November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
11 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. Patrick

    "How He Changed HIs Promise". What an unbelievable headline!

    November 5, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. TSB8C

    The White House and others knew back in 2009 that about 17% of existing policies did not meet the mandates under ObamaCare and that those persons would not be able to keep their existing plans as promised. Sibelius testified to that fact last week.

    November 5, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  3. Tony Harrison

    This is unbelievable. So what we are finding out is that the big joke, Ted Cruz was a Paul Revere on all of this! This is much bigger than you are letting on. I'm finding out from all kinds of people that I know that many more are getting worse coverage that costs them more. The media is supposed to see this kind of thing coming! Unbelievable!

    November 5, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  4. sick and tired

    Worst president ever. His wreckless spending will have ramifications for generations to come. Very sad that he ever got elected.

    November 5, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  5. EP

    The reality is that American people hate to be abused by the Government but love to be abused by private large Corporations:
    a. Health Insurance companies that sell fake plans and kick people out when they are in need of care (the real death panels). Same companies that have constantly increased premiums at unjustifiable levels in the last 30 years.
    b. Big Banks that apply predatory practices to Credit Card and Mortgage holders or gamble customer’s money by repackaging Bank’s toxic debt
    c. Oil companies that manipulate pricing at the pump via cartels, cause eco-disasters and pollute air and water. All the while benefiting from huge tax breaks.
    d. Private higher education providers that charge exorbitant fees to maintain bloated marketing and administrative staff, advertise on television during the super-bowl rather than investing in more educators.
    e. Large retailers that employ people at poverty levels so they can access Government subsidies (Walmart above all)
    f. And more….
    Please let’s remove any form of oversight on all of this and let the real fun begin! It should be a blast for all of you rugged-individualists out there.

    November 5, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  6. sly

    Only Nazi-Americans like Ted Cruz ("send all the blacks back to Africa") want a nation where Big Insurance denies 50 MILLION (FIFTY!) health care.

    Tea Party has now proposed that Public Education be eliminated as well. Yeah, right, let Big Insurance charge $20,000/child for elementary school.

    Eliminate the Nazi's in America. Destroy the Tea Baggers.

    November 5, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. Jerry Okamura

    It is too late, the horses are all out of the barn.

    November 5, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  8. sosdn

    I usually criticize CNN but this article is a step in the correct direction.

    November 5, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. seehowtheyrun

    Of course he meant that the Government wouldn't change anyone's plans. Insurance companies changed their plans. Nothing prevented them from upgrading their plans to meet ACA requirements and keeping their members for the same price. But nothing required them to do that either. My only complaint with the ACA is that it didn't go far enough.

    I'm tired of all the complaints that based on other agendas: people that just don't like the President, people that don't think we should have National healthcare, people that don't want to pay taxes for anything, etc... Those opinions have all had their airing and they all lost: the ACA is the law of the land. It's time to get out of the way, let it implement and we can improve it as we go along.

    I've been an individual policy holder for several years and I just got a very good policy on my state exchange. It's comparable coverage from my same provider, and the premium is $200 per month less. Even though the yearly deductible is $1,000 more, I'm still saving money because of the lower premiums.

    I think that everyday, more and more people will have good experiences with the ACA and it will grow in popularity.

    November 5, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. k483

    Yeah, it's a small percentage, but it was a small percentage of people who were uninsured to begin with (about 16 percent). Subtract from that the number of those who chose to not carry insurance, that goes down to about 6 percent. Now they look at it as percentage of people impacted. If we had chosen that method from the outset we would have never gone down this path.

    November 5, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  11. Earle

    Awaiting moderation huh.... is it about Obama in a negative way? CNN is a joke!

    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 boondoggle 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 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. RedPriest1

    Welcome to Endentured Servitude. At what point do "Conspiracy Theories" become actual "Conspiracies"

    November 5, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  13. Jill-IN

    Having worked in the life and health insurance industry for 30 years, I just knew the big health insurance companies would pull this stunt. Letters go out to insureds way before their renewal date telling them the plan they have will no longer be provided by the carrier (true but fail to state it does not even meet minimum coverage standards) then tell them if they take this other plan immediately they will not lose coverage (fear factor plus threat of a loss ) and then fail to tell the person that this same insurance company also offers these same better plans in the AFA Exchange where they will be able to get it cheaper and get premium support). Sad but insurance companies have been doing this for 50 years and it is why millions of Americans do not even have health insurance.

