November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
10 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. Sam

    Plain and simple, he is a liar!

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  2. MrsFudd

    Obama CHANGED his promise? In every day language, that means he LIED. Good Lord, CNN – don't you have the gonads to print the truth about this empty suit? Obama is the worst president this country has ever seen, and you idiots still won't call him on the carpet. No wonder your TV news shows are in the dumper, and Fox News has the highest ratings.

    I gave Obama every chance. I pray for this man daily. But he is becoming more and more evil with each passing day. I am beginning to think that those so called conspiracy theorists who said Obama wants to destroy this country are really on to something. Our country is in shambles, and it's all because of the Obama administration and his policies. Obama makes Nixon look like a saint. He should be impeached for all the illegal, immoral and unethical things he has done while president. It turns my stomach.

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  3. John

    This man will go down as one of the worst President we have had in many many years. He makes Jimmy Carter look exceptional. Weigh every work he says. He has no conviction for nor does he care about the welfare of the American people. The USA is beginning to remind us of the socialist/communist country of Venezuela. WAKE UP AMERICA.

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. Great Snowman

    What the author of this piece failed to include was the president's repeated use of the word "Period" as in "..if you like you plan, you can keep it.. PERIOD" He said it time and time again and never a hint of a qualifier. He had been spoiled by the media, including CNN, giving him free reign to say whatever came to his mind and never questioning him. Now he has been caught in a lie that is too big for anyone to excuse. George Bush never got the break Obama has been awarded. Every day we hear of another thousand, or more , policies being cancelled because they do not qualify by the ACA. Imagine that, a 60 year old man whose policy did not have prenatal coverage..

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  5. glenview0818

    If you like your economy you can keep it. If you like your government artificially propping up the stock market with your tax dollars, you can keep that as well.

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  6. D

    It is interesting the CNN says, he changed his promise instead of he lied to the American public.

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  7. Lardeau

    More gobble dee goop !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What happened to old fashioned simplicity ? These guys could mess up making a grilled cheese sandwich or corn flakes with milk. Go in competition with the big insurers and UNDERCUT their fees. Meanwhile set the lower limit for free coverage at a certain income level. Take a look at the Medical plans we enjoy in Canada.

    November 5, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  8. Hewston

    Obama and his adminstration knew millions would be forced off their insurance – the ACA requirements were written that way on purpose!! Now millions will pay more for insurance – NOT LESS – like he promised plus their deductibles will be much higher. Doctors and hospitals are dropping out of the exchanges all over. THIS BLATANT LIE WILL DEVASTATE OUR ECONOMY. This will boil over and Democrats, Unions and liberal groups – the ones who railroaded this travesty – will pay for this.

    This whole Whitehouse administration is the most corrupt, deceitful, lying administration in history.

    November 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  9. RomneyWho

    Grow up already america, the "I Got Ya" game is played out. The insurance companies were never on your side and they have always been in search of ways to drop there policy holders. What makes this time any different? Stop buying into the the media hype and the republican leadership finger pointing. Let's make the ACA better, lets make this thing work. Because that's what we do, we are The People, collectively standing tall and strong, ready to move mountains and cross mighty rivers to get it done . . . "Because that's what we do! ")

    November 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  10. SK

    The reality is what is currently in place is not working. The fact that insurance companies can drop people if they get sick, or that if someone loses their job they cannot afford coverage is scary. A change needed to happen-a bunch of sick people is not good for any civilization. We are the ONLY 1st world country that doesn't provide universal health care to its citizens. The Democrats are the only ones willing to stick their neck out. The Republicans can only criticize-they don't see to come up with any real alternatives. Truth is the Democrats would have gone with a single payer but this was too "socialized" for the red states. So they tried something more capitilstic. Still the red states complain.

    Here's an idea-stop complaining and work on fixing it. It is a big problem and it requires us all to work together to come up with a solution. What is more noble than healthcare?

    November 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  11. realville

    The President is a liar. As with all liberals and totalitarian states, the end justifies the means. These people couldn't get elected if they were truthful about their real agenda. Americans are like sheep to the slaughter.

    November 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  12. Jstanz

    I have a question.....do people have to show where their income is coming from when purchasing this insurance?

    November 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  13. john.deatherage

    Isn't saying President Obama "changed his promise" a polite way of saying he broke his promise?

    November 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. Juan doe

    So, he did not lie? we were just misinformed… Now run with that CNN and have your ratings sink even lower… I’m sure Candy Crowley will try to pin this on the GOP… Yet Sen. Hoyer stated that they knew it was a lie, and let the Gov. shutdown because of the lie…

    November 5, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  15. c-lo

    They have to keep altering what was promised, because they are just now getting around to finding out what was in it after they passed it, right Pelosi?

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  16. J-Man

    You can't change a promise. It is like if you elect me I will do this. Thanks for electing me you really can't do that because I LIED. You are a sucker.

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  17. Phillip

    Joe: It's not Obama's fault the insurance companies found a loop-hole in the law and are abusing it. It IS his fault that lawmakers are doing nothing about it to stop it. It *IS* is fault that he is not lobbying PERSONALLY in Congress to put a STOP to it. It *IS* his fault that instead of issuing an executive order to freeze and reverse all health insurance policies until this mess gets fixed, he is backpedaling and making excuses for a corrupt industry. AGAIN!

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. freedom

    The lies, obstructions, spying, negligence as Commander-in-Chief, and more ..... are far more destructive than anything Nixon did. And on top of it, he thinks he can tell us we didn't hear the words that came out of his mouth. This is beyond outrageous. But, he's exposing himself just like Hilary did with her "What difference does it make?!" bellowing. "You can keep you insurance plan – period!" They sink themselves.

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. jon wilson

    Obama's presidency has officially hit the fan. Bring on 2016 and some total revision to all parties for election.

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. TiredOfCraziness

    The level of idiocy in the US is growing at an exponential rate based upon some of the comments that I am reading...

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  21. Wade

    CNN like always protecting Obama! The head line has to read HOW OBAMA LIED to America to get re-elected. Start telling the truth CNN grow a pair!

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  22. Gregory

    wow, there's a lot of Obama-hate here.

    If your plan is the same, and is in compliance with the ACA, and the present insurance company doesn't change/cancel it...then yes, you can keep it if you want.

    People need to decide if they hate the ACA and want it to go away...OR if they're disappointed in the implementation of it. Decide on your reason to hate the President, please. Then get the facts so you can move on and move forward.

    November 5, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  23. N

    II liked my plan, it covered over $13,000 in hospital bills this year and only cost me $100. I can go to the doctor for a $30 copay which is allot but they cover the rest of anything else. Guess what, I am losing my insurance! You are wrong some of these plans are fine and work great for those willing to pay $200 a month.

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. wrm

    Obama's used car salesman bit continues – not exactly breaking news.

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  25. Neo Agnostic

    Obama Lied, there's a surprise. Politicians all lie, so this is nothing new, don;t know why people are getting upset about it.

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
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