November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
11 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. Pens777

    WHYYYYYY.....do you have to rescue and soften President Obama's character defaults by citing past Presidential lies?

    What a shame in our society when he "news organization" swoops in like a disfunctional helicopter parent to rescue its child. You are clearly the codependent partner in your relationship with Barack Obama.

    November 5, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. Richard

    and the lies contineu

    November 5, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  3. valerie Paluszysnki

    What is clear on both sides is that we as consumers are simply regarded as unable to think for ourselves – we can't understand cancellations because policies are below ACA's standards and can't be trusted to shop in a more competitive marketplace, as soon as the bugs are worked out. Both sides seek political gain, of course, and no politician ever had to worry about being uninsured.

    November 5, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  4. smitvict

    "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. "
    .
    translation – lie exposed.

    November 5, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  5. Trevor

    Bringing in socialized health care care for a huge nation is a tough challenge and I have to give credit to Obama for trying it. Most politicians wouldn't want the problems that will come from supporting it. The hiccups of "you can keep your policy' are just the tip of the iceberg. Whether the U.S can join other nations with social health care remains to be seen. Give it 5 years.

    November 5, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. Rich

    and hopefully ensures a steady profit for the health insurance industry.
    This is the core problem herein the US. Health care insurance shouldn't be an "industry" too much greed and corruption for it to work. OK, I don't have anything to offer here but overall the health care insurance industry is what has driven our costs so high.

    November 5, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Joe

    "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"

    So it's Obama's fault that these fascist, criminal-run insurance companies are canceling peoples' plans?

    November 5, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  8. bear

    So with 1000 videotapes out there showing him saying "you can keep your health insurance, period", he believes he can now just flat out lie and say he said something else? There is something pathological about a guy who in the face of videotape still believes he can lie about what he said.

    November 5, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  9. Obama-does-care

    The new Affordable Health Care law should be "Obama-Doesn't-Care".

    Blame game time, from the party who brought you the Unaffordable Care Act.

    "We have to pass it, so we can find out what is in it."

    "You can keep your blankety, blankly, policy and doctor – read my lips."

    "Want to insure 30 million people, including illegal aliens, and watch 93 million others lose their insurance."

    "Those Republicans and Insurance Companies are to blame."

    "WE the government. ... now control 1 sixth of the economy, next we want to own it all."

    Progressive thinking, or just a bunch of BS?

    You decide.

    Signed, someone who lose their ability to keep their insurance policy.

    November 5, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  10. steve

    I saw some of the rates for "Obamacare", and talk about another blow to the economy! This law is going to take away what little "disposable" income most Americans had. Some things about the law are good and needed to be made, but to force people to buy something that they can hardly afford is blatantly wrong. This is an egregious law. If we did not have insurance through our employer, then we could not afford it. Furthermore, who is to say that employers will not drop insurance coverage for their employees? This looks like a disaster in the making. We needed healthcare reform, but more along the lines of Canada and Europe. Sure they pay higher taxes, but at least they are getting something for it. I have news for you fellow Americans. Our taxes will continue to go up, so why not get healthcare out of it.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. just wondering

    so Insurance companies could have grandfathered in there policies by changing them to meet ACA requirements.... But they canceled them.... God ole Trash Pugicon Businessman... Would never play politics would they...

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  12. Orwell

    All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  13. Billrich2

    Way to go cnn. You wouldn't dare let Disqus handle this one!!

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  14. getalife

    cnn is fox news so they get this:

    CNN Hits A Low

    Time to fire wolf and zucker.

    Horrible failures.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  15. jod

    Guys, the truth has "evolved." No big deal. 2+2=5, and Oceania is at war with Eastasia, always has been.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  16. glenview0818

    Strangely enough, Dems don't care. As long as he gives them all those fringe issues, there is little concern about politicians lying. Rep's seem far less tolerant of their candidates not fulfilling their promises. I understand the Dem's don't' like Rep's promises. However when a Rep candidate lies the constituency holds their feet to the fire. As long as the Dem's can have gay marriage they seem pretty happy with anything.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. Seeing-Eye Cat

    Old Chinese saying: Birds get their feel entangled by wires, Men get their words entangled by their tongues. First, it's the "hope and change" thing; then it's the "crossing the red line" thing; not it's the "you can keep your existing insurance" thing. Can hardly wait to hear what comes out next.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  18. Crazy Ole DC

    Our last real president was JFK who was murdered by the military industrial complex. Never again will we see a real president until we have either: 1. A civil war or 2. A revolution. A civil war would be the worst choice since it means the country is divided but we are almost already there. A revolution would be the way to go but people are too lazy to care in this country. So what do people like us do? We try to yell on comment boards on the internet where our voice means nothing. If we want real change we have to start by voting out the disease. If they have a D or R attached to their name, vote em out! They are ALL bought and puppeteer-ed by big money and that is what is corrupting the system. Get big money out of government and return to our historical modus operandi based on the constitution.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  19. Mark

    The word mincing reveals planned deceit. Of course, after two years, most–if not all–plans have been changed. Formularies and other aspects of these plans are updated every year, that is a well known fact.

    November 5, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. Sniffit

    Parade of RWNJ sockpuppets on here today eh? I rather preferred the Red Sox parade last Saturday

    November 5, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. danita

    Why do people keep crying about Bush? I can say bush spend time will the military including out bike riding with them... Maybe you should speak for yourself....

    November 5, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. Gunderson

    Humm,
    P.T. Barnum say, THERE'S A SUCKER BORN EVERY MINUTE. I wonder who he was talking about.

    November 5, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. Bob Raysound

    We should all have realized long ago that politicians tell the convenient truth which can dual as a wonderful sound byte. The bottom line is they have their own, fabulous health and pension plans and can't just don't care that much about ours because what happens never affects them. When their health and pensions are in the same boat as ours, we'll see some real reform. Until then, no matter what they say, it really ain't that way. Sorry, but that's the 'inconvenient truth' to borrow a phrase …

    November 5, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Phillip

    Lies, lies, lies. He said, "If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan. PERIOD. If you like your doctor, your can keep your doctor. PERIOD!"

    The use of the word, "PERIOD" after both statements, in every and ALL interpretations of the context, says there are ZERO caveats, zero exceptions, and zero disqualifiers to those statements. It means, "PERIOD!"

    Mr. Obama, you are offending the office of the President of the United States. Shame on you!

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  25. jdray

    The overriding point here is that the President blatantly and intentionally lied in order to win an election. He is neither the first nor will he be the last, but it is tiresome watching the spin.

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
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