    November 5, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Tired of all the rising cost / and no raise in sight

    It's pretty sad when I have to stop my vision care insurance just so I can afford the Obamacare tax on my paycheck! I cancel part of my own plan just so I can pay for other people to have insurance. And I CAN NOT AFFORD THAT!!

    November 5, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. Guest

    No one will ever trust him again. He lied to the American people. What a creep!

    November 5, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    I look at it this way. Both sides can accuse the other of lying. I think one "you can keep blah, blah, blah" cancels out "death panels." Both sides can point their fingers and say the other lied to win an election. Well, it worked for Republicans in 2010, and it worked for Democrats in 2012. Once again, both lies cancel one another out. It's all square. Please note the order of events, folks.

    November 5, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  17. Obama IS a LIAR

    This is about insurance, not about health care. Bottom line, if you dont have money you dont have health care. Plans are 60%, 70%, 80% and 90% coverage. NOTHING is 100%. This is NOT National Health Care. You can be covered but cant afford the surgery or proceedure. So who is gaining, the insurance companies are taking your money and you cant take the benefit because you dont have the scratch.

    This is the biggest hoodwink the politicians have ever come up with. And the Supreme court allowed it. Treason plain and simple.

    November 5, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  18. DontLie

    Man, will the lying ever stop?!?

    "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,"

    They want to cover the uninsured because they are being forced to cover preexisting conditions by Obamacare, not because they're feeling philanthropic. And the lie continues about "keeping your old plan". HHS under Obama wrote new regulations relating to the ACA that effectively killed the grandfathering of old plans. Why make the plans go away for a change like premium or even coverage, as long as it's still creditable? So many lies and it's amazing to watch the spin they're trying to put out to counter what's on recorded video and printed direct quotes.

    November 5, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Gman

    Now we all know how the Sioux felt about government promises.

    November 5, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. JDD

    "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."

    I keep seeing this "small percentage of people" language – although here at least qualified as millions of people. But, as is also being well-reported on – finally – that "small percentage" is going to increase quite a lot when the one-year employer mandate is up. It's going to grow to include, essentially, most of America.

    We had our employer meeting last week – our premiums are creeping up, but are going to at least hold relatively stable for a short time – and then they won't. And, in case anyone hasn't noticed, the "under 50 employees' nonsense doesn't separate out small businesses that much at all from the effects. Because small businesses purchase insurance plans, and insurance plans are changing across the board. Obamacare has indeed affected at least one-sixth of the economy of this Country – far more than one-sixth. What a wasted two terms of economic policy. Will voters please remember this when another politician, somewhere down the road, with smooth podium presence and late night talk show applause, promises you the moon?

    November 5, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. timverba

    Is the problem that the words of the President were not exactly precise, or is it that the insurance companies cannot fill a Solo cup or a crystal glass with a drink called kool aide when that drink is really acid? I would rather have the president lie every day and all day if it will stop people from drinking acid.

    November 5, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  22. wildwallaby

    Spin, spin, spin in the end the statement was a fabrication, also known as a lie. Again, our leaders act like teenagers. "I didn't really lie, I just left out the parts you would say no too."

    November 5, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  23. APO_AE_09173

    This man couldn't be honest if he tried. Now all he is doing is damage control.
    In the future when passion for this drip have died and the cold, harsh light of day is shown on him, he will be the least honest, wost man to hold the office in its history.

    November 5, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. Dismayed

    ""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."

    Another lie. I lost mine and I would pay significant more on the exchange for a policy that adds maternity and children's dental and vision, of which I am a man without children.

    More obama lies. For you who voted for this Marxist, look for the next round of cancellations which will occur mid year as companies drop employee plans due to the increased coverage for all employees even though that coverage is not needed.

    Obama lied, millions lost their healthcare insurance!

    November 5, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  25. dajowi

    All those Democratic senators who passed this law without reading it should be forced into this health care insurance without any additional benefit or subsidy not offered to the regular citizen. Obama and his sock puppet Jay Carney can't spin the lie. This is the change you can believe in folks. Hope your satisfied with the socialist you've elected into office.

    November 5, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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