November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
1 year 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. Billy Jack

    Does this differ from what we told the Indians? After we broke treaty after treaty?

    Do you think Obama will reach "forked tongue" status??

    For whom was the term "forked tongue" made famous for?

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  2. Jimh77

    Let me get this straight . . . …
    We’re going to be “gifted” with a health care Plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don’t,
    Which purportedly covers at least ten million more people,
    without adding a single new doctor,
    but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents,
    written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn’t understand it,
    passed by a Congress that didn’t read it but exempted themselves from it,
    and signed by a President who smokes,
    with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn’t pay his taxes,
    for which we’ll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect,
    by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare,
    all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese,
    and financed by a country that’s broke!!!!!
    What the hell could possibly go wrong?

    November 5, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  3. akka1234

    Gotta love how they minimize the damage to hard working Americans. Evil liar! This is just the beginning of the hell that is coming our way at the hands of this incompetent, evil liar!

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Logic_Is_Not_Common_Sense

    Galaxy Quest quote..
    Often, Sarris (Obama) 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, la la la la la la la

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. rad666

    Obama promised change.
    He has kept his promise.
    He keeps changing his promises.

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. Omay Farlane

    What is absurd is the word Affordable. How come Affordable have to be with high deductibles, high out of pocket cost and less coverage for necessary procedures and visits? For me, it's a regulated business mostly to help the rich companies while screwing or killing the poor.

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. DaveinIL

    If Obama was a car salesmen, he be accused of bait and switch or fraud.

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. damiana879

    Who does he think he's kidding? "You can now get better health care plans at the same or more affordable prices.."??? HUH???? More like "You're going to get a cancellation letter because now insurance companies are free to charge whatever they want and you have no CHOICE but to get it! Mwah, ha ha ha!" That should be his slogan line now.....of course what he says is a piece of crap, did anyone expect anything less?

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  9. TracyIndependent

    He said 'you can keep it, period'....... How are some people saying that he technically didn't lie??? You can't keep it, you have no choice, there is nothing you can do to keep it.............PERIOD! His pants have to be burned up by now........

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. Tammy

    I got a letter from my company saying that it met the standards for ACA and our health plans were not changing.

    What this article is NOT saying is that the ACA outlined what was necessary for a company to keep their current health care options and when those companies DIDN'T want to conform, they told their employees their health plan is being dropped. They're blaming the Affordable Care Act when it is, in fact, those companies that are to blame.

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  11. Online Fat Loss Program

    Trying to figure out how to position my business to get in the best possible scenario.

    It is hard to see that people cant find a common language to work towards well-being of all.

    November 5, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Cecil Nixxon

    "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," .. if the Insurance Industry and associated Lobbyists allow. Otherwise, you'll take what the Insurance Industry and associated Lobbyists provide. Remember: this was never a "deal" for the people, it was a present to the Insurance Industry and associated Lobbyists in exchange for their cooperation. Unfortunately they have never cooperated with anyone thus far so what is their incentive now?

    All of this could have been avoided if the status quo in DC actually did their job and regulated the Insurance and Health Systems industries using the regulations already in effect. Don't like the "R" word? Then behave responsibly. Don't want to enforce regulations? Too frickin' bad – it's your job, not your prerogative to stonewall regulations because your party doesn't like them.

    We could of course fire every one of these bozos in the Executive and Legislative branches and replace them with people who work for a living. But that is too obvious.

    November 5, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. ralph

    Most are NOT seeing their rates. 62% of the bankruptcies are because of medical bills, and of those 62% 75% had one of these junk policies. He should have said < If you have REAL healthcare policy you can keep it , but if you a JUNK policy you will have to check out the options now available to you (subsidies etc)

    November 5, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. rooroomama

    I am one of those "Americans on the front end" an let me tell you that I worked my butt off with 3 jobs and student loans in the days BEFORE you got to go to college at a low cost and with supplements. I worked very hard to have the privilege of a professional job that includes free market insurance. My plan has previously cost our family 375 a month and covered 85 percent of costs with a 500-1000 deductible. Even at that, we sunk in debt way over our head when I had cancer and had to pay those deductables and our 15%. Consider 15% of 100.000 treatment! Who has 15,000 laying around? We've never had that much cash- EVER. Now, I find my insurance altered to a sucky $500+ a month with a 6000 deductible and a 20% co-pay. Where is the justice in that? Do I have to suffer as punishment for having worked hard all my life, paid attention and worked my butt off in school and sacrificed all to go to college, stayed loyal to the same job for 24 years, slowly earning a descent pay that does put me at the bottom of the upper income brackett?? Im sorry, but Obamacare lifts some up and casts others down. If Obama "closes the income gap", that is what???? . It equates to "Lets bring down the middle class , raise the lower class and leave the upper class alone. Then we will all cheer and say "YEAH- true socialism". Also, the raised premiums due to Obamacare will kill off the Middle Class. Ex: A friend who is young and has to pay the new high high premiums and is a cancer survivor will not get a CAT scan to check for remissiion because she cant pay the deductible. CASE CLOSED!

    November 5, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. Tony

    Republicans, you know that you can't afford to let Obamacare fail on its own, because if Obamacare does not fail, you are finished. The sad news for you is that, in order for Obamacare to fail, the private insurance system that Obamacare relies on (yes, insurance companies are still around to raise your premiums or cancel your policies, despite Republican claim that government is taking over health care) has to fail. Sorry, it is not happening.

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. 1375

    LOL Thank you Richard for that belly buster of a joke!

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. mrsjs15

    "Most Americans get insurance from either the government or their employer and won't be affected much by the law, he said."

    Ok. And when employers realize they dont have to foot the bill cause there is "affordable" health insurance out there for people to fall back on, then what?

    The Obamacare website wasnt up and running a full 24 hours and I know of two companies that rolled out letters stating that dependents would no longer be covered, just the employee. I guess those people wont be affected MUCH by the law...

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. ralph

    that should read Most are not seeing their rates rise

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. pk

    Got my cancellation notice last week. Can't get a so-called Navigator to assist..they don't return phone calls..one actually said she didn't know anything about ACA and frankly didn't care! Guess the government merely funded her for a day off....its a huge mess...

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Logic_Is_Not_Common_Sense

    Obama further alters (lies, decieves etc) 'you can keep your plan' pledge

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. KimH

    Obama sounds like Clinton now. A liar caught in a lie parsing words. Pathetic. He knows what he said, we know what he said. It was a lie. All 29 times.

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. valerie

    Some one needed to proof read this article for spelling errors and mistyped words.

    November 5, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  23. DB Cooper

    There's a very simple solution to the train wreck that is ACA: Universal health care NOW!

    November 5, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  24. Totally disguested with our government

    Unfortunately, we live in a country now that MOST people think they deserve something. No one wants to get out and work for anything anymore. All this afforable health act is doing is making me and my family pay more for our insurance and have to turn around and pay for the people that don't want to get out and work for anything, they only want things handed to them. If this would help the ones that really needed it, I would not be opposed to it but it doesn't just do that. I thought I lived in the land of the free, not the land that the government tells you want you HAVE to do.

    November 5, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  25. CATTRANS

    Mr. Gruber and the rest of DC have not even opened up the conversation on what is next problem. Now that we all will pay more for insurance (exception for those obtaining full subsidy's) here is the next BIG problem INFLATION. Business that have these huge 27-47% premium increases will only naturally increase the selling price of goods and services.. So even if you think you are not paying for higher premiums guess what that drink, meal, oil change, or what ever you buy will have a higher price tag..

    November 5, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
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