November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
12 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. Crocker

    How's that 'change' working out for all of you Obamanites? Oh, and lets not forget his promise of a transparent government.

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

    Seems like another updated "line in the sand" speech.

    November 5, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. Robert

    Just got my notification that my insurance will be dropped. Thank you for lying to me Obama. I guess my tax money is all that is important to the Government. Why can't the media tell the truth either and just admit that Obama lied? I cannot afford the new rates and do not qualify for subsidies so I guess I will be without insurance. Obama can try to penalize me by garnishing a refund I will never have because I am middle class and never get a refund.

    November 5, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  4. Change didnt come

    It's simple. We live in a Social Climate where we have become complacent and fed by the Media. At this point the American people with the Exception of Some Believe whatever the News tells them. You only get a half truth each time you turn on the TV. Gas Prices are used to herd people, the terror alert is used to keep people in, Spying is used to keep you paranoid. The Media Paints a picture to help with it.

    The Affordable Care act is just another Step towards socialism if you ask me. I understand that it helps some. However it does not help us all. Basically its being told what to do and told we have to like it. Basically they tell you its good but if you do not think it is and don't want it, we will punish you. Another individual by the Name of Adolf Imposed will in the same way in the 40s.

    Take that the way you will.

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

    A.S. – You may be quietly manipulate. Let us know what you find in the exchange. Not uncommon for insurance companies to funnel you to much higher rate in the notice of drop or changes "due to Obamacare" and understandably (profit motive) omitting or obscuring a direction to check for equivalent alternative on health insurance exchange.

    November 5, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  6. Really?

    The previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvanai Avenue "pulled" a lot worse – and got thousands of Americans killed, and tens of thousands more maimed for life in toe process – and you ilk actually elected him to serve a second term after he was appointed by the USSC for a first term! Not only did NOBODY throw pitchforks through the WH window, anyone who protested his abuses was immediately lambasted by the reichwing radio bolviator and a whole host or reichwing tv screaming heads!
    ___________________________________
    So that's your justification/defense for Obama. Look at the other guy he did worse?
    How many thousands have been killed since Obama took office? How many innocents are killed by Obama's drone wars? Are u upset about those? No lets justify Obama's bad behavior, reapeted dishonesty by saying look over there?
    Obamacare is impacting over 100+million people in a very bad way. It is hurting them and it will hurt this entire nation. There is nothing that Obama's predecessors ever did that even comes close?

    November 5, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  7. newsjet

    At least he is consistent. Consistent with the Saul Alinsky rules for radicals, that is. Paraphrased, Alinsky's philosophy is; "What you say is unimportant. Say whatever people want to hear to get into the establishment so you can destroy it from within." We see this frequently from the current leader.

    November 5, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  8. Dan

    Premiums for my current insurance tripled. So did the deductible cap (an additonal amout out of my pocket). Coverage for things I may NEED has been reduced.
    Pediatric, neo-natal, and pregnancy care has been added as a no-choice addition. NOT NEEDED since I am over 60 years old!

    So, how is that so much better for me?

    November 5, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. JCal

    No better deal. People are missing the whole point of the new ACA plans. They severely limit our choices of doctors, hospitals, etc. In practice, this poses a mess. If you ever were hospitalized – what are they going to do – treat you, or staple a list to you of people who can see you? Of course they are going to just treat you and the "out-of-network" providers will be used. When you go out-of-network, you are reimbursed about half of the INSURANCE NEGOTIATED price. But as an individual, you are charged list price.

    November 5, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  10. Patrick Henry

    Other than his words.....and videotape.....and the healthcare plan itself, I got nothing to convict him of being a liar.

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

    The president lied in order to get reelected. Period.

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

    We should be able to change our votes.

    November 5, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  13. Kevin Kunkel

    What a load of crap. He is pathological. He simply can not tell the truth. He needs to be removed from office immediately .

    November 5, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  14. Hope and Change

    Hedge fund investment companies perpetuated a fraud, and SEC, IRS and DOJ went after them.

    Guess we have different standards for Congress and W H.

    November 5, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  15. Obama-wiser

    "This Lies is for you!" – B. Obama

    Drink this yeast-based Kool Aid responsibility.

    November 5, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  16. FajitaBob

    You CAN keep it in many cases (such as mine), but it's not going to be the same plan. My premiums went up 12%; my copays went up 50%; my out of pocket went up 25%; my coverage has been reduced. All this, thanks to the "centrists," who were fooled twice into voting for tese clowns. Thanks a lot.

