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. betterdays

    Government of the minority, for the minority. The rest get the shaft.

    November 5, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. John Illinois

    This jerk is baltantly lying....AGAIN!!!! How stupid are all of you people that you can actually buy the crap he is saying?!?!?

    November 5, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  3. 96740Hawaiian

    So he "misspoke" and now changes his promise? Well, I 'MISVOTED" and I want to change my vote.

    November 5, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. tom l

    they finally get ONE misstatement to hang around

    So you admit that he lied. You can pretty it up by calling it a "misstatement" but the facts are the facts.

    On another note, I stand corrected with regards to my getting maternity covered. It is correct that the essence of insurance is to pool the risk so I'm wrong there. I do find it ironic that I am now going to be paying for that service but I can fully admit that this is what insurance is about and there are going to be things that I pay for that I don't want nor will I ever use.

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

    Abandon ALL "For Profit" insurance ! - NOT just health care : They are ALL $cam$ ! ! !
    .
    Substitute Non-Profit National Risk Pools : SAVE ! ! !

    November 5, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  6. srcactus

    The lies have absolutely nothing to do with plan working. The plan will work or not work, the lies remain. The lies are to all of the people weather the plan is good, bad or indifferent. Our leader lied to us, not once but 29? times? Who do you trust and why? When he comes to us and asks for whatever, go to war, pay a special tax can a liar be effective? Will our friends and enemies believe what is said? Get off the partisan bandwagons America, get honest competent leaders in place before you truly regret the alternative.

    November 5, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  7. mookie1972

    This is not a tax, well, maybe it is.

    November 5, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. atticus

    You folks who continue to support Obama remind me of a battered wife. No matter how many times the guy smacks you around, or lies, or breaks promises, you still won't abandon him. Because you think deep down inside he's really a good guy. And that regardless of his actions and obvious lack of character he surely still loves you.

    That's just pathetic.

    November 5, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. Obama

    you wanted Change? You got changed promises

    November 5, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  10. Mike

    It feels like I'm at car dealership and President and Jay Carney are like the slick car salesmen trying to bamboozle me into thinking being charged for rustproofing, transport charge, storage surcharge, additional overcharge, finder's fee, door mats, and keys make me have a better plan than I used to have (Seinfeld reference). I don't need insurance for pregnancy and birth control. The website doesn't work. It's just glitches, but I've never seen a glitch take months (years?) to fix. This is whole thing's a giant fiasco.

    November 5, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  11. dt

    Insurance companies scrambling to kick off their expensive (unhealthy) customers is exactly what we WANT. These companies cannot survive in a competitive market. They've been rigging the game for years. Obamacare goes into effect and they all fail. LOL. Good riddance. Now we will have companies who arent paying people for NO WORK WHATSOEVER, who profit more the more people they kill.

    November 5, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  12. Zondar

    The ACA would never have passed if he were truthful about the real consequences.

    November 5, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  13. Bob C.

    Dog bites man. CNN has been Obama's lapdog for over 5 years now, but now the tsunami is coming and CNN is seeking higher ground.

    November 5, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Get over it America. Work to help get the whole country covered by medical insurance. The medical insurance companies BS us by agreeing to cover us and then trying to go back to their corrupt ways from the past. I for one don't want to pay additional as they have told us in the past for covering all the people who don't have coverage. I also have been denied because I have cancer, I had been paying for over 15 years and with a huge deductible I still can't get decent treatment. Unless you are a shareholder in the medical insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies, there is no reason not to want everyone covered. with a decent plan.

    November 5, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. dave

    I guess it was assumed that people who paid more for their insurance and got less coverage would not be happy with their insurance plan. You'd probably find a few who would like to pay more and get less coverage. If it were me, I like to pay less and get more coverage, but that's just the kind of hairpin I am. That might not be other people's cup of tea, for whatever reason they would like to pay more and get less coverage.

    November 5, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  16. Fair is Fair

    I depends on the definition of "keep" you keep.

    November 5, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  17. jschiizzy

    humtake, your rate of increase should decrease over time. Not the absolute price of insurance. So what you will pay in 5 years should be less than what you would have paid without ACA, even if it will still go up. That was the promise "bending the cost curve". It will be hard to prove though, as people wont realize this and just say "my insurance keeps going up", but they won't realize how much it would have been had ACA not been in place. Another misconception that I hope news organizations can report on properly.

    November 5, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  18. PH

    I am all for a better system of healthcare in this country and something needed to be done but it is simply NOT true that the plan I'm being offered is better than what I had. I have my own individual plan/premium. $211/month with a grand total of $8800 potential out of pocket per year. Now, my premium has shot up to $285/month and my out of pocket is something like $12k! I can barely pay the $211/month. I cannot wait until tax time to get some sort of rebate to pay the difference. I don't have it. Feel like I'm being penalized to pay for no preexisting conditions and covering the unhealthiest people out there. The insurance companies are taking advantage. They didn't want this and it's as if they're saying "fine, you're going to make us provide this, you're going to pay!"

    November 5, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  19. mookie1972

    Anyone supporting this administration and its lies has their heads' in the sand. You might as well keep them there, because at some point you will have to admit how wrong you are if you pull your head out of the sand and actually open your eyes to the truth of the matter and the lies that have been told.

    November 5, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  20. Al

    Plain and simple... HE LIED

    November 5, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    I didn't trust Government as it was but now we can't even trust our own President!

    November 5, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. Jason Ransone

    Do you people at CNN really report any more? Or are you an extension of the White House and DNC Press office?
    Honestly, the article is laughable. Millions of people CANNOT keep their old plan...their old plan was destroyed by Obamacare's ill-though market power. Millions of people ARE PAYING HIGHER PREMIUMS.....and No, not withsanding the White House "parsing of words" it isn't a temporary adjustment to improved plans. That is bunk. It is a flat out lie and the President and even most reporter know it. So do you people really write anything useful anymore?

    November 5, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  23. Joel

    If the insurance companies are cherry picking their clients, how is that Obama's fault? Place the blame where it belongs.

    November 5, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Sven Bengalie

    Talk about back stepping. You cannot make this stuff up. Damage control is job one hee folks. We are being taken to the cleaners.

    November 5, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  25. sdechter

    He lied. He lied to get reelected. He lied to get votes of poor and needy Americans and immigrants. He lies to this day about nearly everything. He no longer represents and cares for the good of the country. It is all politics and power. Obamacare is law–DON'T TOUCH IT, we hear. The national repository in Nevada was law, but Obama and Reid found a way to CIRCUMVENT the law and kill it. No national debates, not congressional action, just circumvent it. That's our President?

    November 5, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
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