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. TD Vann

    Bad enough we have a LYING LIAR as President who LIES about the LIES he tells; but JOURNALISTS are supposed to speak TRUTH to power. They are NOT supposed to be the PROPAGANDA arm of a wannabe TYRANT. We now have an ACTUAL grandma that OBAMA has THROWN off the cliff (Edie in CA a 7 year survivor of stage 4 gall bladder cancer who has lost her insurance, her doctors, her treatment and soon her life) and you LIBERAL FACIST THUG GOONS are telling the country this is a good thing?
    CNN is following in the discredited footsteps of Walter Durante who covered up Joe Stalin's murder of millions of Russians. When confronted he said "Well you can't make omelets without breaking a few eggs".
    I guess we can't get to single payer without forcing millions of Americans off of insurance THEY pay for with THEIR OWN MONEY. How many have to die for you FACIST THUGS to get your Soviet style healthcare system?

    November 5, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. sstrek

    Obama is a phony. He tells one lie to cover his previous lie which was made to cover the one before that. And it goes on. Normally I would say he's no better or worse than any other politician in Washington; except for the fact that his decisions are not only directly affecting our wallets with higher insurance premiums but they are also endangering our lives by eliminating existing healthcare coverages and active treatments as those policies get terminated. And all we get from him in response are crocodile tears. One big phony.

    November 5, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. TommyD

    Republican plan:

    "Sorry Mr Johnson, but your heart surgery IS NOT covered because your mother in law's niece has a twin brother with rectal cancer"

    November 5, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Rick Giannoni

    Post election scrutiny of what was obvious, Media served the Dems narrative again, zero courage for inconsequential tardiness. Our President like all Libs wants to be essential to our lives, that ain't freedom! We the people, however manipulated or bought off elected him. His search for praise had Clinton and the military neglect needs in Bengazi such that it supported that narrative too. Libs also ignoring 60-minutes report, Fox being ignored was SOP....

    November 5, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. govwatch63

    "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.

    Huh? Where's Dr. Seuss when we need him!

    November 5, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. RDH

    Good ideas don't need to be forced on people. Eliminate the personal "mandate" and give us the right to choose.

    November 5, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Paul

    Obummer bumbled again. ; )

    November 5, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. Dennis

    Is the only criteria for U.S. President that you be mentally defective and impermeable to reason?

    November 5, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. Al

    And yet more Democratic lies are coming out. But some here have predicted that this was the facts and we were called haters and racist.

    November 5, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Durham

    My 82 year mother, who has Parkinson's disease, just received a cancellation notice from her insurance carrier. The company she has been with for the past 9 years is pulling out of her area beginning 2014. The cheapest option available to her will cost $500 more a year for a policy that provides 20% LESS coverage than she has now.

    She isn't young, healthy or wealthy. How is this fair?

    November 5, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  11. Woodrow

    I got my letter. I'm self-employed, and now I'm self-insured.

    Before ObamaCare: Humana insurance, HSA, 630/mo, 10K deductible. Expnsive, but we could do it.

    After ObamaCare: plan above cancelled. The replacement is 1134/mo with a 12,400 deductible. I would have to pay $25K PER YEAR before insurance kicks in. It's a good thing that we're in good health, because there's no way we can do that. We're going to have to drop insurance for the family and pay the fine instead. I can't get welfare (aka subsidy), but yet can't pay for insurance. Obama lied, plain and simple. Now my family that was insured will no longer be covered.

    Oh, but if we do get that insurance plan, we get free birth control and substance abuse therapy, so I guess it is better insurance...just like he's saying now.

    This is impacting my family in a very personal way. This MIT professor talks about it in very impersonal terms, and yet he and Obama have opted to kick me out of the system. Guess what - if my healthy family isn't paying in, then we're not subsidizing the others that they intend to cover either. That means there will be a shortfall.

    Good work guys!

    November 5, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. roger

    Someone has probably already coined the term, but Obama should be called "The fine print President", you have to read the fine print before you can believe a word he says. Since Obama has decided that I am not capable of making my own health care choices and that he will decide what my plan should be and what I should be able to afford based on my income, I suddenly no longer feel competent to make any decisions for myself. I'm going to quit my job, sell my house, give all my money to charity and apply for welfare, food stamps and subsidized housing because the government can surely take better care of me than I can.

