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. SteveinLVNV

    OWEbama has been repeating this LIE ever since he dreamed this insurance plan up! And he has continued up until now that this lie isn't working. All OWEbamaCare is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme that will implode like an old Las Vegas casino coming down when there won't be enough people signing up and opting to just pay the fine instead.

    Too little too late... And the lies continue!

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  2. Ross

    Of course the President meant that as far as the federal government is concerned you can keep your plan or your doctor. Are the critics really asking for the federal government to have the authority to compel an insurance plan or a doctor to continue doing business just as they did in 2010. What if you love your doctor, but he decides to retire on a vineyard in Napa. Did anyone really believe the President was saying that you were guaranteed you could keep your same doctor?

    This is simply a disingenuously manufactured issue.

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  3. Kevin

    Obama has been a puppet of the left wing since he was elected. Look how F up Medicare and Medicad is and now the Govt is going to run heathcare. The problem with this entire country is the 1% that have the majority of the money and the other 50% that don't want to work. Us poor b@stards in the middle have to support both groups while we just struggle to keep our heads above water. I have never received anything I haven't worked for and that is how it should be. The TAXPAYER can't support everyone, hence the $17T in debt. The lazy welfare bandits and the 1% need to start supporting this country rather than live off the working man or woman.

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. styker

    Do I smell an impeachment trial?

    November 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. NL

    Lies period. Folks are being dropped, others are paying more and I personally know someone who is in the in-between and doesnt qualify for Obamacare plans, isn't offered insurance thru his employer and Carelink is going away so what do those folks do?? My family doctor dropped our insurance because they will be reimbused less so my entire family is paying out of pocket now for all of our healthcare needs so we are paying double: higher premiums and 100% out of pocket until we change our physician (who we have had for the past 5 years and knows all of our history) I think it is a huge insult to the American people to say "a few". Millions is not a few Mr. President. Someone get that man a calculator!

    November 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. Mike

    Shame on CNN for taking part in the frenzy of misinformation about Obamacare.

    November 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  7. Mike

    Darth Vader: Calrissian. Take the princess and the Wookie to my ship.
    Lando: You said they'd be left at the city under my supervision!
    Darth Vader: I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.
    ......
    Lando: [to himself] This deal is getting worse all the time!

    November 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. Jadeskys

    Our group insurance went up $137 a month with the exact same coverage as last year. The company stated due to Obamacare. Out company has thousands of employees. I'm not hearing any friends or neighbors stating there pricing went down. In fact the opposite. So I starting to think the polls are wrong. My healthcare insurance is now the size of my car payment. What are others of you seeing?

    November 5, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  9. Murdock Smith

    The media at its best. "Obama Changes His Promise." Reminds me of Hillary "misspeaking" about snipers shooting at her or Romney "miscalculating" his taxes. Researchers at CNN, Fox, MSNBC need to research the definition of Lie, Liar, and Lying. Call it what it is and stop altering facts and spinning incompetence to benefit your "team leaders."

    November 5, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  10. George

    It's about time that insurance premiums were equal for about EVERYONE. For too long the group polices were far less expensive than those of us who did not work for a large employer and had to buy individual polices at outrageous premiums.

    November 5, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. humtake

    To me, who is affected by it at this point because of broken promises was easy to see coming and doesn't concern me much. Politicians lie and people thought Obama was different but he isn't and never was.

    The real result I want to see is my health insurance drop in price. I've paid 30-40 dollars every year for over 10 years as a single male. This year it has gone up to $50. Fine. Growing pains. But the law is called the Affordable Care Act and Obama has said many times it will lower the costs of health insurance...which is the whole reason for mandating it. So, the only way I will know if his plan was a success is if my insurance goes down in the next 5 years. I can understand a couple years of growing pains, but after that I expect my insurance rate to drop. This is not supposed the Affordable Care Act For Only Certain People and it was never sold to America that way.

