November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
5 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. Responsility???what

    How many people, given Obama's track record, believe him now when says you're "probably" going to get a better deal? Anyone? By anyone I mean of course anyone with a working brain. Anyone at all?

    November 5, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  2. Smeagel4T

    The law says that existing plans are grandfathered-in. They do NOT need to meet any of the new Obamacare requirements. When insurance companies claim they are discontinuing a plan because it doesn't meet Obamacare requirements, their effort to pretend the decision is because of Obamacare is an outright lie.

    November 5, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  3. Edoggy

    Funny how CNN and the GOP want to judge Obama on the Affordable Heath Care Act after one month of implementation. There is always going to be issues when you start a new law or a new website for that matter. This is normal. Not everything in the Act is going to be perfect either. When this President's term is over, we will see how this Act has rolled out and if the fundamental idea of everyone having heath care coverage in this country really works. It is better than what we had before and history will prove that. History takes time and cannot be counted in one month of implementation. We could always go back to the idea that the rich get richer and the poor/middle class stay poor. Problem is the poor are most everyone in this country and the rich are few and far between.

    November 5, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "I supported him up to now but I hate liars and that is what he is. They think they can mince words when it is on the record. The sad part is we are just going to take this like all the other crap they ram down our throats. "

    1. No you didn't support him. LIE.

    2. Proof is you immediately resorted to the Luntz-manufactured RWNJ buzzwords code-speak of "ram it down our throats." I know not a single Dem, liberal or even left-leaning independent who talks with that language taken straight out of the RWNJ talking points. So again, LIE.

    November 5, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. Dan

    Terry,
    You do not sound very experienced; if you have ever taken any of these politicians as honest, you have not been paying attention to the game; or you are a teenager. Seriously, there are thousands of past examples that scream to us that people will lie to get what they want; then there are people who will distort those lies to get what they want. If you think this health care bill will destroy this country, you need to step up your game. If you think this health care bill is not the baby of those who are fighting to destroy it, you need to retire.

    November 5, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. TheGreatMass

    The problem that should have been addressed is that our out-of-pocket costs with insurance are what most services should have cost in the first place.

    There's also no reason one hospital needs to charge $2.45 for an aspirin while another charges 10 cents. Whenever possible we should all be looking at the hospital chargemaster lists. Stop & Shop might have a deal on chicken but beef is cheaper over at Shop Rite. Something needs to drive these ridiculous prices down.

    November 5, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  7. Moses

    he changed his 200,000 word law by being above the law and above Congress; no one should just change the law at whim desire; on Congress can make or change laws; sounds like impeachment time

    November 5, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. Mike Jones

    Totally disingenuous on Communist News Network's part as they interchange the type of comment system to use.

    America is fed up with ObamaScare? Let's switch to the more sterile posting system (as evidenced to what you see here)
    – CNN's management staff

    November 5, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. HR

    Im a registered Democrat, Supported Obama, and understand the need and desire to provide more health care to people who are not on the roles. tt isn't ideal, but its a first pass. The real way to change health care is to implement tort reform and eliminate frivolous law suits by requiring the attorneys to post a non-refundable bond if it is determined that the claims are baseless. Provide a review In cases of negligence in those cases where the Dr or institution was careless. The problem is that while this alone could cut health care by 35%, the congress is made up of LAWYERS who will never vote for the one thing that could help... make a new requirement for being elected, you must NOT have ever been a lawyer.......

    November 5, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. Silence DoGood

    @Joan " I wonder how many other divorces this law will cost."

    I thought the next ring wing conspiracy scare would include Bigfoot. I stand corrected. Now Obama's evil plan is to cause divorce.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. iceload9

    The insurance companies put this in to get rid of inexpensive policies and get them changed across the board to more expensive policies with no competition. The administration had estimates from 45% to 60% of private insurance holders would lose their plans. They knew it and were the hand maidens of the insurance companies. Otherwise the insurance companies would have been screaming from day one. Just another scam on the US people.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. Harold

    Thanks Mr.President for acting like a third grade country's politicians. You threw all our hopes under the bus. Good work

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. JJ

    Obamacare is a disaster. Obama and the Democrat Party have destroyed the US healthcare system, the greatest in the world. Tens of millions of people are losing their current policies, seeing huge insurance premium increases and losing their doctors. This is a travesty. Obamacare was originated, written and passed only by the Democrat Party and they should be held accountable. Obama should be IMPEACHED for lying to the American people, every Democrat should be voted out of office in 2014 and 2016 for creating this catastrophe of a law and all should feel the wrath of the American people.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. NorCalMojo

    Let me be clear. Obama lied, period.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Mensaman

    I'm not in a political party, but what I say is, you have to really hand it to the Republicans for their brave effort to try to stop ACA 44 times and offer alternatives to the Senate 5 times. They placed their political futures and elections on the line to try to stop it. They knew (and Americans soon found out) that the ACA was a fraud and that is was harmful to America and to the healthcare industry. Keep Obama far away from our healthcare. I'ts like a baby playing with dynamite.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  16. JAH69

    CNN is last place on cable news. I'm shocked! Obama's news agency

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  17. Abbey

    Refine? Funniest word of the day coming from this administration.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  18. Mike

    We are no longer a nation of "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country". Now its all about – see what your country can do to you whether you like it or not.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    Guess which CNN article showed up at the top of Drudge today. Guess.

    It's like a clarion call to send in the clowns. They all flock over to whichever website it is and then busy themselves posting repeatedly under different names. Happens all the time over at TPM. They especially love to swarm articles like this one or that deal with the GOP/Teatrolls doing or saying racist stuff in order to drown out anyone else posting how disgusted they are with the continuing proof that the GOP/Teatrolls are still mired in the bigotry of the 50's.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. Jose

    This President has had many lies, but this one is too obvious that even CNN, NBC, and CBS can't hide it. Stop being the mouthpiece for this administration. The only thing obamacares is about your money!

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. 1968billsfan

    Obama now says:

    "......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."

    So He is saying that there wasn't competition between insurers before? Is He on drugs? Is He in an alternate universe? There was competition between insurers before, and people had the freedom to choose whatever plan they wanted.

    November 5, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Jim

    Obama is caught in a lie amd CNN's response is gee, he oversold it?......millions of folk are in real trouble and you quote that its only a "minor fraction" of the population.....why dont you just call yourself pravda, oh and line your birdcage with that journalism diploma as well.

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. ilrednk

    Uh, Oh! This ain't good. CNN actually is reporting, instead of spinning....

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Dan

    "Conservatives" are in the best position. They do not have to do anything but criticize the policies they created, get them passe anyway, and boom; they had none of the risk involved with working. If you think this administration is liberal, you have been fooled; and probably for good reason. I just said you were dumb, if you didn't get that.

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. Mensaman

    'm not in a political party, but what I say is, you have to really hand it to the Republicans for their brave effort to try to stop ACA 44 times and offer alternatives to the Senate 5 times. They placed their political futures and elections on the line to try to stop it. They knew (and Americans soon found out) that the ACA was a fraud and that is was harmful to America and to the healthcare industry. Keep Obama far away from our healthcare. I'ts like a baby playing with dynamite.

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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