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. Toomuch

    "what we said was, you could keep it if hasn't changed since the law's passed."

    But all plans had to change under the new law because they were not in compliance. This defacto makes keeping your old plan if you like a myth.

    He lied to get this passed, he is lying now that it was passed.. Liar in Chief....

    November 5, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. Rocket Fan

    Deception at it's finest ... We've been taken for a ride smh. As some say, appearance and reality are opposite with these liars.
    I can't believe I voted for this guy

    November 5, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. John Tater

    As far as Obamacare is concerned, you can keep your plan. If the insurance companies choose not to offer it anymore, Obamacare isn't going to make them offer it.

    November 5, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "The only health care reform plan from Republicans was released in June 2009, which was before the rise of the Tea Party. It can be found as a blog post on Rep. Boehner's official web site."

    I beg to differ, Rudy. That blog post is merely a collection of statements that constitute nothing more than vague goals anyone would agree with ("bring costs down") and ideological platitudes as to how to achieve them ("using free market principles"). It contains nothing specific, detailed or descriptive that could even arguably be characterized as a workable organizational structure or operational systems that would achieve any of it. Calling it a "plan" is a gross misnomer. It's just propaganda.

    November 5, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  5. KLARGAR

    To all the right wing dirtbags read the article a small percentage (go to the website) 1/2 of 1% will lose their plan as it stands .Much ado about nothing go crawl back into your cesspools where you belong.

    November 5, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. Abe Vigoda

    He's a liar... why does this surprise anyone? They all have to lie... Hillary and Obama pretending to hate one another...shameful! They knew each other in Chicago. Plotting, planning... all a game!

    November 5, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. JOhn

    Republicans told you this was going to happen but no one who voted Obama listened. Media portrays the right as the villains and old white guys who want to take throw grandma off the cliff. Republicans just want less government control, more capitalism and self independence. This unfortunately is not going to work for everyone because we have a lot of bums and lazy people in this country but for those of us who are motivated, understand what it means to work hard pave your own way – this is the path to success. Get the government out of our lives and start with revoking this 35,000 page LIE that the President forced on the people...

    November 5, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. kevin

    People haven't replaced their plans yet so why all the premature fuss?

    So really what Obama meant was, "If you like your plan you can keep your plan. But you might wind up with a cheaper plan with better coverage."

    November 5, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  9. Jackie L

    Once a liar, always a liar

    November 5, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. Cave Johnson

    @ wire palladin

    I reread the constitution all couple of pages of it. I did not see a portion that entitled Americans to handouts or subsidies. Why is it you feel the Republicans need to have an alternative health care plan, are you entitled? Government is not like working at McDonalds or Walmart, just because they aren't making new laws like a production line does not mean they aren't doing their job. Not passing laws is equally as important as passing them, with every law passed a freedom is revoked, pass enough laws and we will no longer be free.

    November 5, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  11. Toomuch

    The same thing is join to happen to Corporate Plans. This is why he delayed the Corporate Mandate...

    Get ready... Prices are going up and Companies will have their Health Care plans canceled.

    November 5, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  12. SeanZ

    Obama ................. Benghazi, IRS Scandal, NSA Spying, Phone Tapping, Fast and Furious, Solyndra........ But he knew nothing about any of it, ..... HMMM.... he is worried about his Legacy, ... A legacy of a man , a Community Organizer, who was not qualified to be President. A Administration of .... "I Don't Know.", "I will have to get back to you.".... of Lies. And the media swooned over him, never getting the real stories, that will be his legacy.

    November 5, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. ernie

    If you voted for him and his lies, i hope you are happy. This is what you wanted.... I can only pray it can fix itself before everyone looses everything. He has lied about everything and you bought it all... like a bunch of sheep. What scares me even more... What DONT we know about. What else has he done that is going to pop up years down the road. From now on, please be educated about who you vote for and make sure they are worthy, not as secreative as this one.

    November 5, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  14. sm5574

    "Read my lips: No new health care plans!"

    November 5, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. more lies

    for 3 years. obama sais "if you like your plan you can keep it". now it's "if you like your plan you can keep it if nothing changes. lies. all lies. the feds knew all along that millions would lose their current plans. but they failed to mention that. they LIED. IRS documents from 2010 showed that they knew millions would lose current plans...

    November 5, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  16. jrzydvl

    Rudy, why do you callout the Republicans ? If you think ACA is good, and you don't beleive Americans were decived, say so. Don't point a finger. This isnot about the Repubs. Its about the POTUS, his lgeacy and how he got what he wanted. If you support him, put on your big boy pants and get behind him. I feel there is plenty of room. When the employer mandate hits, we get to do this all again. Hopefully by then, we will have some accountable, honest, ethical leaders. But I am doubtful either party can field one. Lets minimize the damage

    November 5, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. Slexs

    Remember when Nancy Pelosi said :
    "We have to pass it, to find out what’s in it”
    :
    "That's the definition of a stool sample".

    That pretty well sums it up.

    November 5, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. james

    If you only knew the power of the dark side. Join me and we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy. DARTH VADER

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. Wallster

    I understand the frustration with this situation but isn't the insurance company just a little at fault here? I've managed our business insurance program for the past six years and every year the premiums and the deductibles have increased. The prices are so high (particularly for their family plans) that they're not affordable. Insurance companies created this chaos when they chose their existing condition loopholes to end coverage when customers actually needed their services. If Washington legislators were more focused on helping middle class Americans rather than playing partisan games, I'm sure they could have come up with a simpler solution than the ACA. Single payer, State run exchanges, regulations for insurance companies (they are exempt from anti-trust laws), etc. All these things could have saved the US millions of dollars and produced better results. Just based on American pride alone, we shouldn't accept that we pay more for healthcare (with poor results) compared to many other Countries. It's time our legislators started working for us rather than the campaign financiers who control their decisions.

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  20. Anonymous

    He wouldn't know the truth if it kicked him in the butt! His Oath of Office was lie too! HE isn't defending us, he is destroying us. AND WE LET HIM! IMPEACH, IMPEAH, IMPEACH

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  21. OsBAMA

    WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! RIDING THESE LOOPHOLES IS SOO FUN!!!!!!! WEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  22. cristian

    Unbelivable that with all these screwups that Obama excels at, there are people out there who keep on trying to fault everybody else but him. They are still blaming Bush...Really??? How long has Bush been out of the office? Get a life or crawl back under the rock u came from.

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  23. JackBriss

    The man is an outright Liar, and should be impeached.

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  24. icecreamjones

    you Liberals got exactly what you voted for and now deserve what you asked for....Your typical car salesman pitch and promised you a load of garbage and you still think he is a great president...

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  25. GPB

    Just watched Wolf Blitzer explain Obama's "lies". I wonder if he is on the White House payroll. If this had been any other politician, or at least a Republican, he would not have taken the time to minimize Obama's outright lies. Look at what is being said by the people defending Obama on the healthcare lies. They redirect the issue of his lies to defend what is happening with the healthcare law. That healthcare plans changed all the time and they would be gone anyhow. That's not the issue liberals. He freaking lied and that is so typical of this administration and he needs to be called out on the lying part not Obamacare. He either knew and lied or he didn't and it proves he is disconnected, not hands on, and is incompetent.
    You can't defend him Blitzer, just report on the news, quit injecting your opinion!

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
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