November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
1 year 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. aicohn

    Can Obama be anymore pathetic? Only thing worse than a liar is a liar who lies about his lie.

    November 5, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. tom l

    "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.

    Why does the left feel that they know everyone's personal situation so well and what's best for them? You know nothing about this person but want to make healthcare decisions for him/her. The arrogance is astounding. What if this person doesn't qualify for subsidies? What if this person does not want to take from the govt (that's what a subsidy is). These subsidies will cost me and you money. So, yes insurance is a pooled risk. So now, not only am I pooled in with my policy because it covers things I don't need (and I'm willing to accept that) but the double whammy is that I also have to pay for the subsidies.

    Sniffit, can you finally admit the president lied? You did earlier when you said he made ONE misstatement.

    November 5, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. whackywaco

    Obama is a suave liar.

    November 5, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  4. John

    And now it is being reported that written in this wonderful new law is the ability of the justice dept to wave the enforcement of the anti kickback law. Kickbacks to doctors, medical device companies etc. What does that mean? The President can punish his enemies by enforcing the law and reward his backers by not. Heard that one before? Oh and by the way, kickbacks drive up cost. Pull your head out Richard!

    November 5, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. larsonocara

    I cant stand Obama. He is a dishonest lying sleazeball. What makes him think he knows whats better for me than I do???!! That's liberals for you, think they know whats best for everybody. Obama tries to justify his lies saying that "now you will have better plans". That is such BS. By better he means making me buy stuff that I don't want/need! I finally had insurance that I was VERY HAPPY with but is no longer available because of Obamanationcare. Because of him, insurance will now be more than my mortgage. That's insane! I cant express enough how much I hate him and what he has done to this country and now what he has directly done to my family and I. He should be removed from office, its just one lie and dishonest act after another and I'm sick of it. Starting next year I will be UNINSURED because of Obama and will just pay the 'fine' or "tax"! Thanks a lot everybody who voted him in, appreciate it.

    November 5, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  6. Jorge

    Bottmline...ObamaCare is about fairness and equality....and this may workout..well-off people who can afford individual policies now have to pay more for the poor

    November 5, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  7. ch

    This president is a liar and a joke!

    November 5, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    CNN viewers: This is what you have voted for !!!

    November 5, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  9. Tim

    For all of those who wanted change, we got it big time. The rest of us that just wanted some improvement on the system we had have got flushed down the toilet with you. Why couldn't those that could have not afforded private insurance been offered the option of Medicare or other of the already existing programs. No that wasn't what this was all about. It was total government control of health care which is what is going to happen shortly down the road. When you can go to a supposed insurance company with no pre-existing conditions and demand unlimited expenditures for any policy, that is not insurance.

    November 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. Michael_Chatt

    I have to ask. If this was really done because it was important and was going to save lives and make America better and Obama really believed in it, why with so much money and time is it so FUBARed? I mean they've had a year. Websites are not that hard. There are ton's of companies doing them very well. Did someone hire his nephew and his friends to build it? Did we hire one of our military contractors? I know, maybe it was the left to the same group that organized the attack on Syria that made us look like the biggest DBags on earth?

    Why is it that the few things Obama has done that were not a continuation of Bush policies such complete clusters? He did kill, order the Death of Bin Laden. I'm betting that had more to do with Middle Eastern issues than with Justice. Our Ambassador is still dead because we didn't properly protect him and the people who did it are not only not dead but they are probably now allies in causing Chaos in Syria.

    Does anyone know what faction of Muslim Obama "used" to be? Does that mesh with any of our bizarre policy decisions?

    I just hope we keep taking care of our Veterans. Hopefully we will elect a President who is a more complete package and they will straighten out the mess and begin to make us look less clueless and self destructive.

    November 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. DM

    To all of those complaining: The plans are not being cancelled due to ACA, they are being cancelled because of decisions made by your insurers–Obamacare would have grandfathered in those plans even though they did not meet the minimum coverage requirements. Your insurers are to blame.

    Those comparing "Ford Focus" plans to "Mercedes" plans: It would be more accurate to compare "moped on a freeway without a helmet" plans to "Ford Focus" plans.

    November 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  12. YetAnotherLie

    Had to sign up for Open Enrollment at work. My employer-sponsored plan raises my cost another $150/Month. Obama stated that employer sponsored plans were not impacted. This is truly OBAMAFRAUD. I'll never vote for a Democrat again!

    November 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  13. well

    This Transatlantic Trade Deal is a Full-Frontal Assault on Democracy

    Brussels has kept quiet about a treaty that would let rapacious companies subvert our laws, rights and national sovereignty

    - George Monbiot, November 5, 2013, The Guardian

    November 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  14. S

    So what they're telling us is....that they not what's best for us. Do I have that straight? Sorry but that shouldn't wash in the free country that we live in

    November 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  15. doublestandard

    I wonder if the same democrat voters that tore bush a new sphincter are going to give Obama a pass on this.

    November 5, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  16. liberal disease

    If Debbie "Blabbermouth" Shultz said he didn't lie then he didn't lie!!

    November 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  17. T-Roy

    hope all the sheep that voted for him love their new plans

    November 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. Fred Garvin

    Fuh Real?

    November 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  19. Jim Bob Jones

    Back in the day, changing one's promise was known as not keeping one's word. Not keeping one's word was known as lying. Just sayin'.

    November 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. WebSitesby0bama

    Suckers, all of you. From the first moment (we'll take over health care) to passing it (in the dead of the night, no one read it) to the implementation (it'll work, I think...) the cynicism and mendacity of government has reared its ugly head.

    November 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. ora pike

    wow===obama lies to us and it is he has changed his plan?????? if this were bush you would burn him at the stake. Note: we just found out that all the scandals that have been with obama--he finds out about them from his daily newspaper. And of course and good things like when an enemy is taken out-" WE WE WE have been planning this for months".

    November 5, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  22. Rick

    Time to wake up America. This has been the most inept, incompetent & corrupt President in history. Nothing but lies and cover-ups: Fast & Furious, IRS, Benghazi, NSA, Obummercare. EVERY republican, EVERY independent. and EVERY sensible democrat need to stand up and vote for the candidate in 2016 that will repeal this law. Perhaps the most awful thing ever shoved on the American people. Do not let up CNN, ABC and the other mainstream media outlets that finally have the nerve to tell the truth about this train wreck. We the people deserve better from our leaders.

    November 5, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. TheTraveler

    "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."

    I'd hardly call Obama a liar for something that is out of his power to control. If anything, I believe the man seriously misjudged the enormity of the project and the reactions of the insurance companies.

    But then again, it appears most Americans would rather expect the worse of a situation instead of thinking rationally through these days. The dust will settle, the problems will be resolved and life will go on as usual.

    November 5, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. Really!

    Is everyone blind here, the only reason people are getting their policies cancelled is so enough people will have to sign up for Obamacare in order to support it, otherwise there is no way they would get enough people to sign up. This was the Dem plan the whole time. They knew they were lying the whole time.

    November 5, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. tom l

    Well over 1,100 comments here on this story. And liberals think that all will be ok. This law is too intrusive. Look at the frustration here. And it's coming from all types of people. The ticker never has this much activity. Now they do. Could be interesting come next November...

    November 5, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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