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. Todd

    Everyone I know received a letter that their coverage will be terminated.
    An equivalent plan will now cost me 200% increase in premium.
    To insure my employees will also be a significant increase.
    This is ridiculous.

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. Earle

    Hmmmm. Me thinks Joe Wilson said it best way back when... "YOU LIE"!!! And now Teflon man and his minions will deflect and shift the blame like good little Democrats do... Make them pay the price for this BS forced on Americans starting in 2014 and then 2016! Got you're Obama Care yet all you good little Democrats? Thought not!!!

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. DaveinIL

    "changed his promise"
    It's OK, he had his hand behind his back with his fingers crossed so it didn't count.

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. bob

    He lied period! His goal is total destruction of the American health care system and pure communism to replace.

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. ralph

    I would also note , that this lie, is not even close to.."iraq has WMDs t, the war will be cakewalk, it will be fully paid for by iraqi oil, etc

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. Jeff

    I love that the media and liberals are so stunned that Obama lied to them. White House memos show he knew this would happen and did his lying regardless thinking it might not come out. He lies every chance he can. And we are now seeing the result of Nancy Pelosi's idiotic comment of "not knowing what's in the bill until we pass it." Congratulations!

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    And really CNN? Polls to determine whether people are better off? Sorry, but that's something that can actually be reduced and analyzed with actual data instead of the opinions of angry and/or misinformed individuals who have not even seen how the ACA would effect them yet. According to studies from EXPERTS, using available DATA, the breakdown really looks like this:

    80% unaffected (mostly people who keep employer insurance plans)
    14% clear winners (currently uninsured who get to buy some form of insurance)
    3% no real consequence (have to buy new plans, but similar/comparable to existing policies)
    3% potential losers (have to buy a higher-quality health plan with no annual cap)

    So what we're talking about here is 3% of people, SOME of whom are just angry even though the ACA really won't have a net effect on them, and 3% who have to buy a higher-quality plans because they were busy getting themselves ripped off by the insurance industry with bare-bones non-insurance insurance plans that the legislature has deemed damaging to the nation's economy. The numbers don't lie and no legislation has ever pleased everyone. Putting it into accurate perspective with real numbers, you'll have to forgive me as I fail to weep for them.

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. GRH

    Since Mr. Gruber believes "most Americans" will come out ahead under Obamacare, he shouldn't mind if the few that aren't call him on his cell phone to advice him how they're getting screwed.

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. Vinve Gray

    I am happy to see that for once the media is reporting something factual about Obama and his administration rather than putting the left spin on it, like with the government shut down. I still don’t see the media pushing him about why the Affordable Care Act, “The Law of the Land”, doesn’t apply to everyone. I just wonder how long it will last before the media just starts campaigning for Obama again. I am happy to see Obama finally is being called out on something.

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. Dorkus Maximus

    Fact is, a private insurer can change its plan whenever it wants. It can raise prices, cut coverage, drop doctors from the network, and on and on. It's not like health insurance was all that dependable before the ACA.

    November 5, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. Selina

    With the horrible economy that we have been dealing with since, what? 2008, the job market is horrible, all of my children are having to work in the "service" industry.....how in the hell are they supposed to afford to buy healthcare? They are struggling to be able to eat, even with the so-called federal funding, they still can't afford to buy health insurance. Mr. President, I give you credit for pulling the wool over the eyes of the American public, but your continuous lies and false statements to us will not guarantee you any kind of re-election. I personally did not vote for you during either election and am happy to spread the word to as many people as I can that the only way we can make a change in our country is to get you booted to the curb. A lie is a lie, and you sir, are a liar.....I have absolutely no use for liar's in my life.

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  12. Minne Mouse

    Doesn't it make more sense for the insurance companies to abide by the new standards and provide to the people that already have insurance through them, instead of dropping them like "Hot Potatoes"?? Why can't they just keep the same plans and make the insurance providers do their jobs, which is to provide health care insurance which meets the new law standards.

    Why do millions of Americans now have to go out and search for new insurance plans, when they had coverage already?? The insurance companies need to be required by law to meet the new standards, so people can stay on the insurance that they already have.

    Since everyone else in this country has to abide by the law, this would also mean that all insurance provides should be required also to provide the coverage that's in the "Affordable Care Act". If the providers who are dropping people can't do what the law is asking, they need to be fined just like everyone else.

    The law is the law, and has made changes for everyone in this country. If your an individual, if you are a business and if your are an insurance providers, that means you also have to abide by the law and get fined just like everyone else has to follow the law.

    These people don't need better deals because they like the plans that they already have and should be able to remain in the plans, In order to do that the health care providers need to change their standards and plans to meet the new law, point blank!!! They have no right putting people out in the cold and with such short notice!

