November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
9 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. Jorge

    Well...my wife and I are in the 5% that have had our insurance cancelled due to the changes brought on by ACA, and a similar replacement with the same company will cost us about 30% more. Similar program on HealthCare (exchange) web site also increases our cost about the same (30%). It is logical that cost of the uninsured (or those paying less) will have to be covered somewhere (it's just simple math), no matter how you present it. Most of us will pay more (not less as advertised), it is what it is... With the government running this program it is destined to be inefficient, costly, bureauocratic, and in the end will just become a monster that needs to fed, that provides marginal results. Part of the sell on this program is that we can expect to "save money" by cutting out waste, unfortunately the opposite is the norm. It will require more money (from us) to keep this program afloat, which translates to higher taxes. The current administration is in way over their head on this, and they are not applying corrective measures to the problems it has created, but rather responding with defensive statements, which are the order of the day, and I think all we can expect for some time to come...

    November 5, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  2. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    Obama Care is probably one of the worst blunders in American history! This will eventually bankrupt us!

    November 5, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. Kitty Litter

    If the government likes your plan, you can keep it. Nobody is going to take it away from you. Period.

    November 5, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  4. tom l

    @Sniffit,
    I have seen you peddling the "3%" will be affected mantra for a few days now. Are you serious? Let's just say it's only the 5% that have private insurance – that's 60% higher than your "3%" number right there. Then you have all of the people that you (sorrry, our government) have deemed to have faulty plans and you believe that it's only 3%??? Your numbers are just way, way off. Plus, 5% (as Obama has admitted will be affected) is 15 million people! All of the sudden you don't care about those 15 million people? The law was supposed to help 30 million. It's not even doing that. Some day you will realize. Some day.

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

    Can someone answer "just who is it that will benifit from Obamacare?"

    November 5, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  6. Dianna

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    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 |

    November 5, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. george cook

    Way to Go Mr Prez...You love to spin it don't you? You makes lots of PROMISED but don't seem to DELIVER on any of them...You are real good at affixing blame as well...."On Others!"

    November 5, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  8. He has trouble with the Truth and Healthcare

    ...But isn't he just a WIZARD on foreign Policy?

    November 5, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  9. ThTruth

    He said what he wanted among other things to win the election. You sheep bought it and now he is changing the rules of HIS game. I hope your now feel satisfied as your decision to elect a man with 1 agenda will impact this country for the next 10-20 years. Sheep, fools all of you.

    November 5, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  10. cecv

    Wonder what President Miss Spoke is lying about today that we will hear his bootlickers qualifying and defending tomorrow? Gallup has him at 39% approval/53% disapproval, down 5 points from October 21. I hope he keeps on lying. It shows everyone who he really is.

    November 5, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  11. Tony

    The plans that are getting cancelled do no even meet the minimal standards under Obamacare. A plan doesn't need to meet all of the standards under Obamacare to be grandfathered, but these plans couldn't even do that. These plans were cheap because they did not offer real coverage. People buying these plans- the young and healthy– were really subsidizing people who actually needed insurance, those who were not young and healthy. These plans were guaranteed profits for insurance companies and they made up for the payouts to people who actually needed payouts.

    November 5, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  12. Arshagarbon

    The only frustrating thing is when people get angry at Obama voters for Obamacare. I can assure you that if the truth was actually revealed behind voting this wouldnt have happened. what happened is the equivalent of someone asking for a tattoo of a knight on a horse and getting a princess with a unicorn instead and being told it's the same thing.

    November 5, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. SpgfldTom

    So, basically the President of the United States lied to the American people. Got caught in the lie. Now he is arrogant enough to think he can "rework" the lie (which he repeated 24 times in speeches across the nation) and get away with it. How pathetic!

    November 5, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. Pam

    I am so angry, I just can't stop. This will crash the economy. All of us who get our insurance premiums tripled and quadrupled will just quit spending money elsewhere. I am middle class and single. My new premiums could cost me a full week's pay every month. Do you think I will go out and spend even a penny that I do not have to? No!

    November 5, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  15. tom

    I hate to say this but "Could the republicans have been........um right all along?"

    November 5, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  16. tom l

    @Sniffit
    "some people are too stupid to know what they need"

    One of the first honest things you have said in awhile. You're right, man. I am too stupid to know what I need. Thank goodness I have a bunch of politicians that can help me! What would I do without them? Gosh. The arrogance is amazing. Why do you feel that you're better and smarter than everyone else? To use your words: NEWSFLASH: you're not any better. You're not worse either. You're just another American with an opinion. The problem is, your opinion is affecting the lives of millions and millions and millions of Americans and they don't want nor do they need advice from you.

    November 5, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  17. Tony Price

    If you are a democrat and still support this liar and word twister....than you deserve every bit of Karma you receive. Supporting a liar that was caught promising you could keep your plan 29 TIMES when he knew in 2010 millions would not be able to, only shows you are open to selling your soul for pennies and lies. Wake up people, you are supposed to be accountable adults.

    November 5, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  18. Phillip S

    Both sides have told lies forever...

    Instead of pointing back to who lied to us 10 years ago, lets all point at the guy who is currently lying to us. And stick to it going forward!!!

    November 5, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  19. Not right

    This is not affordable health care, it is forced private insurance. And it is not right.

    November 5, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  20. Wilson

    "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need"–A favorite saying of liberals. Also the favorite saying of karl marx.

    November 5, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  21. Ivan

    CNN and the press are just as guilty of cherry picking statements.

    They are currently doing so with their "a small percentage" statements.

    Factually, they are true.

    But they ignore the administration's own analysis that up to 90 million people will lose their health care coverage next year as a consequence of the business mandate.

    I'm sure that the President plans to blame insurance companies and employers and employers next year.

    When he does, I have little doubt that CNN and others will make a few mild noises about the fact that, had the ACA not been implemented the coverage would not be lost, then provide him top cover.

    November 5, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  22. jsmoulder

    Senate Democrats supported rule that led to insurance cancellations, Not they the changes would be to the policy but just to the cost. As little as a $5 increase would make it so they would have to cancel the policy. I guess obama did not know about that rule yet, he had not read it in the news paper.

    November 5, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  23. DAVID

    OHB is a professional liar and everything he touches stinks.
    He never told you the truth but what you want to hear. He has so many broken promises but no leadership at all.
    It is very sad to have a President act like a moron in the WH.
    The only thing for sure is "Change" and he never said it will be better.
    Blame no one but ourselves. Stand up Americans. We deserve much better President!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  24. A.S.

    you know its bad when CNN has to (almost) admit that he has been at misrepresenting the reality of this. doesn't sit well with all the campaign promises...

    November 5, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. Canineok

    The Pinnochio President.

    November 5, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
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