November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
10 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. sean

    This is stupid, Obamacare doesn't' make people lose there current coverage it makes them buy additional coverage, they can still keep there doctor. NO ONE LOSSES THERE COVERAGE, THEY JUST HAVE TO UPGRADE IT TO A BETTER PLAN, so if some has healthcare coverage they keep it, but they have to enroll in drug and other coverage necessary.

    November 5, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  2. lockhimup

    Either he lied or he is to stupid to know he can't do what he says. Either way, he has to go!

    November 5, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. Caroline

    It's not cheaper and It's not better!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is he just out of touch or a big fat liar?

    November 5, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. GUTSY333

    Right :) , the ACA imperfections can be fixed; no human project is automatically perfect. Besides, I read here that conservatives hired computer hackers to damage the online applications for Obamacare. After the investigation, a huge scandal about what the conservatives did will surface :) That will coincide with the next presidential elections and do much damage to the republican candidates :) I CAN HARDLY WAIT :)))))))

    November 5, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. chrisredshaw

    Richard, you just typed "Universal Healthcare (Obamacare)". Do you know what Universal Healthcare is? Because Obamacare is nothing close to it.

    November 5, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. Sandra

    Yes, yes, little republcants, get it all out of your systems. Mountains/molehills compared to the problems you've got in front of YOU. All similar programs get off to a rocky start. When all this is said and done, it'll be smooth sailing just like Medicare.

    November 5, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. brandon

    first of all i don't think anyone really knows how all this will work out yet. but the one thing i know is that if nothing is done all the smaller companies who offer insurance to ther employees will eventually have to cancell becouse the cost is going up every year like 15-20 percent every year. the amount of peaple going bankrupt every year is out of hand. the real reason the cost are out of hand is the uninsured going to the hospital and not paying which makes cost go up. now if everyone is insured the cost should eventually go down. nothings perfect but you have too look at the big picture

    November 5, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Kenman

    Just saw the "press" licking the boots of Carney as the press conference, What a pathetic gaggle of useless followers!

    If we had a legitimate "mainstream" media, there would be no such long-term lies as have been propagated on the American people as has been done recently!

    AND, we would have known the REAL candidate before he was voted for on EMOTION and race! It's time to turn over those in the press, like it is in the government; they are all corrupt and in it together!

    November 5, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  9. Jimbo Jambo

    Obama has been a disappointment. He has gone back on all the most important issues that he promised. We are still in Afganistan and, honestly, still in Iraq. He did not restore the rights taken from us with the Patriot Act, rather, he further empowered the Act. The spying, the lying... the list is long.

    The GOP likes to scream that voter deserve what they got for voting for Obama, but the GOP doesn't provide candidates that voters can vote for. Let's face it, after Bush/Cheney, the GOP was going to lose to anybody the Dems put on the ballet. The GOP could have had a chance after Obama's first term, but they put Romney up as their candidate and nobody could vote for Romney with a clear conscience.

    November 5, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  10. nicole baptiste

    First of all, this article was poorly written and in need of some serious editing. As for President Obama, either he knew the stipulations ahead of time and hid that information, or he didn't really know how the insurance companies would react and was presumptuous. Either way, I'm really disappointed in how President Obama has handled this whole AFA situation.

    November 5, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. lenny55

    My personal premium costs for my family under Florida Blue are going up from $400./ month to $1,050 in 2014. And yes, my current plan is being dropped from the Florida Blue portfolio....

    November 5, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  12. Ali Spielberg

    President Obama had the guts to at least try to change America's health care system that blackballed so many people... now the insurance companies are terminating insurance and blaming Obama when in truth the wide spread cancellation of insurance is due to the insurance industry trying to destroy health care reform... Obama acted in good faith to change that beast of a health care system that needed to be changed... I only hope the insurance companies don't succeed in inflicting too many casualties on society in their fight against change...

    November 5, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  13. raul c.

    Myth or no myth and/or lies or no lies but the ACA will provide medical insurance to many who didn't have any + to those who only had an inferior policy.

    November 5, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. rgvg

    Tell the lady in cali that has cancer and is losing her insurance and her doctor because of this mess how she will better off!! Winning againest cancer is as much trusting your doctor as the meds you lose them in the middle of treatment its going to lessen your chances–She says she can't even get treated now–but whats one persons life as long as our fearless leader gets his place in historynas the the one got us this wonderful program.

    November 5, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. Drake

    Voted for him twice. I never believed he was anything more than your run-of-the-meal politician.
    He was just the better of the two poor choices. Both elections! So I'm not surprised at all..

    November 5, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Chuck

    He has no control over what the insurance companies choose to do before the law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The fact is that these very same insurnace companies MUST take them back starting in Jan. Albeit with a different policy but they must take them back and their MLR's will be fixed at 80%. It's a short term problem. These people who were cancelled will just reapply for a new policy starting in Jan.

    November 5, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Name

    Never trust a LIAR

    November 5, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. nickb9178

    4Truth, that isn't a big surprise. If there is a crooked dollar to be had, in D.C. they'll find a way to get it. F@$_in pukes, all of them!!!

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

    "Alter his promise"? That's not altering, it's another lie about the original lie. Have Americans become so uneducated and uninformed they're willing to give up their freedoms to choose? We've heard nothing but lies, blame, and slander for the last five years. From another speech today, President Obama now says he never promised voters they could keep their health insurance plans, “period.” Talking to top backers of his permanent campaign arm, Organizing for Action, at a Washington meeting Monday night, the president made a new claim: “What we said was, ‘You could keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law was passed.’”

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

    Obama should get some kind of prize for being the biggest liar in Washing history. He sets up laws that he knows will force insurance companies to cancel plans by the millions and then he claims that it was the companies and not him that did it. Americans are not that stupid. The truth is that he needs, indeed he has to get people OFF of their preferred plans and force them to by Obama Care or his plan fails.

    November 5, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Hopeless Fool

    The President lied? Who would have thought?

    November 5, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. Chris Wyman

    Obama is depriving some poor village of its idiot.

    November 5, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. Tom

    I never thought the day would come when the US government FORCED its people to do something or pay them a fine. Nothing is free people. The insurance companies are screwing the doctors behind the scenes on re-imbursements and will put a large number of them out of business. That will be step one. The next step is that the ones that do stay in business will stop accepting these plans, and you will have to pay cash. Remember, a doctor does not HAVE TO accept an insurance plan. All this so that people can have free health insurance. So now we have free insurance, free money from the government, free computers from the government, free cell phones from the government, free housing from the government. I can't imagine why so many people here choose not to work. Maybe we should give them a free car and that will make them get a job. Thanks Obama! And by the way, I am one of those small business owners who has to buy their own insurance and received my cancelation notice this week. Looks like I will be paying about $60 more per month for Obamacare so others can get it for free.

    November 5, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. Ted

    If only the GOP would ditch the religous nut conservatives....I would easily see a total Republican takeover during the next election.

    November 5, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  25. DC Watcher

    Now watch these three shells. I am going to put your current insurance plan under one of them and then shuffle them all up.

    Ok, now which shell is your insurance plan under?

    Nope Not #1
    Nope Not #2
    Nope Not #3

    See, what a trick. Your insurance plan is GONE.

    Now, want to try the same trick with your current doctor? Ok I am going to put your doctor under one of these 3 really big shells and shuffle them up real good..

    November 5, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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