections for preexisting conditions.

We made a decision as a society that every car has to have a seat belt or air bags. And so you pass a regulation. And there's some additional cost, particularly at the start, of increasing the safety and protections, but we make a decision as a society that the costs are outweighed by the benefits of all the lives that are saved. So what we're saying now is if you're buying a new car, you got to have a seat belt. Well, the problem with the grandfather clause that we put in place is it's almost like we said to folks, you got to buy a new car, even if you can't afford it right now. And sooner or later folks are going to start trading in their old cars.

That cleared things up.

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