November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
5 months ago

Obama further alters 'you can keep your plan' pledge

Updated 3:18 p.m. ET, 11/5/13

Washington (CNN) - President Obama continues to alter his signature promise in selling the Affordable Care Act back in 2009 and 2010.

"If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," he said back then.

But that simple pledge has had to change as the Affordable Care Act has been implemented and a small percentage of Americans, albeit millions of people, have received cancellation notices from their insurance companies. And for the second time in two weeks, he's tweaked the line.

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When President Obama spoke Monday night to a group of supporters, he said: "While virtually every insurer is offering new, better plans and competing for these folks' business, I realize that can be scary for people if you just get some notice like that."

"If you had or have one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really like that plan, what we said was, you could keep it if hasn't changed since the law's passed," added Obama.

"You're grandfathered in," although he again noted insurance companies had the power to change it themselves.

CNN White House Senior Correspondent Jim Acosta asked White House Spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday if the president could go back, would he "use the same words again" and promise Americans they could keep their plans?

"Well, the president, as awesomely powerful as the office is, can't go back in time," Carney said. "And what the president is focused on is what we are all focused on which is getting this right for the American people."

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"It is on us," Carney later added. "Let me be clear, I'm not – I am embracing the responsibility that the administration and that everyone involved in the market place has, to make sure that those individuals are getting the information that they need."

The President made his comments Monday in an address to Organizing for Action, the pro-Obama group formed from the President's 2012 re-election campaign.

Even though some people are getting kicked off existing plans, Obama has argued they're probably going to get a better deal.

"Now, insurers are offering these new options, and they don't just want to keep their current policyholders; they want to cover the uninsured, too," he told supporters.

"And because of the competition between insurers, and the new health care tax credits, most people will be able to buy better plans for the same price or even cheaper than what they've gotten before. Now, some Americans with higher incomes will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and better protections that could eventually help them a lot, even if right now they'd rather be paying less."

He made similar points at a health care event in Boston last Wednesday.

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The new line is a far cry from the shorter, bumper sticker ready pledge he made as he sought to calm nerves that health insurance reform would not ruin plans that Americans liked and were comfortable with even though many of those plans didn't cover things like prescription drugs, hospital stays or maternity care.

It wasn't a one off back in 2009 and 2010 and even later during his 2012 re-election campaign. New York Magazine put together a montage of the very many iterations of it.

But it turns out the president didn't have the power to make that pledge. As insurance companies upgrade plans to comply with new Obamacare coverage rules, they are dropping plans for potentially millions of Americans who buy their insurance on the individual health insurance market.

Insurance companies appear to be doing this for a variety of reasons; some are pulling all their plans from certain states where they have fewer subscribers in order to save money, others seem to be.

Insurers send cancellation notices

Back in 2009, as a White House correspondent for ABC, CNN's Jake Tapper challenged the president on his promise. And even back then, there appeared to be an asterisk.

"Well, no, no, I mean – when I say if you have your plan and you like it and your doctor has a plan, or you have a doctor and you like your doctor that you don't have to change plans, what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform," Obama replied.

Ah ... the government is not going to make you change plans. Though the government might impose a situation that would cause a change of plans. So the promise was never quite as presented. And yet the president kept presenting it that way.

But that caveat didn't make it into the subsequent campaign speeches that featured the line.

The cancellations will not affect most Americans, but they could hurt public support for the law. Just 17% of Americans said they'll be better off under the law, but 41% said it won't have much of an effect on them, according to a CNN/ORC International poll conducted in late September, just before the HealthCare.gov website went live. At that time four in ten said they would be worse off under the law.

Those numbers are similar to a Gallup poll conducted just over a week ago, in which 36% of Americans said they didn't think that in the long run the Affordable Care Act would make much of a difference to their family's health care situation. Just over a third said the health care law would make matters worse, and one in four said that Obamacare would make things better.

Rollout of the exchange websites that are supposed to allow Americans without insurance to shop from a selection of plans side-by-side has been troubled, to say the least. The website has been plagued by glitches, crashes, and is currently the subject of a Congressional investigation.

Frustration with the law and the changes it causes in the health insurance landscape could be temporary growing pains as Americans get used to the reforms. But the frustration is likely to outlast problems with the website as Americans focus more on the cost of plans offered under Obamacare and on the choices available.

CNN reported Monday on notes from an Obama administration "war room" meeting where officials expressed concern that once Americans had access to more information about the plans available, they might experience sticker shock.

An architect of the Affordable Care Act, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer recently that most Americans will benefit from the law as it stabilizes the insurance market, fosters competition and guarantees coverage for almost all Americans.

Most Americans get insurance from either the government or their employer and won't be affected much by the law, he said.

"About 5 to 6 percent get it on their and some of them will pay more, the young and health and not poor will pay more to get their health insurance. It's a lot of people, but its small relative to the people who are going to gain and very small relative to the people who aren't affected," added Gruber.

But he also ceded that there will be winners and losers as the law is implemented. Some people will pay more and be forced to change their insurance. That's a small percentage of the country, but a large number of people.

"Very very few people have to pay more and not get better insurance. That's a very small fraction," said Gruber. "Most of the people who will have to pay more will get better insurance than what they had before."

–CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: Health care • Obamacare • President Obama
soundoff (1,879 Responses)
  1. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    I reread the republican health care plan again today, all zero pages of it. I noticed it says nothing about eliminating lifetime caps,providing insurance for those with pre existing conditions, allowing students to stay on parents plan, helping those who are poor to have health care, etc.