    If insurance prices don't drop across the board in the next 5 years, the ACA is a complete failure from the roll-out to the end. Sure, Dems can come on here and spin it to show how much it has helped other people...but that's not how it was sold. In order for prices to come down, it had to be MANDATED that everyone purchase it. If prices don't fall, that mandate should be removed.

    November 5, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  12. bobjones

    CNN: The most untrusted name in news. CNN: carrying Obama's water 24x7x365. Shame on you CNN!

    November 5, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  13. steve

    How anyone could take this administration seriously is beyond me. The outright lies, deception and unaccountability are staggering yet people still get "thrills" from Obama. Doesn't take much to turn on a liberal though just take a look at Obama's credentials before being elected president – black and cool. Well now it turns out the republicans, Rush, Fox news, Tea party and everyone else on the right were right all along. Obamacare is a disaster and is hurting everyone. Hell, everything in the world has gotten worse under Obama. Lets hope some of the dems will put down the cool-aid and vote with their brains next time.

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  14. patw2100

    Thing are really going downhill for Obama when CNN has to admit he is a liar.

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  15. Reggie53

    Obama lied to the American people and now he is trying to back-peddle what he had been saying for the past 5 years. I have never trusted this man and I was totally shocked when he got re-elected. It seems that people either voted for him because of the color of his skin and also because they like the free entitlements that they are getting from Obama and his democrat croonies. These people have become parasites....living off the system and do not intend to contribute to anything that they are receiving. Why should they.....because the government seems to like handing out our hard earned money to these lazy bums. Why should I work so hard to help these bums to sit at home and collect free benefits. I am tired of what America has become............a country of people who have no ambition in life but keep putting their hands out all the time....taking and never giving anything back to help our country. Our country is totally broke because of these kinds of people and it will get worse with this new Obamacare. More handouts to the parasites!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  16. Kat

    You can keep your job unless you get fired! Same thing

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. mike

    Question.... why does this president only "address" left wing groups? How about a group of REAL Americans?
    This man FEARS the average American and CAN NOT face them. His ego could not stand it.

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. Another Opinion

    This is just plain nonsense ! Obama has not canceled one insurance plan ! It is the insurance companies that is driving up health care costs and they always have ! It is sad that anything good for the American people , such as reasonable health costs is always turned around by someone like the Republicans, they got their back side kicked for shuting down the government and they have to shout something else stupid !

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. Progress

    Sad that he had to "lie" about the fact that junk policies might get cancelled in order to pass a law aimed at reducing American deaths and bankruptcies. Judging from some comments you'd think he lied us into a war or something.

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. woodie

    Obama can't control insurance companies. I don't understand how anyone could misconstrue that idea. If your insurance company wants to drop you or raise your rates, there is nothing preventing that. All ACA does is try to assure some minimal coverage assurance for the applicants.

    November 5, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  21. danita

    I'm sick of looking at this man.

    November 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  22. MM

    unfortunately my plan isn't available anymore and my "new plan" isn't as good and is more costly. I am a single dad trying to make it as a teacher and since the Arizona legislature has it's head up it's ass when it comes to funding education, I haven't had a raise in 5 years. My new plan is around $60/month more than I was paying through Healthnet and I am already cutting, refinancing etc. Times are tough.

    November 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. Sumsanity

    He had the truth and his reputation in one hand and the Health Care law and his quest for more government control in the other and weighed them.
    Money and power weighed more to him than his integrity. Not surprising. That hand was empty.

    November 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  24. Crampon

    Obama's demise is that you cannot just tell someone they are getting a better deal if they are not. It doesn't work like that, even with the dumbed down organizing for America crowd he was talking to.

    November 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. sfdi

    My plan, Aetna, has left the California market. The plan I have applied for will cost me $69. a month more for much less coverage and a higher deductible. The fact that I lost my job, puts me in the individual market. So older people who have lost their jobs are doubly hit until they reach 65. I'm still in favor of nationalized healthcare. And I hope that this segment of the market will get more competitive as more health plans join.

    November 5, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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