November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
12 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. Garrett from Texas

    "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."

    So, it's only a SMALL lie then?

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Tony C

    False, Mr. President. You said "Period". Period. There was no if. There was no unless they change it. You said Period. Liar.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. D Smith

    What is affordable about the health care act? Fact: Blue Cross Blue Shield just sent me a letter explaining how due to the AHCA, my premiums just doubled, but my coverage stays the same. What the hell is affordable about that? It appears to me that I am paying someone elses premiums. The only thing I can do is help get people elected willing to work toward repealing this Act. The insurance companies are going to make a killing off of this.

    November 5, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  4. Kevin

    President Obama lied. Period. End of story. I am pretty sure that if people really knew what was coming down the road the ACA never would have seen light of day. Unfortunately the worst may be yet to come.

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

    I always wondered what the insurance companies were going to do about that statement. In other words the government can't force them to continue old policies unless the companies themselves have entered into an agreement to do that. At any rate I hope no subscriber will have to pay excessive payments (they were already high when I retired.) I am on medicare but still have to pay supplemental and prescription coverage.

    November 5, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  6. ST

    Why some people have heavy heads and can't understand. You want to keep your doctor/your plan then abide to what your Insurance people require you to do. Is this difficult for anyone to understand? The President was right then and he is still right now, BUT he was and still talking to very heavy heads.

    November 5, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  7. lvsingleton

    If you like the White House, you can keep it........unless your name is Obama.

    November 5, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  8. Lela

    Put the picture of the main post on a punching bag next time, you will feel soooo much better, hihi.

    November 5, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. realmike

    You can keep you plan, mission accomplished, i did not have xx with...., read my lips. They all have their moments.

    November 5, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  10. hunger

    If we knew then what we know now about Obama's plan for healthcare, it would be president Romney.

    November 5, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  11. biglio

    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 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  12. bryan

    This would have never passed and he would have never been (re)elected if he was honest about his goals. We once had a media that prided itself with "keeping them honest" but sadly most were complicit with this lie.

    The next lie to be exposed will be "if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor"

    November 5, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  13. david shoup

    I have been a supporter of the President in the past. The ACA is a disaster and I believe, will get worse. He is responsible!! This should not have happened. Like it or not the Act should not have been implemented. I wonder if Sen Cruz knew what was coming?

    November 5, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  14. NotBuyingThis

    "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"... YEP... As a 46 year old single male, pregnancy tests and per-natal care for an infant is definitely going to help me a lot.

    November 5, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  15. Shannon

    That is not what he said back in 2009... He is trying to get himself out of this mess he is in now. Those that believe anything he just said are _______! (Just fill in the blank)

    November 5, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  16. Walt

    My employer has already notified us to expect that our Medical Benefit will be dropped in 2015.

    Our Medical Plan has been deemed by the ACA to be a "Cadillac" plan. Because of that, if kept, my employer will have to pay the government a rather substantial penalty. The cost of the plan has been steadily rising over the years, but the government penalty is the "straw that broke the camel's back" in terms of overall cost of our Medical Benefit.

    Thank you Congress, for adding this major penalty to the ACA law.

    November 5, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. SteveinLVNV

    A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
    Vladimir Lenin

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Why is this guy still the president of the united states. He needs to be impeached and imprisoned for his crimes.

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  19. ora pike

    i don't understand any of this-–the company who built this disaster has been awarded 7 more contracts by obama???? who is getting paid for what under the table is the question to ask and why would we use a canada company when we need to employ American workers???????

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  20. Ned

    Obama is a major disappointment through and through. I cannot wait until this low-life is out of office.

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  21. YippieSkippie

    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

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  22. Mike S

    Well, for private industry to give false advertising is illegal but apparently for president Obama, there is nothing wrong with that.

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  23. Sodus

    Reported by FOX
    Since the ObamaCare exchange website launched on Oct. 1, government officials have signed at least five different agreements with CGI totaling $7 million, according to USASpending.gov, a government website that lists government contracts. The contracts were for computer and software development at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

    One contract, for instance, was signed Oct. 19 by Department of Commerce officials that gives CGI Federal $266,164 to provide "IT and Telecom Systems Development" for the Patent Office.

    Nothing like rubbing our noses in it!

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. just one American

    This "small" number of people affected by the cancellations (about 5%) is equal to one third of the uninsured people this thing was supposed to help (about 15%) ... so to be clear, they put everybody through all this to help a very small fraction of the population to begin with. That makes it much worse when they try to marginalize the small fraction of people obamacare really does hurt with the cancellations. The other thing I'm still confused about is the fact that the affordable options the working class gets under this plan are extremely high deductible plans when these people don't have thousands laying around to cover it ... so you take money out of their monthly budgets for crappy coverage when they could have used the money to buy healthcare services.

    November 5, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  25. mark

    No different than when he promised "I will not raise your taxes... PERIOD"... then he changed it to say "I said 'income tax' – these other taxes are not 'income tax'". How people can overlook this blatant revisionist history, OVER AND OVER, is beyond me.

    November 5, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
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