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. SPN

    Is it my imagination or is the grammar in this article atrocious? There are whole paragraphs where I can't make sense of what is written.....

    November 5, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. cra2008

    New motto of the Affordable Care Act: "First do HARM!"

    November 5, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  3. Paul

    Rudy NYC,

    Fair is fair you say. I have worked in Primary care for 15 years. I look at the insurance changes from a perspective that you can not imagine. If you could, you would not utter the diatribe you did. By all means let's make the working people pay more to pick up the tab for those who can not or do not want to work. Let's subsidize the younger and more irresponsible so the costs are artificially lowered. Let's give another incentive not to work. Let's all quit working and have it all given to us. I am tired of paying taxes to support a government who no longer feels the obligation to represent me, my thoughts, my ethic and my morals.

    November 5, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. paul reynolds

    Republicons are Furious because Americans are finally getting CARE!!?

    But Republicons borrowed and spent over $3 TRILLION to "protect and serve" 100% Foreigner Iraqis for over a Decade costing 10 times more than ObamaCare..!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    The fact is he Lied to the American people he said if you like it you can keep it period. the the insurance companies can't sell the older plans because he made them illegal so quit trying to pass the blame, If your such a honorable man own up to it. Its your signature plan Grow a pair and for once in your life be truthful. YOU BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, are a LIAR>

    November 5, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. Chris Honry

    INSURANCE COMPANIES = GREED

    WHY are we even paying insurance companies instead of paying health care providers?! Let's all get together and have our employers pay our $350, $500, $700 a month to a hospital and Dr. group and when someone needs care they just go in. CUT THE GREEDY INS. CO.s OUT of the WHOLE EQUATION.

    WHY ARE PEOPLE MAKING MONEY FROM THE SICK WITHOUT TREATING THEM?!

    November 5, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. John

    Better insurance but worse healthcare. Thank you commie Obama.

    November 5, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  8. Water_Faery

    I think the author of this article, along with Jake Tapper, need to go move over to Faux News. They are obviously NOT reporting the whole truth in their allegations, just the part of the truth that lets them be biased and unprofessional. Yesterday I wrote a similar thought in an article by Jake Tapper and the comment was censored. That in itself doesn't make CNN look unbiased, though CNN has been my network of choice since it was born in the 1980s. I hope CNN chooses to allow this comment to be posted, and does not resort to more censorship. Its not like my comment is a flaming liberal comment either!
    November 5, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |

    November 5, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  9. jim

    "Obama changes Obamacare promise."

    In the normal world, we call this a "lie".

    November 5, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Amanda

    Obama wants what he wants, and he'll like to get his way.

    November 5, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. HEYDUDE

    LOL. DUH! He a liar! Or at least a huge B S artist. Go ahead, vote another dem in. We are dooomed by ignorant voters.

    November 5, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Hope and Change

    Are we living in the next Cuba?

    November 5, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  13. cra2008

    New motto of the Affordable Care Act: "First do HARM!" LOL!

    November 5, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  14. dwight

    And somehow those that made the Laws are exempt from the Law they made. Convenient. It allmost makes me want to become a politician..but I have a conscience.

    November 5, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  15. dnokc

    No...He didn't change his promise...HE LIED

    November 5, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  16. Jimmy

    He's a lawyer and a law professor.
    If you elect a lawyer to the POTUS this what you get.
    Lawyers don't solve problems, they make things worse!

    November 5, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. Blaine

    Ha what a colossal fool. It'd be funny if here weren't POTUS.

    November 5, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. timmy

    What a mess. This is obviously not what most of us hoped for who supported health care reform. Medical costs are bad enough even with insurance. I can't afford to go to a doctor and I have pretty good insurance, but I live pay check to pay check, so unless I am in dire straits, I am not going to the doctor. My wife had a severe tooth ache. I could not find any dentist open on a friday and the ones who were would not take a non patient. We had to go to emergency room to get pain meds and antibiotics. Our wonderful insurance claims it's not an emergency so we have to pay the entire 300 dollar bill. Even if I pay 20 a week on that bill, it becomes 80.00 worth of food and gas I don't buy that month. Something needs to be done, but birth control for 60 year olds is not the answer.

    November 5, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  19. shawn poland

    my money doesnt pay for liars or support the media who perpetuates the lies to the point of causing terror!

    November 5, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  20. Bill

    Fact check: "The cancellations will not affect most Americans."

    According to the Obama administration themselves, between 40 and 67% of plans that existed in 2010 are expected to no longer be grandfathered by the end of this year.

    Approximately 250 million Americans have health insurance, so to see if the statement is completely true, we need to multiply 250 million by 67%, to arrive at a figure of 167 million.

    The population of the Untied States is estimated to be around 314 million people right now. 167 million divided by 314 million is 53%, which would qualify as "most" under any mathematical calculation.

    Verdict: Unprovable statistically.

    November 5, 2013 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. Frank

    If Obama were a salesman on TV selling Obamacare and deceived millions into losing their current policy, tricked them to go to his website and buy it cheaper and find out its DOUBLE or TRIPLE what they were paying, cancelling their current policy so they CANT GO BACK then FINING them if they DONT BUY HIS INSURANCE, the Consumer Protection Agency would have his business surrounded with armed officers and they would be carting him off to PRISON on NATIONAL TELEVISION for "FELONY FRAUD!"

    THAT'S A FACT!

    November 5, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  22. Michael_Chatt

    I think almost everyone is worse off. The Elder who paid for their coverage all their lives are worse off. An Inner City Gang Banger will have better coverage than someone who worked their whole life and paid for it in advance. The US is like a crooked Contractor, if you pay up front your screwed. Honestly if more elderly people started voting Democrat you'd probably be better taken care of. Well, maybe not, young hoods are a better investment because they will be around longer.

    It sounds like this is also going to cause a substantial shortage of Doctors.

    November 5, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  23. Rachel

    A letter I recently wrote to the President:

    Mr. President,

    I am writing this letter in protest of the Affordable Care Act. You promised the American people, you promised me, that we could keep our existing medical insurance policies if we didn't want to sign up with the ACA. You lied. I have received a cancellation notice from my insurance company. The old policy that I had, according to Kaiser Permanente, "doesn't meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act." So, instead of spending $536 per month on insurance for myself and my two children, I now get to spend $590.44 per month for significantly worse coverage. I calculated a breakdown of the cost differences and I am sharing it with you.

    My annual insurance premium cost was $6432.00 per year. It will now be $7085.28.
    Doctor visits used to cost $25. They will now cost $50.
    Generic prescriptions were $15. Now they will be $30.
    My individual deductible was $500 annually. Now it is $4,500.
    My family deductible has increased from $1,500 to $9,000.
    My out of pocket maximum for an individual was $1,500 and is now $6,359.
    My out of pocket maximum for our family increased from $4,500 to $12,700.

    The most that my insurance could have possibly cost me in a year (adding my premium and my maximum out of pocket) for an individual was $7,932 and for my entire family was $10,932. Now, I could be responsible for $13,435.28 for an individual and $19,785.28 for my family. That is a tremendous burden.

    I would like for you to tell me where in this breakdown does my insurance become more affordable, because I cannot find it.

    November 5, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. Bob

    Obama says CAT plans are bad so those policy holders need to upgrade. Obama is also telling people in the union that their plan is to good and they need to downgrade or pay a fine. Wait until those democrat senators explain to the unions why they are being punished for having better than average benefits.

    November 5, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  25. paul reynolds

    HealtCare.gov is working great, actually.

    Just signed up, logged in and everything worked flawless and Fast!!

    November 5, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
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