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. livingston

    If a private company decided that it was going to stop selling a product rather then bring it into compliance because it was no longer legal to sell 'as is', how is that anyone's fault but theirs? If you bought a car and they no longer sell that model because it doesn't run properly, do you get upset because you really like that model and it was cheap? Maybe it was so cheap because it didn't run. It's the same with insurance. If it doesn't cover you when you need it or drops you when you use it then it is useless. At any price. That is just common sense. To be mad at the President because you are no longer allowed to buy a clunker of a policy that has below required minimum coverage is just silly. If you want to get mad – then get mad at the insurance company that sold you garbage for all that time and now admits it was garbage by not bringing into compliance..

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  2. TiredofSilly1

    The man tells a lie every time he opens his mouth. Why is everyone acting surprised that he lied about his dirty little health care plan? Anyone with a brain knew it was going to be a disaster and that everything he said about it was a lie. Just tell him and his whole corrupt administration to shut up!

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  3. Michael, Chapel Hill.

    A Presidency built on LIES.

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. Cher

    calling all media outlets to call it what it is.... Lies, Lies, Lies President Lied Period!

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. Joe

    Typical of Socialists and Progressive Liberals, he lied. Because he knew if people were aware of all the "facts" they never would have supported such a flawed plan. Just another step toward changing our country to be a totalitarian socialist state.

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  6. Sniffit

    "This could cause a revolution and I am not kidding"

    LOL. Try it. Dare ya.

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. SV

    If Obama is guilty of anything it's underestimating the slimy nature of insurance companies and the hatred from the right wing who had ample opportunity to inject something positive into overhauling healthcare, yet didn't. I'd love to see CNN feature the good stories; like how I'm going to be able to throw off the corporate yoke. But that's something corporations are scared of; losing a tool to keep employees happy. They'll have to spend $ and think of new ways to keep the rabble in line.

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. stoytashaan

    Read my lips, no new...uh...er...I mean, if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. bob

    My company recently received the pink slip for our current health insurance plan. Now we're all left in the dark until Jan 1 as to how much it's going to cost. I might have to change jobs because I can't afford higher premiums. I voted for this clown! Lies and empty promises.

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  10. bryan

    united we stand , divided we fall

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. ShoogaJ

    I still cannot understand how American's thought the ACA would not cost them a fortune. It should have been simple economics...If you force Insurance Companies to expand the scope of coverage they must provide, then that cost is going to be passed back onto the consumer. And if I knew this, you can bet they knew this. It is just another sad example of Politicians lying. And it does not matter which party you root for. They all lie. And we all pay.

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Remember the 5th of NOVEMBER. Today is the MILLION MASK MARCH. MARCH if you are upset with your leaders!

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  13. Sniffit

    "The only health care reform plan from Republicans was released in June 2009"

    That's not a plan. 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 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  14. Liberal Nighmare

    0bama has but one god. The same god that instructed him in his rise to power.

    "Never admit to a lie or to having been wrong about something." (Saul Alinsky)

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  15. Simeon

    Insurance companies are dropping patients, is that the president's fault????? The insirance companies do what's in their best interest always before obama care or after. Please be more critical than this...

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  16. WEX

    LIAR LIAR LIAR pants on fire! He won the re-election on the biggest lie ever, and now all those that were duped into voting for the liar-n-cheif based on more false promises.

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

    I don't take sides, but it seems like the GOP had it right all along while people were defending it as the law of the land.
    It does no good to blindly support whichever side you signed up for, because neither has all the answers. Think for yourself and challenge each side to compromise with each other.

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. ugh

    "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,"

    Was untrue from the beginning for every American who had insurance through an employer plan. Your employer makes the call on whether you keep the plan. Don't like your employers plan? Let the gouging begin!

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. steven harnack

    Nothing else brings the Foxbots to CNN like a headline blaming Obama for something. Tell me folks, how many of those cancellation letters have Obama's signature on the bottom? You all just blithely accept the insurance corporation line that they couldn't just add coverage to existing policies ,my drug plan provider does it several times every year, adding things that they now cover or stopping coverage on other things. But then it is so much easier to simply blame Obama, you don't have to even spend a moment of thought. What a sad bunch of lemmings!

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. Ross

    But yet you liberals and democrats still think he is the messiah. When will you learn. Probably when it is too late. Open your eyes and see this guy for what he is...the destroyer of America. And if you think I am exaggerating, just look what he has done so far. The devil is in the details. In this case, the devil is in the Oval Office.

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  21. ikenelson

    Oh I get it. He didn't "lie". He "retroactively refined his promise".

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. Ivana Tinkle

    That is just shocking. I cannot believe anyone would have lied about this.

    November 5, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. Eileen

    Wow...so many people w/health insurance coverage bitching & complaining. Makes me ill. I wish I could be as lucky as you and have coverage through an employer....or have coverage at all!

    The President does not control what the insurance companies do! They are the ones to blame if you get dropped or your plan prices change. SMH at the idiots who just want someone to place blame on.

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. nick

    what a joke!!; in private sector this is a crime.

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. alcia

    America; You have been SCAMMED! Shame on YOU CNN!

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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