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. Don

    Finally.... thank you CNN for responsible reporting on this issue. Nice to have "you" engaged in the real world. Please keep up the questioning and the true journalistic nature that you demonstrated in this article.

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. Eagle0521

    In liberal la la land if you tell a lie about a lie it becomes the truth. George Orwell was truly a prophetic figure.

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. Byron

    To be fair, Obama never lied... The policy he helped create allowed people to keep their plans. What wasn't taken into account, though, was the fact that insurance companies could and most likely would change people's plans. This reaction by insurance companies should have been taken into account. I mean, the Affordable Health Care Act effects every single person and business in the country; the sheer uncertainty of the costs of it all would obviously cause insurance companies to increase rates... This is not to say that these rates would decrease in a year or two, once the dust settles, but until then, the uncertainty of the insurance costs are going to cause insurance companies to change plans and most likely raise rates.

    Judging by Obama's reaction to all this, it is clear that he and his administration did not have a clue this was going to happen.... which is mind boggling in its self. I mean, I'm all for setting up programs that help people afford health insurance. That has obviously been a terrible, unresolved issue in this country for quite some time, but the current implementation of this Affordable Care Act is just ridiculously bad.

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. Trendy

    He lied? Say it ain't so BO!

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

    Before Obamacare, every year my coverage got less and my premium got higher so inherantly nobody gets to "keep" their plan. It always changes for the worse. At least Obama care forces a minimum and comarable standard of coverage and a lot more competition to keep premiums down. CNN knows this but parrots Tea Party lies and accentuates the negative to get people riled up enough to read their articles.

    November 5, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  6. Trojan Horse

    Impeachment for lying to the American People, the one who elected him into the White House. He let his woman speaks for for his HealthCare Law, what a leader the guy is.

    November 5, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. Stevelb1

    Obama didn't cancel anyone's plan the insurance companies canceled their plans. They needed to meet a minimum level of coverage. If by doing that the insurance company cancels your plans and wants to consolidate products to put you into a different product, that's a business decision from the insurers. Also, having a bunch of under insured people defeats the purpose of the mandate.

    November 5, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  8. chris

    Jake Tapper has a "BREAKING" story about the White House worried about the next news stories...higher insurance cost because of the ACA....He acts as if he is surprised...Maybe it is a surprise to the reporters that failed to ask questions while the Democrats wrote the ACA behind closed doors..Maybe it is a surprise to the reporters that failed to ask questions during the voting, where the Democrats who controlled the Congress still had to bribe two Dem Senators, Nebraska and Louisiana, to get it passed...Maybe to the reporters that asked condescending questions to people that actually said that this could / would happen.....Maybe to the reporters that were too interested in asking softball questions to promote the candidate they supported...Maybe to the reporters that failed the American public because of blind bias....

    November 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. MAS1916

    Think rising insurance costs are a problem now? Just wait until this time next year.

    Very few young, healthy people will agree to pay a couple hundred dollars per month for insurance they don't need – especially when they can just order it should they need it in the future. Better to pay the small penalty as a one-time tax than to agree to expose personal information on an insecure government website and then pay several thousands of dollars for coverage they probably won't need. Without revenue from younger workers, insurance companies will have to significantly raise fees next year.

    Without this pool of people paying in, insurance companies will have no choice but to drastically raise rates next year. Couple this trend with the imposition of the employer mandate, more employers will drop coverage due to the expense, further driving up costs to individuals.

    These rate increases are only the beginning. Many more will be impacted next year – fortunately right before the 2014 elections.

    In the end, anyone with any sense of how an economy works, knew this was coming. Those that didn't have it have learned the hard way.

    November 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Rich

    He also said: If you pay for health insurance you'll save 2500 a year under my plan. Hmmmm, I was paying over 1200 per month back then. In Jan of '14 my new rate is 1,527.00 a month.

    November 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. ms.oh

    Obama is a typical politician.... Boys already been elected and now suffers from that political ailment called.... "What Promise" ??????

    November 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. CoryT

    Memories are so short. I guess all those who are incensed that things were said that aren't true must have forgotten: "Mission Accomplished". Hypocrites.

