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You can keep your doctor? Uh, maybe.

Crossed fingersFor months now, President Obama has been insisting that Obamacare will not come between you and your doctor. He’s claimed over and over that if Obamacare passes and you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period. End of story. All claims to the contrary are malicious lies told by mean ol’ poopyheads.
Uh, except when he changes his mind.
Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius began retreating ever-so-subtly from that unequivocal language this weekend. Now it’s “highly likely” that you’ll keep your doctor. Watch from about the 5:55 point onward (ABC won’t allow me to embed the video here, so you’ll have to follow that link).
Here’s the transcript from ABC, with my emphasis added:

TAPPER: OK, I’ll — I’ll take that as a “yes” and then we’ll move on. The president often — and he did last night in Colorado — says to the American people that, if they like their doctor, they can keep their doctor. If they like their insurance plan, they can keep their insurance plan. But according to the Congressional Budget Office, if a public plan, if a public option is introduced, at least 2 million Americans will be switched by their employer from a private plan to the public plan.
Now, that doesn’t get into the whole issue of employers dropping health care coverage in general and all the people that will be added to the rolls, and I understand that. But how can the administration make the promise that if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, when CBO and other analysts estimate that some people will be switched from private to public?
SEBELIUS: Well, I think, Jake, if you — if you think about a marketplace option and new plans being created in Toledo, Ohio, or in California or in Florida, the network of doctors is likely to be pretty identical. A lot of plans exist in the same marketplace, and doctors are part of a variety of networks. So the idea that you would keep your own doctor is highly likely.

Was her characterization just a fluke? Before you answer, pay close attention to what President Obama says from about 46:50 onward in this town hall meeting on Saturday:

Here’s the transcript from the White House, with my emphasis added:

Now, what the opponents of a public option will argue is, you can’t have a level playing field; if government gets into the business of providing health insurance, they will drive private insurers out of the health insurance market. That’s the argument that’s made. (Applause.) And I — that is a legitimate, it’s a fair concern, especially if the public option was being subsidized by taxpayers, right? I mean, if they didn’t — if they could just keep on losing money and still stay in business, after a while they would run everybody else out. And that’s why any discussion of a public option has said that it’s got to pay for itself, it’s not subsidized by private insurers.
The only point I want to make about this is whether you’re for or against a public option, just understand that the public option is not a government takeover of health insurance. Everybody here who still has — who has currently private insurance, you would more than likely still be on your private insurance plan. Employers wouldn’t stop suddenly providing health insurance. So that is where this idea of government-run health care came from. It is not an accurate portrayal of the debate that’s going on in Washington right now. All right?

Were these just “slips of the tongue” from the Obama administration? Or were they a stealthy shift in language, much like the recent change from “health care reform” to “health insurance reform”?
Obama’s bunch does a good job of maintaining message discipline. I don’t think these two changes were accidental. Words mean things, folks. Pay close attention to see if this wishy-washy waffling continues.

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