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. Shannon Marlow du Plessis

    "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." Others seem to be what? Think you didn't finish this sentence in an otherwise great article.

    November 5, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. IndyMike

    Lies, half-truths, cover-ups...It just goes on and on and on.

    November 5, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    With Obama the end always is justivied by the means!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. Beast

    PEOPLE .... Anyone who had their policy cancelled by the insurance companies had now learned the REALITY that insurance plans are sold on a YEARLY basis by the insurance companies .. they send you a notice in the mail each year notifying you of any changes to your plan and you can continue the plan if you sign and send in your monthly payment. But no one pays attention to the fact that the insurance companies change the plan every single year so they can MAKE $$$$. We don't read the notice and we assume we are getting the same coverage ... when we don't ... welcome to the real world ladies and gentleman ..

    November 5, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  5. Tiffany Young

    Obama is a liar! He has lost all credibility and this is on him! He knew exactly what he wanted to do when he pushed Obamacare thru as "law" with Democrats voting for it.

    You can't blame this disaster on the "right" now!

    November 5, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  6. David

    It's amazing how dumb the comments here are. Could Republicans be any more ignorant or willfully refuse to understand simple issues?

    November 5, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  7. KEVIN

    What a mess. This is going to get worse. The only thing that can help is alot of expedient bipartisan ACTIONS.

    November 5, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. Joe

    Cory said: "Here we go again – everyone thinks that this is going to give them more coverage for less money..."

    When the title of the program has the word "Affordable" in it then yes, I expect it to be more affordable than what I have now.

    November 5, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Max

    Yes everyone a politician lied. Every politician lies. It does not matter if they are Republican or Democrat, they will tell people what they want to here in order to pass any legislation or go into a war. Does anyone still remember the words "weapons of mass destruction"? I voted for Obama and would vote for him again because I honestly thought and still think that out of the candidates that we had to choose from he was the best pick for the country. Did he get caught in a lie? Yes. Is he trying to wiggle himself out of it? Yes. If you're shocked that a politician has lied, maybe its time for you to wake up.

    November 5, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. miffed

    in the retail world that tactic is called "Bait and Switch". Seems our fearless leader doesn't believe "Honest is the Best Policy."

    November 5, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. Scott Independent

    To all the people saying that its private companies canceling existing healthcare plans and not the feds: it doesn't matter. The promise was made stating that when new legislation took effect there would be NO cancelled plans. If the POTUS and the feds do not have power over regulating this then they should have not made that promise. period.

    November 5, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. chris

    Remember CNN has to recoup some of it credibility so they can influence people to vote for Hillary....Where were all these questions during the writing of the ACA....I only remember condescending questions thrown at people that brought up these potential problems with the ACA....

    November 5, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. vandal73

    With OBAMA, the End is always justified by the Means, Lie, Cheat or Steal !!!

    November 5, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. JJ236

    This mess is what happens when politicians sign off on things they have no concept of how it works or what is in it.

    November 5, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. Ian

    He is STILL lying!!!

    Why is there a requirements for women who have gone through menopause or even more stupid a man to have to have Pregnancy coverage????

    People's plans are canceled or Premiums doubling and their deductibles going through the roof.

    This is ALL planned in order to bring ALL of it under Government control. People will be so upset the Government will get control of ALL of it. You can bet that is the plan.

    November 5, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  16. Mike Jones

    How Obama changed his Obamacare promise"

    When did "change promise" become the new euphemism for lying?

    Only on CNN ...

    When you need to be feed lies, think of us, Communist News Network.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. Phattee

    The problem is the greed of the insurance companies. The health and well-being of Americans SHOULD NOT BE A FOR-PROFIT INDUSTRY.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. steve Jans

    Wow, a lying politician. Who would have imagined.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. Atheist4Life

    Obama is a liar. He lied to this country and this whole healthcare fiasco is inexcusable. The right thing to do is to put it on hold and fix it. Let's be honest and admit this thing really needs work. Most are seeing their rates go up and I don't think that anyone wants that.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Fish

    Why must the political ticker be in such small font as to be unusable??? It is ridiculous to have different formats on the same website!!! Hell , I have to use a magnifying glass to read this stuff, who do you think reads and comments, teenagers???

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. sherib4

    Look at Obama crawfishing on his story. A lie is a lie and they knew this would happen to folks. The more I think about it, it seems to me that a lot of these people they claim will be added to the insurance rolls is also a lie. The majority of these uninsured were already on medicaid or some other government program. The majority of them will continue to be on medicaid. So where are all of the new people going to come from to enroll in Obamacare. I also resent the fact that at my age, in my 50's) I am required to have birth control and maternity coverage. This whole law is a joke. I think that the high medical costs are the fault of the insurance companies to begin with. They charge an arm and a leg for malpractice to the doctors and hospitals so they charge more. Then charge us an arm and leg for health coverage. Listen people the Insurance companies are not your friend!!! They are out to make big profits and that is all they care about.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. VictimsRites

    The reason no one is signing up for Obamacare is the people who thought it was FREE (nothing is free) realizes now that they have to pay for it. The people who had health insurance, was happy with what they had, until the cancellation notice came in the mail (Thanks to Obama). The only thing he accomplished, he key signature legislation is even a failure. Five years, and one election later, the liberals still support this guy. Obviously they can't recognize a failure when they see one.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  23. wakeup

    @Joseph1NJ
    Your issue is EXACTLY what is wrong with ObamaCare. It was not a reform – it does NOT reduce costs.. It only make insurance available with cheaper premiums for the poor and uninsured (even that is some – not all),
    They did nothing to prevent the insurance companies from raising costs and cancelling. The only good thing was the pre-existing conditions – but they will STILL have ways to not insure you...And WHY don't they go after them ? and instead hit up the businesses and the middle class ? Because the Insurance Companies line their pockets.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. picklepants

    Hey CNN, it's ok to tell the truth and write that Obama lied! I just lost my health insurance of 15 years because of obamacare.

    November 5, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. Concerned1

    We got a Socialist community organizer for President. Happened once. Never again.

    November 5, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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