    November 5, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. Jon King

    He did not lie, but he was gullible. He did not realize the depths to which insurers would stoop to mess with people.

    November 5, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. trowe

    This reminds of me of Disney's Cinderella:

    Stepmother: Well, I see no reason why you can't go... if you get all your work done.
    Cinderella: Oh, I will. I promise.
    Stepmother: And, if you can find something suitable to wear.
    Cinderella: I'm sure I can. Oh, thank you, Stepmother.
    [she exits]
    Drizella: Mother, do you realize what you just said?
    Stepmother: Of course. I said, "If."

    November 5, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Mensaman

    Come on CNN. Don't censor me because I called the ACA a fraud. Tell American the truth and stop filtering out those that don't agree with the Administration.

    November 5, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. If You Like Your Plan You Can Keep It

    Based on the responses to this article the Obama Administration is close to having a full scale revolt on their hands.

    November 5, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. Lyn Sterling

    Annnnnnnd.... THAT'S why the rest of the country tried to warn the Obamacare supporters that this "snake-oil fix" wasn't going to work. Obama has a history of reneging on his promises. Go figure.

    November 5, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. elgato

    Do you finally get it now? Is it finally sinking in for all those blind sheep who bought his socialist pack of lies? Half of us saw him for what he is - a lying, godless socialist (or communist-lite) who is hellbent on the destruction of all this country was founded on through the distribution of your hard earned dollars to those who aren't motivated to provide for themselves. I'm all for a hand up, for providing a safety net for those who have legitimate need, but it's time for a renewal of personal responsibility. And it's time to admit to yourself that this man is incapable of telling the truth and that his agenda, which is becoming less hidden all the time, will destroy everything we have worked for, everything that has made America the envy of the world. There are local elections going on today around the country. Do not vote for those who support Obama's agenda. And if you do, you deserve what you get. The problem is, we'll all have to suffer with you.

    November 5, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. Smacmack

    @Rudy NYC: Typical sheep's response.

    November 5, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. brian collins

    Something is askew when you the citizen can be prosecuted for lying to the government but your elected officials have no legal obligation to be truthful to you nor incur any official rebuke when unequivocally caught in blatant deceptions. Politicians have somehow elevated themselves from finding it necessary to be honest with you, the people they are supposed to serve and represent. Political ambition and hubris appears to have subverted the basic tenet Americans want from their government and that is just nothing more than a square deal. Tell it to me straight. When character was in still style and people actually stood by their word, if for nothing else than to be deemed 'an honest man' and admired for being somewhat unique in a profession built on words, honestly was a bankable asset. Never did anyone expect the guiding principal of their government would be Never Give A Sucker An Even Break.
    But then again it is of no use or sense to complain, seems the NSA is the only Federal Agency that will even listen.

    November 5, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. irock

    WARNING: After a recent wave of identify thefts, the FBI estimates there are over 500 fake Obamacare websites set up for the sole purpose of stealing your personal information. So protect yourself and remember: real one is the one that doesn't work.

    November 5, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Roscoe

    Health insurance costs and terminations have ramped up ever since the word Obamacare was uttered. It was a failure in so many ways from the very beginning and everyone paying attention knew it. And the failure was initiated at the worse possible time, when the US was trying to climb out of deep recession. So the whole idea was so poorly conceived and ill-timed, one wonders whether the proponents were simpletons with no clue or whether they were saboteurs with a subversive agenda.

    November 5, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. clymer

    Call it like it is, he lied and therefore, just another reason he should be impeached

    November 5, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Obama: I have altered the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further! LOL

    November 5, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. IHateLies

    I can't fathom how people believed his assertion that people could keep their insurance policies. Anyone who has dealt with insurance knows that their policies are constantly being changed. Costs go up, coverage change here and there.

    That's the nature of insurance. It has been that way since the insurance concept was invented several hundreds of years ago.

    What is abnormal about our current insurance model is the executive pay and the excessive profiting from investors on it. It is one thing to reward investors for contributing to the financial stability of the insurance concept. It is completely another thing to pay out millions in salaries, perks, and bonuses for running what should be a minimal profiting industry.

    November 5, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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