November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
1 year 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. Paula Moscatelli

    This is and will be a huge mess. I know it is important to have health coverage, but these plans are not affordable. If I were to sign up my premium would be 25% of my take home check.

    November 5, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  2. Crazy Ole DC

    You'd think these insurance companies cancelling policies would try to do something to retain that business. You'd think instead of sending out cancellation notices they would send out information about their legal insurance plans and get those people signed up. Maybe they are doing this to send a message to Washington that they don't like the law because afterall it puts them in check. But if I owned an insurance company I would try to retain as many customers as possible instead of sending out cancellation notices.

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. Mark

    Baby I lied.

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  4. oreo

    I do not believe one word that comes out of this huckster.

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  5. TexasR

    I have group health in a company of 100+. I received a notice from Aetna in yesterday's mail that our policy doesn't comply with the ACA. It didn't say why. I wonder what my employer will be able to choose for us this time around. We all liked our current policy, and we thought we heard what the President said. Is it possible he was less than truthful?

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  6. bryan

    who's running this place. why are we letting this man cut our thoat. do you feel everythings ok in the goverment we would have fried nixon, or clinton for this behavior

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  7. To Sad

    When is enough going to be enough. He won't take questions that aren't planned. Just once I what him to answer a question that is not planned. And speak the truth. Not what he wants us to hear.

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  8. bibleverse1

    I remember when the republicans tries to reform the healthcare system to be better for all US citizens.

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. Paul Bruno

    This is all bogus. Of course he lied, politicians lie. The real issue is, what business is it of the government to get involved into what kind of insurance or lack thereof we have. None. Stay out of our affairs, we the American people want to be free to choose what is best for us and for our families. You (U.S Government) are an intrusion on the American way of life, which supposed to be based on freedom of choice at the discretion of no one. You want another money grab, this is all about money, more revenue for the federal government. You can careless about our health, if you did, you would ban GMO crops. You will fail, and we will have our country back.

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. Bob C.

    It's not lying, it's incompetence. We got a lot of that from W., Bush Sr., Carter, and Ford as well. So it should be easy for us to recognize it by now. But when anything is observed through the political spectrum, incompetence looks like lying even when it isn't.

    Clinton and Nixon did outright lie, and I'm pretty sure Reagan did too (he's at least incompetent).

    I could keep going back and classifying former Presidents as either incompetent or liars, but I don't have the time. It seems to be a job requirement.

    November 5, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. coastlinecascot

    According to this article..its the fault of the insurance companies? what? so if Nissan sells a stripped down model for $10,000. Now is required by the government to sell the same car with leather and navigation for for the same price, instead they decide to cancel selling that car. How is it their fault?

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. bob

    if you like your PLAN you can keep it. the people who are being booted off of "plans" didnt really have plans. those were not covering anything. they were worthless wastes of money, not health care plans. thats why it sounds like a misstatement... but it isnt. its a market correction for outright fraud.

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  13. Jerry

    Isn't Obama the "lyingest" president in the history of América?! This Liar-in-Chief has absolutely NO respect for the Américan populace. The worst part is that HIS spiked Kool Aid drinkers and other minions will swallow HIS line, hook and sinker.

    Hypocrisy like never been seen in América before!!! Will this MAN ever demonstrate any respect for the Américan people?!

    Let's NOT hold our collective breath; it will be real dangerous for our collective health!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  14. Tina

    Obama lies again.

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  15. steven harnack

    How did this suddenly become a "pledge"? Now it's all Obama's fault that insurance corporations are trying to sabotage the program? Maybe it's time to use the Stalin Method on a few insurance executives to make the rest of them a little more receptive? Everyone jumps on Obama while the people behind the problems gloat and chuckle.

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. Chyenne

    "This is just another "IS as IS was or IS as IS will be" moment. Politicians lie to get what they want because they believe they know better than the American people." That's why we don't have "One person, one vote" and the electoral college. It's why we have public education, because most parents can't teach their own children. That's why we don't have non-gasoline cars, because the politicians think we are better off with gasoline. People get so focused on one or two things that they pay no attention to what is actually going on around them. Did you and vote today? I did.

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. Robb Stock

    The bottom line is that any universal health reform will require a raise in premiums for the healthy/young/employed in order to support the 15% worse case scenarios, no matter whose plan it is. This is just a clumsy roll out, but ultimately, it's unavoidable. If society wants to make sure everybody is covered, then it must pay the cost.

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. John Wayne

    Oh you mean he lied? Gasp!? Why is this such a suprise by this secretive administration and his cabinet of cronies?

    Welcome to Sociliasm 101 and this is just the start where people pay into another system and get no benefit from it.

    Keep lying to yourself that this is for the good of everyone. If it's so good why doesn't Congress and thier immediate families to the Presdient sign on?

    If it's soog good why weren't they the first ones to sign on? Lead by example

    November 5, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. Jose4USA

    Lessons learned, let's vote for politicians that at least "likes" American Citizens, and doesn't want to makes us live like miserable Socialist/Communists(except themselves-they live like Capitalists). Admittedly, I voted for the first black DemoCRAP in 2008 (I got caught up in the emotionalism of "judging him by the color of his skin, not his character"), yet, do to his constant excuse of "Blame Bush", I did get smarter and DID not voted for him in 2012 (Are we missing Romney yet?). The only defense we have is to not vote for DemoCRAPS again. I don't like Republicans, but since it is the only way to make these DemoCRAPS pay, let's fire ALL the DemoCRAPS pendejos putas FOREVER! "and that's all I have to say about that"-Forest Gump.

    November 5, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. Simon Gilchrest

    This is not breaking news. All this invalid criticism heaped on the president is just preposterous and CNN is buying into it. This isn't a lie, this isn't incompetence, this is a group of people intentionally misunderstanding what the man said, so they can be outraged about it. Nobody every thought that if you had an insurance plan, that somehow the government would force private insurance companies to continue to offer a service they weren't making money on.

    November 5, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  21. Lynn

    I'm young and in good health , I don't need health insurance . That being said , check out my YouTube video of me shooting off fireworks out of my rear end !

    November 5, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. Hogarth

    There are more winners than losers under Obamacare. The people who oppose it fall into two groups – they either hate it because they hate the President, or they hate it because it's going to cost them some money. But the goal – increasing quality healthcare coverage for Americans – will be met.
    This President has flaws. All men have flaws. But what he is trying to achieve is worth doing.

    November 5, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. Chris Wyman

    Obamacare proves that having government run healthcare is ridiculous. Obama is a ridiculous person and no one should be taking anything this guy says seriously moving forward.

    November 5, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. Russ

    This is coming from a person that has lied to us from his first day of his campaign. He back pedals so much that his main gear is reverse. I'm not surprised that we have become the laughing stock of the world .

    November 5, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  25. bryan

    blame the rothchilds

    November 5, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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