    November 5, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  2. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    Contrary to RWNJ theory, the Holy Bible was not written by Ayn Rand. Read Luke, the 20th chapter instead.

    November 5, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  3. Anonymous

    You say refine, the rest of us say change his story since he got caught in a lie. In CNN speak, it's a subtle distinction.

    November 5, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. Sanchy

    It's funny how he has to do some more lying to cover up his original lie. I just got my cancellation letter, now I have to go into the more expensive exchange plans where I now get mental health and maternity coverage.. neither of which I want but have to pay up the wazoo for.

    November 5, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. Dr_Dr_Please

    So in other words – he lied to everyone. Period !

    November 5, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. steve

    I still don't understand that a law that was written to help 15% of the population, hurts 5% of the population and that is considered a success by this administration. And that 5% is only the number of private purchased insurance. When the employee mandate kicks in, how many people will that hurt? Also how many people are having higher costs for premiums because of this law? I would argue in the end when history is written, that more people will lose insurance than the people who will gain it. This is just a sad day for America.

    November 5, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  7. notsofast10

    It is amazing that Obama seems to be the only one that won't admit that ACA is a wreck. Blind!

    November 5, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  8. Fair is Fair

    Looks like he's "evolving" again...

    November 5, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  9. Mr.HowdyDoody

    Ahh, so here we go, Obama revising his own history. "I never said that! Oh you have it on tape from several events? It's George Bush's fault."

    November 5, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  10. DARNELL

    obama lied like he always does

    November 5, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  11. DK

    Wire – you don't have to worry about the poor. They will always have free healthcare. Actually, free everything. Our old system could've been tweaked. Instead everything is turned upside down for the benefit of a few when in actuality, what really needs to happen is costs need to be controlled and illegal immigration needs to be enforced. Especially since they used the emergency room as their doctors office with the old plan and they will continue since they are exempt from Obamacare.

    November 5, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. Tumek

    It took this to open the eyes of many people to see Obama for what he really is – a liar.

    November 5, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  13. Zeke

    No matter what the double talk is now by Obama, he misled the American people with his agenda of maximizing signups to Obama care. In addition, it is going to affect more than 14 million people which is a large amount of people that the liberals say are minor. It may affect 40-50 million or more. Obama is headed for oblivion because he will not accept blame for this ongoing fiasco.

    November 5, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. Gurgyl

    No one lied. It is quite normal when new law kicks in these cancellations occur. When you go to Healthcare-Exchange–insurers will drag to have your business–they need your dollar to stay in business. Yes, ACA is a Law. The end.

    November 5, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  15. Steve

    The mother said to the child, "Don't pull that cat's tail." The child replied, "I'm just holding on, the cat's doing the pulling." You see, most things said are just how we heard it, not how it was meant.

    November 5, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  16. Fair is Fair

    steve

    I still don't understand that a law that was written to help 15% of the population, hurts 5% of the population and that is considered a success by this administration. And that 5% is only the number of private purchased insurance. When the employee mandate kicks in, how many people will that hurt? Also how many people are having higher costs for premiums because of this law? I would argue in the end when history is written, that more people will lose insurance than the people who will gain it. This is just a sad day for America.
    --------
    Well stated. I believe your observations, especially with the "unintended consequences" of the employer mandate, will prove out to be absolutely correct.

    November 5, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  17. StealyDan

    @Wire Palladin, S.F.

    Nice try with shifting attention away from the accountability President Obama needs to own up to regarding his lies to the American people.

    November 5, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  18. disanitnodicos

    Cool, we can now go back and edit the words we said over and over several months ago. This is a new ability under Obama, and I like it!

    November 5, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  19. Tumek

    Obama is such a pathological liar that he's actually lying about his lie! Incredible!

    November 5, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  20. ann

    He probably didn't know that he was telling a lie since nobody informed him. Who exactly is in charge if he isn't?

    November 5, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  21. rs

    The ONLY thing that mitigates the ability of someone keeping their current plan is the insurance company- as it has always been. If they drop the plan, change the pricing or coverage, that has nothing to do with the government- it has everything to do with the company and the products they wish to put out for the public.
    The sad thing is the GOP (the theoretical "Party of Business") knows this, but, once again, they want to play their petty political games.

    Meanwhile- it is worth remembering after all the "negotiating" with the GOP on the ACA, this is what the GOP approved- then didn't vote for it. The ACA is now law, and the GOP has failed to offer up an alternative, or any specific fixes. In fact, they chose instead to shut down the government, and threaten a fiscal holocaust. They ARE NOT honorable players here.

    November 5, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  22. Robert

    The republicans did present a plan, but the democrats did not read it or take any of the ideas into consideration. Sorry you have never been informed of this before, but the media you follow is all in for Obama and only now are they taking time to point out the flaws and the lies, too late to do anything about the election or this disaster that is in no way affordable to those that actually have to pay the bill.

    November 5, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  23. Dan Beres

    It's about time CNN explores Mr. Obama's "misspoken" rants. While these were not bold face lies, the statements are Nixonian in nature. But our President never knows anything and usually finds out when we do. Thank goodness he gets the morning newspaper delivered or he would be blind to Administration errors such as Benghazi, IRS-T-Party,F&F, and NSA. We need less golfing and more awareness from the man.

    November 5, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  24. hank

    Biggest Presidential liar since Nixon

    November 5, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  25. SSSS

    If you believe a word out of this mans mouth at this point you are beyond hope. please don't vote anymore.

    November 5, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
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