November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
9 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. Bobbyvv

    I do not understand why people are so willing to give him a break. He outright lied, why do people feel the need to defend at all costs? Are we not Americans first, should we not hold the President to a higher standard, not a lower one than any of us would have if we lied at our job.

    November 5, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. Frederick Potacky

    If people really wanted obamacare you wouldn't need a law to make them buy it. :(

    November 5, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  3. Bill

    it is not misinformation from CNN, it is misinformation from President Obama who said you could keep your plan if you like it despite what was written into the law requiring you to pay for services you will not need.

    November 5, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  4. Enough

    The man is an habitual liar. I have zero trust in him and his regime! Impeach!

    November 5, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  5. Bella

    I don't know who to be more disgusted with Obama, the media, or we voters. Obama turned out to be lying incompetent fool, the media sold him to us, and bought it.

    November 5, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  6. Matt

    This is not "Breaking News", CNN. Start using that phrase for its intended usage or you will start losing credibility as a reliable news source.

    November 5, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. William

    Has CNN laid off all their copy proof-readers and editors? Basic grammar and the use of complete sentences is no longer important in the news industry. Yikes.

    November 5, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  8. LC

    My plan which I've loved for years has also now joined the state's market place. Result? My premiums are skyrocketing another $700 a year to help cover the increased costs of the new Obamacare enrollees. That's a lot of money for a retired senior – ME. I don't qualify for a subsidy if I go through the exchange (instead of my former employer) and would pay several times what I'm already struggling to afford. Blatant "wealth redistribution" . I am SO disappointed in my government who treats the middle class's wallets as their own personal piggybank to fund social agendas and pork projects.

    November 5, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. ingyo

    He should just admit he lied at this point. Everyone knows it. He makes Nixon look like Honest Abe.

    November 5, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. Rick

    These plans aren't prefect,but at least someone took a step to stop the insurance insanity that has been going on for 30 years. You may view the President as the bad guy,but insurance companies have been screwing the public with 15-25% rate hikes for far to long and it was time for a leader with courage to stand up to the insurance bullies.

    November 5, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. tatsachen

    "Obama further alters 'you can keep your plan' pledge"

    In plain English: Obama lied and continues to lie.

    November 5, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. brian

    i voted for him twice and i'm embarassed by his nonsense... doesn't approach the autopilot traincrash presiduncy of gwbush and co, but still disgusting nonetheless.

    November 5, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  13. mike

    at least NIXON admitted he made a mistake. This joker can not even do that. Obamacare is a joke and so is the prez

    November 5, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  14. Sodus

    Joe,
    You know better than that. How do you think they are cherry picking their clients?

    November 5, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  15. manhandler1

    Okay....Okay....I think CNN has probably beaten this story to death. Too bad they didn't go to as much effort trying to get people informed about the particulars of the law before it's start up.

    November 5, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. tom l

    @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."

    You are an economic ignoramus. How do you get more for less? It's not possible unless you go to Costco.

    November 5, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. Jaime Nunez

    I just have to laugh as I read some of the Obama supporters, kook-aid drinkers comments trying to defend the most dishonest president in American history. Obama is a liar, liar, liar. Obama was caught with his pants down and now he is lying about his lies. When CNN, aka, Obama network, is attacking him you know that the stuff is bad for president clown,lol

    November 5, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  18. Bob

    I dont know what all the fuss is about. It was crystal clear to me that he was talking about from the government's point of view, i.e. the new health care law would not make people change insurance. What insurance companies do is outside Obama's control.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. SG

    the "other" news outlet, you know the one, those hood wearing tea fanatics, said something about not being able to keep your doctor or your plan years ago. But hold on, CNN didn't read the law and infer from the language what all those slave beating pigs figured out long ago? The only news here is what you stumbled over between sips of the God King Obama's koolaide.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  20. Jim Rome

    My favorite Fox News Shill bandwagon posts on here are these. "Boy, things are really going downhill. Obama sure is lying a lot. I'm going to definitely vote Republican next time." We're talking about healthcare coverage for unemployed and self employed people with no coverage or with illegal plans. If people think this is a big enough issue to base their election platform on, it's just sad.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  21. HenryMiller

    "How Obama changed his Obamacare promise"

    "Changed his promise?" You mean "lied."

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Remember, Remember the 5th of November.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  23. Julie B

    I an incensed that the government is making us purchase something additional that we may not even want or need. The cost of my current insurance plan to cover my family will rise 154% next year, and I am not a higher income person. The new insurance will give me less coverage, and I will have a higher deductible. Obama is a scammer! Listen to him lie through his teeth:

    "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."

    Give me a break, dude.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  24. jharry

    "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.

    The man is a liar, and he just admitted it in that sentence.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    I'm happy with ACA, I'm happy with Obama and I pay less than before.
    My take is that insurance companies are trying one last stand to make the people revolt against ACA, not too difficult given the amount of rightwinger propaganda and ignorance. Inform yourself and you'll see that you are way better off under ACA then before, if you are not it's because you are listening to the Insurance companies instead of informing yourself and get to any website, center or whatever that explains how ACA works...period.
    ah....drop the Kool Aid, it's not good for your health...

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
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