November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
6 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. drushsean

    America, wake up! If you believe any of the spin liberals and the old and outdated media are trying to feed you then you have learned nothing. Obama is a LIAR! You can't and shouldn't believe a word out of his or the old media's mouth, no matter how much you may hope it is true. It is not. CNN, you are pathetic. You put out a terrible product. No wonder no one is buying it anymore, you are a Polaroid in a digital camera world.

    November 5, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. jads

    technically he didn't lie.. he didn't make you change doctors or healthcare... he made it so that your insurer would do that for you. It came down to the same thing but in reality he didn't actually lie. .... and that is exactly what politicians get off on... playing with words... it's like me saying I won't beat you up.... but then i have someone do it for me. i didn't lie.. i didn't beat you up. However in this case I would still be liable as i instigated the beating... and in this case president and his plan will not be held accountable for how it impacted insurers causing them to cancel insurance on people.

    November 5, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  3. rad666

    He said there will be change.

    He changes his word on a regular basis.

    November 5, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  4. Dan

    Oh, he's a liar. What a surprise.

    November 5, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  5. Jay Karny

    Obama lied & sick people lost their coverage !

    November 5, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  6. Richard

    What is happening here, people don't think exactly how great this new Universal Healthcare (Obamacare) is for the American people..., major changes always have some issues in the process to perfection, millions of people will be better thanks to this new universal healthcare!

    November 5, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  7. 4Truth

    CNN is skipping an important story behind the scenes that the CGI contract is grossly high, like 4X what it should have been, and they are getting more money to fix the problems rewarding incompetence. This is crony capitalism at work as the Obama's have links to them and CGI was a big donor.

    November 5, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  8. Logic_Is_Not_Common_Sense

    Galaxy Quest quote: Often, Sarris will say one thing and do another. Promise mercy, but deliver destruction. It is a concept we are learning at some great cost. But if you are saying you could have traits in common with Sarris... (laughing) Ah, ah, ah, lalalalalalalalalalala

    November 5, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  9. Katy

    If the government controls healthcare they can also control your access to healthcare. They can also tell you you are too old for certain treatments or too sick and not worth saving. They will start ranking who is worth spending money on. It's coming, people!

    November 5, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Because he was and continues to be a LIAR point blank. I hope that every single one of you that voted for him is totally 100% commited to and like the "change" you got, it's only going to get better!!!!

    November 5, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  11. Bill

    Here is just another lie for the pile falling out of his mouth daily

    Even though some people are getting kicked off existing plans, Obama has argued
    "they're probably going to get a better deal"

    I still see people trying to defend the lies. What does it take to admit you have voted for a fraud? All lies!

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  12. Water_Faery

    I think the author of this article, along with Jake Tapper, need to go move over to Faux News. They are obviously NOT reporting the whole truth in their allegations, just the part of the truth that lets them be biased and unprofessional. Yesterday I wrote a similar thought in an article by Jake Tapper and the comment was censored. That in itself doesn't make CNN look unbiased, though CNN has been my network of choice since it was born in the 1980s. I hope CNN chooses to allow this comment to be posted, and does not resort to more censorship. Its not like my comment is a flaming liberal comment either!

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. goober

    keep on thinking of the great song by the Who- "Won't get fooled again"

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. Mike Jones

    "That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you'll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

    – President Obama, speech to the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009, during the debate over health insurance reform.

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. AJ

    There is always a message and an intent (intention of the message). The message need not expose the intent for the readers or listeners. But clever people catch the intent even before the message is said complete. Affordable Care Act......Can you afford to get this care? maybe the intent? If yes, the message is success, if no, the message is failure.

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. bryan

    promise noun \ˈprä-məs\
    : a statement telling someone that you will definitely do something or that something will definitely happen in the future
    : an indication of future success or improvement
    : a reason to expect that something will happen in the future

    How does one "change" a promise?

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. MDL

    What more proof do you need that this man can not be trusted and unreliable?

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  18. bill collins

    Every time Obama opens his mouth he lies, unless he's attacking Christ. That's when he spews his venom!

    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  19. So Tired of CNN

    "Changed his promise"? Are you kidding us? Anybody else would be called a liar by CNN. But not their beloved little Obama.

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  20. Skid Marks on the Underpants of Society

    The Obama Administration is a giant skid mark on the underpants of society.

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  21. Cookie girl

    I simply can't stand the sight of his ARROGANT lying face.

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    Whether its the Private Insurance companies fault or the Feds. It shows that either Obama is either a complete liar, or once again that he doesn't know anything worth knowing (examples: IRS scandal, Benghazi, Journalism suppression, Fast and Furious).

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  23. TheTraveler

    By the way, be sure to lay some of the blame at the feet of the Republicans on this. The original idea was to make Obamacare a federal program, much like Medicare or Social Security. It was intended to consolidate insurers in a centrally accessible site and work from that model. Instead, the GOP forced the plan to be adopted and enforced STATE BY STATE. This did a couple of things; First it increased the magnitude of complexity of the website by at least an order of magnitude (read: complicated the website design a lot). Secondly, by limiting insurance availability to by what was offered in a particular state, it limited the number of options people would have to find a provider. In states with a number of providers, the options and costs are considerably more flexible than in states with only one or two qualified providers.

    Personally, I don't think Obama lied at all. I think he misjudged both the enormity of the AHCA project and the reactions of the insurance companies to it.

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  24. Richard

    If you are received a letter for your insurance cancelling your coverage..., time for you to look for a better plan, a better price and a better option!

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    "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.

    I happen to be in that 5 to 6% that has to pay more just to help people who won't help themselves!!! Say goodbye to the middle class!!!!

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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