November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
1 year 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. Josh

    It's good for the rich and poor but screws the middle class. Middle class can't afford the high premiums or deductibles. Poor already get's welfare and other assistance, The wealthy can off afford the premiums and deductibles. It's also good for someone with terminal illness but not someone that is generally healthy that opted out of insurance in the 1st place.

    November 5, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  2. Jim8

    What he should have said, and what we all should realize, is that private insurance policies are cancelable by either party at any time.

    Now, why is that so hard to understand?

    November 5, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  3. jschiizzy

    Let's note real quick that the Republican plan, whatever it is or was, would have kicked millions off of their insurance by effectively ending Medicare. So their plan would've impacted more people.
    Also, people would have gone mad had the government FORCED companies to offer plans they don't want to anymore. But, the grandfather clause of the ACA was the fulfillment of the promise that would allow you to keep your plan. What insurers and customers did on their own is another story. The ACA's grandfather clause allowed companies to maintain their current plans, even if they didn't adhere to Obamacare standards. So who's to blame? Obviously the insurance companies – they chose to change their plans, now, they can't be grandfathered. Or, the customers, who changed their plan since the law was implemented and lost grandfather status. Let's point the finger in the right direction.

    November 5, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  4. Insurance Company Greed

    If it weren't for those greedy insurance companies, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. They don't want to help you, they just want your money. That's why they wouldn't insure pre existing conditions. That's why they send cancellation notices to people who need them. It's not Obama's fault if the only thing they care about is money and howhigh their stock prices are. That's the real problem with healthcare, it's driven by investors on Wall Street, not by the desire to care for people. It's all about the money.

    November 5, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  5. danita

    we don't have to support the rich... It's up to you to spend your money on items they sell, or attending concerts, sporting events just to name a few...

    November 5, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    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, Rudy. That blog post is merely a collection of statements that constitute nothing more than vague goals anyone 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 arguably be characterized as a workable organizational structure or operational systems that would achieve any of it. Calling it a "plan" is a gross misnomer. It's just propaganda.

    November 5, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
    -----------------------------
    Of course, it's propaganda. The "Republican Health Care Refrom" plan has just as much substance as The Ryan Plans.

    November 5, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  7. Bob of Garden Grove, CA

    President Obama and his Obamacare before and after become laws and the roll-out result sounds to me and I am a normal citizen of the USA like every Joe The Plumber out there that Obamacare is like the Chinese Stock Company NQ – a marketing of anti-virus cyber software company and it turns out now that the company was a hoax. It is in fact a company without sales, without employees, without offices and worse of all it is company that generates virus to the cyber user if one happens to sign-up with NQ. Needless to say the stock price volatiles from above $20.00 to below $10.00 in a day. Obamacare is so similar to this scenario folks. Beware. Furthermore now he is asking for your helps after making false promises to bring up his healthcare project that only benefit the do nothing.

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  8. The Truth Hurts

    It's simple: He could not have gotten elected telling the truth about himself or his socialized medicine plan, and certainly could not have gotten re-elected, so he lied to the American people through his teeth.

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  9. Voice in the Desert

    Okay, real world, firsthand experience. So I currently pay $190/mo for my insurance, bought privately, not through my company. It's a low-end coverage, but it serves its purpose. With my budget, I can just barely pay for it, but I do. I just found out from my insurance company that my plan is not a "grandfathered plan" thus, it will be "upgraded" by the end of 2014 "at a substantial price incr...ease."

    My company offers two insurance plans. the cheapest of which would be an increase of $80/month. So I decided, "What the heck, let's just check out healthcare.gov." The cheapest plan THERE, a 60/40 deal, would be $315/month – an increase of $125/month! That's a 60% increase. Despite making well, well below the "subsidy" income rate, because my company offers insurance, I do not qualify for an subsidy to pay for these increases.

    Tell me, someone... PLEASE tell me how Obamacare is so great and tell me how it is that "if I like my healthcare plan, I can keep it." Being a 51-year-old male, I'm just thrilled that my insurance will now have maternity, pap smears, mammograms and pre-natal care, but just how the heck do I pay for this insurance I don't need??? I don't eat out, I don't go out on with friends, I don't buy Starbucks or cigarettes or six-packs, I don't have cable, I can't even afford to put anything regularly into savings. I am at the very tighest by belt can go. What now?

