The PJ Tatler

Washington Post's Sarah Kliff Says Sebelius 'Not Quite Right' to Claim She Can't Buy Insurance on Obamacare Exchange

Sarah Kliff is the WaPo Wonkblog reporter who claimed she avoided covering the grisly Gosnell abortion trial because it was a “local crime story,” yet she tweeted Valentines when a local politician pointlessly filibustered Texas’ abortion law. Related subjects, same scribe, very different treatments.

That in mind, read this Kliff note and weed out the equivocation.

There was a weird exchange right at the end of Health and Human Services Secretary Sebeilus’s hearing, over whether she would purchase health insurance coverage through the exchange. Sebelius made the case this would be illegal because she receives coverage from her job, running the largest government agency.

This was a red flag for many health policy wonks, who know that the vast majority of Americans are allowed to buy coverage through the marketplace, as long as they are legal residents and not incarcerated. Sebelius presumably fits both of these criteria.

I dropped a note to Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington & Lee University, and arguably the one human being on this entire planet who knows the Affordable Care Act the very best. He’s pretty convinced that, if she wanted to, Sebelius could sign up for marketplace coverage. It would be a pretty crummy financial deal — she would forgo robust employer and Medicare coverage to pay her own way — but it would be legal.

“She could purchase a plan on an exchange since she is lawfully present in the U.S. and not incarcerated,” Jost e-mailed.

I suppose we should be happy that Kliff bothered to write about such a local story. It was just one “weird” moment in an uncomfortable hearing in Washington, after all.

Kliff should have ended the piece with Jost’s clear ruling, but she goes on to note how foolish it would be for Sebelius to reject her lavish federal coverage to buy insurance on the exchanges.

Thanks, but that wasn’t the question. The exchange was “weird” only because Sebelius claimed something that most observers immediately knew wasn’t true. The question was, can Sebelius legally buy insurance on the exchange? Sebelius claimed before the American people that it would not be legal for her to do that, when a Republican asked her if she would join the exchange that her law is forcing millions of Americans to join. Sebelius was entirely wrong. She either lied or doesn’t even know the basics on the law she is charged with implementing. “Not quite right” is not even close to true.