November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
12 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. Low Information Voter

    You mean healthcare won't be free? That's why I voted for Obama!

    November 5, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Randy

    If you didn't know that CNN is drinking the President's kool-aid before, then you know it now.

    November 5, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. jschiizzy

    I guess Obama was supposed to list all the caveats instead of a simplified one liner. So, lets just suppose the government forced insurance companies to keep their old plans intact. Then you would probably see on Fox News stories of people who moved to another country and couldn't keep their plan because they don't live in the US anymore, and and uproar because they couldn't keep their plan. Point taken. For all speeches list all the caveats of everything you say for those who don't do their research. Turn a half hour speech into a three hour speech. The "promise" is a summary of the grandfather clause. Understand the clause, and you will understand that it was not a lie.

    November 5, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. Klatu

    It's not that difficult - he lied then and he keeps on lying. CNN quickly moved on from the fact that the miserable website was produced – with a no-bid contract – to a Canadian company. Yup - that from the president with the 'laser-focus' on creating American jobs. Oweasel is boinking America with ACA and did it by giving a contract to NON-Americans as well.
    .
    For those who now are faced with incredibly high deductibles on what ACA does provide, do you realize how sick you / your family has to be to get beyond a $5 or 6 thousand dollar deductible in a year??? You could also take these massive deductibles as a way to kill or allow people to die because they can't afford them - no doubt this was also part of the plan.

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

    It's not Obama's fault if the insurance company discontinues your plan. That's their decision.

    November 5, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. cbp

    This is all such hype that it makes me wonder what we really do want. The folks who got their insurance cancelled and were not offered other insurance are examples of what is wrong with the insurance companies. Companies have been known to cancel policies in the middle of treatments for life-threatening illnesses. If the insurance companies were in financial difficulty then perhaps there is a reason to cancel policies. This is no the case and they are cancelling policies which do not meet the criteria for the Affordable Act.

    It is time to look at the companies as well to see what is happening and why. Also look for the donations they have made for congressional and presidential races. That will tell quite a story.

    CNN is hyping this whole issue as are many in the main stream media. People are not going beneath the headlines to find the true story. This whole issue is being overblown. Some of us have trouble with our internet carriers every day as we try to get onto the web. We have companies that offer many different prices for the same services even though they are not that reliable. The internet is not perfect and we are discovering that in a very big way.

    November 5, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Blue Skies

    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 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. Greenspam

    So before Obamacare, insurance never drops people. But after Obamacare, when insurance drops people, it's Obama's fault, riht?

    November 5, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. achepotle

    What does this story have to do with the latest gun massacres?

    November 5, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. lgwelsh1

    Obama and his administration have set the country back at least 25 years. He will go down as the WORST president in modern history when it is all said and done. Vote for change... yep and that exactly what happened.

    November 5, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. Damian X

    Seems like during election time he conveniently left out the part about if your health insurance coverage doesn't meet ACA requirements you will be booted and forced to buy more expensive insurance.

    November 5, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. 3D

    I keep hearing how this only affects a small minority of people, 5% or 15 million or so........President Obama only won the popular vote by 4% in the past election.......an insignificant amount of people? I think not.

    November 5, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. obama

    Listen no to what I say, I mean nothing of what comes off the teleprompter. What did you expect from me? I never so much as ran a lemonade stand I simply organized communities and attended church with crazy preachers.

    November 5, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  14. Diplomad

    Let me simply things for the folks at CNN who have spent several years covering for Obama: He lied. Period.

    November 5, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. erichx101x

    Someone had to reform healthcare. Nobody said it would be easy to reform healthcare for 320 million people. This will certainly be the hardest thing our country has ever faced...but we have to come together as Americans or this ship will sink.

    November 5, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. dina

    CNN is becoming more and more conservative with their coverage of the president. and other politics.

    November 5, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  17. lathebiosas

    Noble idea, poor implementation. Time will tell. I wish Washinton would focus more on why health care costs so much in America versus everywhere else......

    November 5, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  18. Tom

    Anyone that tries to defend his lies is a complete idiot. What's worse than the lies, is the attempts to change the narrative. Regrettably, the low information voters will buy his new sound bytes and won't even question him.

    November 5, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  19. VTGUY

    Nixon lied once and resigned.... Obambam lied a bunch of times... and we still have this community organizer from KEnya as our president?

    November 5, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. UnrealTard

    My mother taught me what this was. She called it lying.

    November 5, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  21. Obama the criminal clown

    Obama should be thrown from office, like off the WH balcony.

    November 5, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  22. Engineer in Raleigh

    Maybe if the right wing wasn't playing Sam Adams dress-up and coming up with insane conspiracy theories about Kenyan birth certificates, they could have influenced this law.

    Yes, it stinks, and Obama should be held accountable, but guess what... If you refuse to act like a grown up, no one will care what you have to say.

    November 5, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    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.
    -------------------------------
    Who? What was the name of that company again? Haliburton? Getting billions and billions in no-bid contracts? Seriously?

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  24. John

    The agenda of the right and left is not in anyone's best interest.

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  25. Dave

    Wrong, CNN...health plans are canceling the plans...people are not being given a choice to keep their plans by the insurers.

    More bad reporting by CNN...quit trying to be like FOX and go back to telling the truth.

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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