November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
9 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. Kimo

    What is hurting the country is not so much the ACA roll out; but the deception used to get it passed. The deception is causing a distrust in government regarding anything that is said or proposed in DC. The lack of trust in government caused by the half truths and failure to assume responsibility by the administration for anything is destroying the country.

    November 5, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  2. Sean

    I love the idiots that blame the insurance companies. REALLY? The big, bad insurance company is to blame, not our beloved, honest Government. They would never do anything like this to us. Get a grip folks. If you're already not used to the banana up the tail pipe gag, then you might want to get out from under that rock you've been under since the 50's.

    November 5, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  3. HUH?

    ConcernedCitizenVoter
    So in people’s minds when Obama said “If you like your plan, you can keep it” what they assumed he meant was “We are taking government control of private insurers and forcing them to keep your plan at your rate forever and they can never change it” when the ACA clearly does not say that anywhere. Now, I understand a lot of ignorant people and fear-mongers want the world to believe that’s what the ACA does, but shouldn’t those same people who are also against the ACA be happy that it’s not true? Why are they getting mad that it’s not doing some imaginary thing they didn’t want to begin with??

    What he clearly meant, and anyone who bothered to take time to understand what the ACA does, is this: if you like your plan, the ACA does not force you to give it up! Simple as that. However, Private insurers can, and always have been able to, change your plan or cancel your policy any time they want.

    It’s so annoying when people get mad at someone else for their own ignorance.

    You have some pretty big kahunas calling me and the rest of America ignorant when it is obvious the sham wow president deceived in order to be reelected. Had the inept and incompetent liar bothered to tell the truth he would have never been reelected even by the ignorant uneducated that supported him.

    November 5, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. Barb

    You can keep your current healthcare plan if that's what you want to do. You can't have both plan and simple. If you are being forced from your current plan its not because of Obama its either your employer or the insurance carrier. I am so sick of people misrepresenting what this healthcare plan is about. If it was so awful there would not be so many uninsured people signing up for it, how about we get those peoples thoughts. I have my own insurance and its not Obamacare and I am not being forced to take it. Why shouldn't all Americans have healthcare !

    November 5, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. tom l

    @The Real TP
    "No one has died as a result of having to change to a policy that meets a basic standard of coverage, but plenty died in Iraq over a lie. I guess our soldiers being killed for a lie was acceptable, but being moved to new policies is: what is more outrageous is that people may have to sacrifice some time away from watching "Honey Boo-boo" in order to do so. Wow, what a sacrifice."

    So....you're admitting that Obama lied. It's ok. You can do it.

    November 5, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. Dale

    The "Affordable Care Act" is and always has been prefaced under the wrong notion; that society can demand a private insurance company to take irresponsible risks by requiring that it enter into a contract in which the contractor willingly and knowingly accepts a deal in which the contractor will be financial burdened, a scenario developed by requiring said contractor to insure individuals with pre-existing conditions. Underwriting an insurance plan in which it is a certainty that the insured will take out far more than they put into the system should be prefaced as a social program: not insurance! That is not the definition of insurance.

    November 5, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  7. Joshua

    Yep, we are loosing our insurance. Thanks Obama. The new plan for our family is double what it was before Obamacare.

    November 5, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  8. bryan

    it just doesn't seem right

    November 5, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  9. Natalie

    Where's Pelosi, still reading it!

    November 5, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  10. 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. That blog post on Boehner's site is merely a collection of statements that constitute nothing more than vague goals everyone 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 remotely be characterized as a proposed organizational structure or operational systems that would achieve anything. Calling it a "plan" is a gross misnomer. The word you were looking for was "propaganda."

    November 5, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  11. JLW

    Keith – do a little homework please! Those so called 'greedy' insurance companies are being FORCED to cancel these plans because of Obamacare – plain and simple. Like it or not, there are now ten 'essential' components to all insurance plans and if the prior plan didn't have all of those, well, that particular plan HAD to be cancelled to follow the law....you know, the 'law of the land' as Obama has touted it.
    I can tell you as a cancer survivor myself, I would be LIVID if I all of a sudden found myself in a situation where my doctors were no longer 'in network' or the hospital/facility that I was used to getting treatment from was no longer an option. For me, I was only in treatment a very short time and have been done now for years but still have followups. I certainly wouldn't want to have to start with someone else, even if it was only for checkups. No two ways about it...call it what you want.....Obama was either stupid, thought everyone else was so incredibly stupid that they wouldn't care if their plan was cancelled or he just plain lied. Either way.....BIG BIG mistake Obama.

    November 5, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. anonymous

    then who is the bigger idiot. the president for being a "liar"? (which we already knew he was). or you for voting for him twice while knowing that

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. JIM

    As I sit here doing my nice safe secure office job why do I have to pay the same for insurance as a sky diving instructor or some stupid kid jumping off buildings for kicks

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. Peg

    Well it's about time the liberal press stop treating this man like the second coming and start treating him like he really is – a clueless, Socialist liar!

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. The Brutal Truth

    Translation: I lied.

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Redfish

    It's not over. The talking point seems to be that "it's just a small percentage of people". That is people as in human beings. OK, we've got more Medicaid coverage and subsidies for a whole bunch of humans. Watch when the other shoe drops and the employer mandate kicks in next year. There will be a large percentage of people with cancelled or significantly revised plans that they did not ask for. Guess that's what happens when you pass a bill that nobody has read and then pile 30,000 pages of rules/regulations on top of it.

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  17. ttran

    Mr Obama is a very good used car sale person. He is a very good LIE.
    HOW ARE YOU SLEEPING AT NIGHT MR president?

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. David Gabriel

    A president lies? – Wait, that's standard leader operator procedure.

    Move along.

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  19. Patsy

    You can keep your health ins plan... But not the pretend plan??? Not the plan that rips you off..GEEZ I like getting ripped off by Republicans.. NOW.. we see why they fight so hard to keep these crooked plans..They fight so hard to cheat Americans..

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. RobertC

    I am older, had a vasectomy my wife has gone through menopause. We are now forced to buy insurance that will cover maternity care and delivery. We had a plan that did not cover these but due to Obamacare that plan had to be canceled because it did not include those 2 requirements. As a result the cost has gone up for us, so please tell me again how it is the insurance companies fault that they had to cancel our plan because of obamas law.

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. Poochie

    When did CNN start turning into Fox? Ratings that bad?
    What's next, a story on FEMA camps?

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  22. katincal

    Boo, hiss, major FAIL!

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. Individual-thinker

    Honestly, what did everyone expect, when Pelosi said "You have to pass it, to see what's in it." Hello, was that not a RED FLAG to anyone? That entire administration does not care one instance about anyone or this country at all. They lied continually, had not passed a single budget since this Man (Can't bring myself to call him "President"), and now, backtracking his lie. And the kicker is media like MSNBC still will not hold this guy responsible. All he ever says is "I was not aware of it....I just learned about it on the news." Please,if this man held any type of entry level job at any company, his level of incompetence would have gotten him fired a long time ago. Yet, he is still the "Commander-in-Chief"

    November 5, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  24. God

    "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."

    SO its obamas fault insurance companies are getting greedy rather than working on customer service, which most have no experience in because your company would just give you insurance. Now we can go and shop for the best deals for us its capitalism, its open market competition everything we ever wanted in america right repubs, no socialistic ideas like everyone being forced to take the plan their work gives them.

    November 5, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  25. midas360

    He's a dishonest person and finally the american people caught him.

    November 5, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
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