    November 5, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  13. PieInTheSky

    I'm reading the typical leftist-lib apologist posts on here. You know the ones that use the following "logic":

    1. He didn't lie, it's your plan's fault (yes the plan you were supposed to be able to keep if YOU liked it, "period"). Sorry, it's now considered "suboptimal" by Big Gov (THEY know what's best for you, not YOU – you are too stupid to know what you like)
    2. It's the insurance companies fault – they could just upgrade all plans (never mind if they lose money or that it's not the law to do so). It's all their fault that continuous government meddling (typically mandating more and more coverage) has driven health costs out of sight.

    What a bunch of crap – but I think Dems knew it all along – their goal is "single payer" – then we can all have substandard, wait in long lines, schedule appointments for 6 months out, govt mandated illnesses

    November 5, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. Renee Marie Jones

    I don't understand why anyone ever said "if you like your plan you can keep it." When you depend on private corporations to provide coverage no one can guarantee you can keep your plan. Insurance companies can change or cancel plans at any time for any reason. Companies change the plans they offer their employees all the time and don't ask permission or give employees any options. In the US we have NEVER had the "right" to keep our plans. Now is no different.

    November 5, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  15. SDCinNS

    No Mr. President – that's not what you said. You lied.

    November 5, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Hope and Change

    Kool-aid anyone?

    Still 'Believe" in "Hope and Change" and saying "Yes, We Can!"?

    Wish you could change your vote now?

    November 5, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  17. Rick

    We're all just Bozo's on the Bus....

    November 5, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    ""I'm not going to take away your guns" -Barack Obama, Sept. 2008"

    The only things enacted under Obama have expanded gun rights. Go take a long walk off a short pier.

    November 5, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  19. WeNoticeWhenCnnSpinsThings

    In the article on ObamaFraud, CNN noted that the president stated 'You can keep your plan." But he didn't. He said:
    'You can keep your plan. PERIOD.' CNN left that out, as if he really said: 'You can keep your plan. ASTERISK.'
    No, it wasn't a typo, or a misquote, something Bush did, or Tea Party "terrorism". THE PRESIDENT KNOWINGLY AND WILLFULLY LIED. How can we trust such a person, that manipulated the vote on the ACA, subverting a true vote by the congress?

    November 5, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "Sure, and if I double the price, I can get a V8 Mustang over the basic Fiesta as well. Thing is, that basic Fiesta may have been all I needed, so even if I am getting something better, there is zero value in that better for me."

    Sure, and if you increase the price and then ignore the subsidies that are available, you can claim the costs went up. Boy that's easy. You won't see the word "subsidy" in CNN's reporting, that's for sure.

    November 5, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  21. Kevin

    Any lawyers out there want to loin a class action law suit . I want to sue Obama for this lie and disenfranchising americans

    November 5, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. dwight

    What Obama basically said in the beginning, "Is that it is up to you and our plan doesn't change what you do.", but now he is saying, "It is up to you until your plan changes because of the insurance companies and employers changes made because of our plan, but that is a good thing." It is like saying, "You still have choice, but it is now between our insurance plan or another company that we control that will force you into our insurance plan."

    November 5, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  23. Douglas

    Ok so then the president has known all along that a number of Americans would be affected negatively by his law but I guess he decided "that's too bad" sacrifice a few hard working people in order to hand more free services to those that are too lazy to work but willing to vote for him. So lets change the name of this law, since we know there is nothing "affordable" about this law that's been rammed down our throats.

    November 5, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  24. rs1201

    I'm glad I never voted for this guy...the people who did must feel pretty badly about it...he's a liar...a bold faced liar!

    November 5, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Carol

    Words are things, and we are too quick to belief people we feel we can trust. The President wanted to change the health care in America, and did it without studying everything, it appears to us. This is hurting many people, ones we know. It reminded us of his promise not to touch the Seniors SS, and Medicare. He put it on the table, and the GOP pushed it off because they wanted to keep their taxes the way they wanted it. We are all waiting for the table to hold our SS, again, why not, he broke his word there. Does anyone in government have any ethics anymore?

    November 5, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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