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  10. Nick

    Keep drinking the Kool-Aid

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  11. Kena

    This is ridiculous. Employers change insurance providers and coverage plans ALL THE TIME!!! Misplaced outrage. Look at the big picture.

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  12. Scoop57

    This comment is on the long side so most won't read it......and that is the real problem here. People and the media just go for the sound bite instead of the meat of an issue. I took the time to watch the TV coverage of Obama's roundtable meeting with members of Congress before the ACA was passed. There was quite a debate but I specifically remember Republicans stating that many people would not get to keep their health plans because they didn't meet minimum standards of the ACA. Obama agreed with them, launching into a rather eloquent explanation about how these "garbage plans" would be detrimental to aims of the new legislation and ultimately are unfair to the people who would buy them. Basically, people and the media were not paying attention. This issue, which is now front and center, is no surprise to anyone who was taking some time to listen. Obama convinced me in that meeting that these garbage plans had to go and he merely KEPT his promise.

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. tom

    politicians lie.
    DUH..

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. MrBigStuff

    Of course the administration lied. Why would it not? Ideologically, the ultimate goal for the plan is for a single-payer system and has been since its inception.

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. Galactus

    President Obama continues to lie to the American people. I have lost all respect for him. He give millions of work visas to illegal aliens at a time of high unemployment and now the Democrats what to take our Health insurance.

    November 5, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  16. woodie

    I can't believe anyone thought Obama was going to be able to prevent Insurance companies from dropping their customers. ACA only applies to people applying for coverage. If the Insurance company wants to jack you around, they can do that all day long.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. daveinla

    The liberal messiah lied and his throng of cult followers can't come to grips with the fact he lied.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  18. zyrixs

    The people trying to defend the Sultan Obama are crazy. Everyone's insurance changed every year. sometimes premiums went up and sometimes they didn't. Even if your premium got cheaper this was considered a CHANGE. If they took coverage off that you didn't need it was considered a CHANGE. If your premium went up say $100. you could not keep it. Even though the same coverage on the Exchanges would be $1000's more. He made a Law that made it impossible for you to keep your coverage. unless it met his standards. Even if you liked it. on top of that people that are able to signup are signing up for Medicaid. Even they think Obamacare is too expensive.Thats right the very people he made this Law for can't afford it. And why should they try when they can just wait for him to give them a another handout at the rest of the countrys' expense.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  19. Pimpin Ken

    Invest in a 5 dollar footlong if you want better insurance premiums. Wehn the five dollar footlong is no longer five dollars then we will have problems. Have a great day and see you at 5 for 5 at 5 dollars a piece.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  20. sheila calabrese

    The old plans are being cancelled because they do not comply with the requirements under the Afforeable Healthcare bill. New plans are being offered that include these requirement such as free health screenings and various other requirements under the law. Insurance companies are also having to pay additional taxes and fees under the new Affordable Healthcare law that must and will be passed on to the public. All fo this can be blamed on Obama and his changes that we are stuck with for better or worse.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  21. Tony

    As long as Republicans keep telling bigger lies (the government is taking over health care, death panel, Romneycare is a state solution), Obama has nothing to worry about.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  22. TruthFinder

    The biggest culprits for all these mess are the insurance companies. Greed is their biggest and only motivation. Congress has not done anything about it to protect the people, and now we're blaming the president? I did not vote for Obama, but his attempt to provide universal healthcare is in the right direction. Oracle implementation could be the right approach - finally.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  23. aicohn

    Oh, right. Obama is right and the score of video tapes showing what he really said is wrong.

    Obama is a liar. "Period".

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  24. enzo

    His pants have been ON FIRE so many times his butt is charred.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  25. Greenspam

    I don't get it. Cons are saying that businesses making decisions to drop patients are Obama's fault? Are cons saying that businesses shouldn't have the right to make such a decision?

    November 5, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
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