From Psychology Today in January:
I’m Sorry: 3 Components of an Effective Apology
Apologizing is often considered an ethical obligation, a responsibility, or simply the right thing to do. But we have gotten so accustomed to hearing, and giving, perfunctory apologies born out of a sense of obligation, or simply covering our a**, that it has dulled our collective sense of the meaning of an apology.
Apologies that hold their power and value require at least three things:
1) a clear statement of the offending action,
2) an expression of genuine empathy for those aggrieved, and
3) a deep and honest understanding of the needs/motivations for acting in the offending manner. Without these three components the power of our apologies will decline and their currency will become devalued.
Let’s test Barack Obama’s supposed “apology” for Obamacare’s arbitrary termination of millions of individual plans (with more having already occurred among small employer groups and even more coming from among those covered by employer-sponsored plans) against Psych Today’s three components, plus an all-important fourth to be seen later.
1) a clear statement of the offending action:
Well — first of all, I meant what I said. And we worked hard to try to make sure that we implemented it properly. But obviously, we didn’t do enough — a good enough job — and I regret that. We’re talking about 5% of the population — who are in what’s called the individual market . They’re out there buyin’ health insurance on their own.
A lot of these plans are subpar plans. And we put in a clause in the law that said if you had one of those plans, even if it was subpar — when the law was passed, you could keep it. But there’s enough churn in the market that folks since then have bought subpar plans. And now that may be all they can afford. So even though it only affects a small amount of the population, you know, it means a lot to them, obviously, when they get — this letter cancelled.
Assessment: Not clear at all. In fact, it’s dishonest —
- It understates the degree of the problem (it is NOT just the individual market).
- “I regret” is not the same as “I’m sorry.” (more on thar later)
- He is still clinging to the “subpar plans” mantra, when the Obamacare plans often, and perhaps mostly, have higher cost, less coverage, or both, than the plans which terminated.
- The reason for the terminations has far less to do with “churn” than it does with Kathleen Sebelius’s restrictive regs and even in some cases (e.g., California) Obamacare exchanges demanding that carriers who wish to participate cancel policies which otherwise would have survived the grandfathering restrictions.
2) an expression of genuine empathy for those aggrieved:
… the majority of folks will end up being better off, of course, because the website ‘s not workin’ right. They don’t necessarily know it right. But it — even though it’s a small percentage of folks who may be disadvantaged, you know, it means a lot to them. And it’s scary to them. And I am sorry that they — you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me. We’ve got to work hard to make sure that — they know — we hear ‘em and that we’re gonna do everything we can — to deal with folks who find themselves — in a tough position as a consequence of this.
Assessment: little if any empathy, accompanied by more dishonesty —
- It is not at all clear that the “majority of folks will be better off” — unless you decide to exclude from the evaluation people who are faced with five-figure annual premium increases who decide to go without insurance. In that case, sure, most of those who remain will be people who get subsidies and will likely be better off. So that’s how you claim victory, by throwing thousands, hundreds of thousands, or conceivably millions of people out of the insurance system entirely?
- “Small percentage” tells the people affected that they’re really not that important.
- “Scary” tells the people affected that they’re ignorant and maybe just don’t have “the information that they need.”
- He says he’s sorry, but see Point 4.
3) a deep and honest understanding of the needs/motivations for acting in the offending manner:
CHUCK TODD, NBC: … Clarence Page , your hometown newspaper, The Chicago Tribune , this is not — not White House. He’s been pretty supportive of what you said. He characterized this as a political lie.
BARACK OBAMA: … No, I — I think we, in good faith, have been trying to take on a health care system that has been broken for a very long time. And what we’ve been trying to do is to change it in the least disruptive way possible.
… We tried to find — a proven model. We’ve seen it work in Massachusetts. That would be as — as undisruptive as possible. And in good faith, tried to write the law in such a way that people could keep their care. Although we really believe that ultimately, they’re gonna be better off when they’re buying health care through the marketplaces. They can — access tax credits. And they’re benefiting from more choice and competition.
Assessment: Complete horse manure —
- There was no “good faith.” Policy people in the White House knew that Obama’s guarantee — let’s make it clear, it was an ironclad guarantee — did not square with the legislation. Their concerns were overruled by the White House’s political hacks, who insisted that the message must be “simple,” even if obviously untrue.
- There is less choice. It’s the Obamacare exchange or nothing, starting on January 1, 2014.
- There is less competition (i.e., fewer carrier and fewer available plans.
- - As to Massachusetts, after five years of Romneycare, Massachusetts still has the most expensive health care in the nation.
Finally, there’s a fourth element Psych Today missed — a genuine intention to make things right and follow through to ensure that things are made right.
Assessment: It’s not there. This is as close as Obama gets —
But obviously, we didn’t do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law. And, you know, that’s somethin’ that I regret. That’s somethin’ that we’re gonna do everything we can to get fixed.
There is no specific promise to do anything to help people whose policies have been cancelled. Edie Sundby and Bill Elliott, both of whom inarguably lost their existing coverage because of Obamacare — it’s too bad, so sad for you.
Barack Obama gets an “F” on all four key apology elements. … Period.
UPDATE, Nov. 11: Allahpundit at Hot Air — “He’s not sorry at all that people’s plans are being canceled.” Bingo.