    If there is any health care provider out in the market, that is not meeting the new law standards,then they need to flat out be out of business or shut down for now abiding by the law!

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. Lane

    Obama in one word- Fraud.

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  14. Ron

    You know things are getting bad with the Democrats when CNN is calling Obama out!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  15. 1375

    Wow so this is where all the Libtards hang out! Who would have thunk it?

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  16. Buckn

    I read the blogs on this and other news sites dozens of times before the ACA took effect, and remember all of the times that it was said that, the way the bill was written, you could not necessarily keep your plan and that prices for many, if not everyone would go up. I read that many plans would be cancelled.
    Then, I read all of the liberals saying that these people were just trying to scare everyone, or that they were just a bunch of "anti-Obama" racists, or that they were just plain liars.
    Well, the proof is in the pudding. the ACA is a disaster. People's insurance plans are going up in smoke. Rates, and projected rates are doubling and, in some cases tripling, when you count the increase in copays and deductibles.

    Being able to read, and seeing that a law is bad does not equal racism, tea-party association, or right wing political affiliation.
    The ACA was a bad law from its inception, and its implementation was a complete disaster.

    They need to nick-name this law "Democare", instead of "Obamacare". It was a total and complete failure, brought to you by nearly every democrat in Washington. Nearly every Republican opposed it. Not because Obama backed it, but because, as they have said time and time again, it is a bad piece of legislation.

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. Carrie Deliliea

    Obama's banner being seen unfurled a few weeksds ago on the sides of the major insurance buildings throughout America: "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. Holly

    My insurance has gone up ... way up. And, the administration might say that I am receiving a "better" product, but that product means nothing to me if I don't use/need it. The reality is that I now have to spend $4000 just to get my insurance to BEGIN to pick up 85%. A copay of $35 sounds ALOT better than a doctor's bill for $100 just to be seen for an office visit. I have 4 kids. If I take them all to be seen, I am paying $400 in one day. This setup up is RIDICULOUS.

    November 5, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. ThisIsHorrible

    Everybody should keep their eyes peeled because this is only the first couple of waves. I have my insurance through my employer, and its much better than the "Non Affordable Care Act". However I just received some great news.... NOT.... My premiums will go up 16% and the basic plan is no longer offered which is a 26% difference in costs. I am on the upgrade plan already so mine will go up only 16%, however most of my company is on the basic plan so their increase is now 42%. Now that's what I call affordable.... once again NOT!!! Ohhhhh I forgot about the wonderful government cheese(subsidy) that comes at tax time. Hmmmm I think my kids need to eat all year not just at tax time. But the next waves are much worse because of that increase of 16%, 6% is all taxes. (TAX and SPEND). Wait until we get to the rest of the taxes we will pay and see just how bad it will get. Because if there is any delusion that the taxes that are put on corporations will not get passed down to us.... we are all fools

    November 5, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Mark is an asshat

    The name says it all

    November 5, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Concerned1 wrote:

    We got a Socialist community organizer for President. Happened once. Never again.
    ------------------------
    Psst!. It's happened twice already. Back in the real world, your "Socialist community organizer" was re-elected a year ago.

    November 5, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. e redd

    What is that I hear sounds like the pitter patter of feet backtracking. Let's be honest here health care reform is not new or novel Obama didn't magical create something here. Its been proposed by dems and reps alike for decades. The only difference is health insurance decided the time was right. Who wouldn't with millions of new premium paying customers who get the the same plans basically. Except now the low costs plans are obsolete and thus you have to pay a higher premium. When Obeezy rolled out the plan mofo was on his shaft now a slip up and the same people panning him. People relax politics haven't changed only the players. Health companies will continue to get rich. A new president will emerge and push the same policies the corp elite want passed. And we will still be here talking about how they lie.

    November 5, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. al

    I believe that no matter how he tries to spin it he will pay a price for what is happening whether it is the government's fault, the insurance companies' fault or a combination of both. He made it sound like people could keep their insurance and now they are finding out they can't.

    November 5, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Help 100%? Seriously? The end result that millions of people will now pay more for what they don't need is classified as being "helped?"

    Obama: This is the guy that went for years and years to a church where his buddy, the fire-breathing pastor, spewed white hate. This is from the guy whose wife said she was proud to be American "for the first time in her life" when he was chosen for the Democratic ticket. Add this lie, or "refinement" LOL, to his heap of dung. He's an embarrassment, but it always gets "refined" or just flat out swept under the rug.

    November 5, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  25. bleeh!!!

    what i was offered on the website was WORSE coverage, higher deductables and more out of pocket all for 2x my current price. I am not leaving my employer provided policy. If i did, I would have to delay appointments because of costs and pay more for premiums!!!!! They woudl have missed the cancer on my face had I done that. Good thing I am not on an Obamacare plan!!!

    November 5, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
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