    November 5, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. ireuel

    Matey; It not just the website. Open your eyes take a deep breath and look at the cost of this whole program. It would of been cheaper to just give the ones that did not have health care it free. I would not even mind my tax dollars used to provide it. But Matey this law is a lie. The Website is garbage and they had three years to get it working. I recommend for you a little wine instead of whining. You are doing exactly what you accuse them of doing. Oh and for fact of the matter the percentage of people not wanting this law is over 50 percent, that ain't all tea people.

    November 5, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  18. Bill

    Since I am a man I don't regard insurance that covers maternity care as "better."

    November 5, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  19. kaneda

    @ matey

    Mmmm.. which party told Congress and Tea Party "WE WILL NOT NEGOTIATE". Sure congress and Tea Party tactics weren't smart. They did try. But Democrats and free loader just laughed at them.

    Just wait and see how awesome Expensive Care Act implemented. It will just get better for everyone.

    November 5, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    I have current high deductible insurance. I like it. Right now I pay on average out of pocket in a year about $1,500. With Obama care that could jump to over $5,200 (whether I go to the doctor or not)."

    I know you guys think that blasting web pages with false anecdotes is fun and oh-so-convincing, but (a) anecdotes are not "data" and (b) these anecdotes you're inventing have been disproven time and time again.

    First of all, insurers don't want you to leave and go to the exchange, so they have no incentive to just royally screw you. Rather, they will send you a cancellation/rollover notice that attempts to dupe you into paying a moderate amount more for the "new" plan. Not only that, it will fail to inform you that your insurer is offering a similar plan for less on the exchange and that by going to the exchange you can get the subsidy to help you pay for it.

    Second, anyone receiving a cancellation/rollover notice who fails to go to the exchange and check not only what plans are available, but their eligibility for the subsidies...well, they're an idiot. The website has some problems, but the price-checking/window-shopping feature IS working. So is checking your eligibility for a subsidy. There are also other sites around the web that will help you figure both things out. If you don't want to do the footwork to figure it out, it's not the ACA's fault, it's yours....for not informing yourselves, for believing whatever you're told on Faux News and from the rest of the RWNJ misinformation propaganda apparatus, and for relying on the rest of the inadequate, lazy-assed MSM, which is so afraid of being labeled "biased" that it decided long ago that helping inform people about the ACA and how to enroll and where to get information about it to help you make your decisions was to be avoided lest it cause an outcry of "liberal bias" accusations.

    November 5, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  21. StormySyndrome

    As i was reading through this article, all i could think was...doesn't this all read almost exactly like car insurance? The young pay more because they are a larger risk to crash.... health care they pay more because they do ungodly things to their bodies during this time. Of course, the cost of your car, and now health insurance depends on what you want covered and for how much. Of course some cars, make, and models will differ in price. Congratulations America:) Your health care system has been lowered to the standards of car insurance. Look forward to getting all of your insurance needs at one place in the future.

    November 5, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  22. FajitaBob

    Sniffit: as usual, you don't know what you're talking about. Example: I HAD great coverage. now it has been destroyed. I can still keep it, but not sure I even want to. All because of people like you.

    November 5, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. CHERYL MAITSKI

    I think Obama has lied so much he doesn't know the truth from the lies. The only one he cares about is himself.

    November 5, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  24. jc

    I guess he should have read the law before he signed it. But like Pelosi said "we have to pass the bill to see what's in it" What a strange way of doing business. I guess we are finding out what is in it. Allot of negatives for working class Americans.

    November 5, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  25. emilie56

    He cannot be impeached for this lie allegedly so he can turn and twist the lie any way he wants to and like all pathological liars he does it with a smile on his face and soon he seems so nice that people begin to believe he never meant to harm them. But he always knew he was lying. And though found out he continues on with the lie. So is there anything we can believe this man about? No he cannot lose another election and the people he has hurt cannot be helped for he does not want to help them. But all those millions he has hurt can help to make sure his legacy is as horrible as that of Jimmy Carter. He can be excoriated and go down in history as a president who could not even own up to his own mistakes. He is no honorable man as was Ronald Reagan, who when faced with what he had done, got on TV and apologized to the American people. This Mr. President, you do not have the quality of being to do. Your soul is stained. You must know it and we know it. But worse, God knows it and though I fancy you are really an atheist at heart you might find yourself real surprised one of these years.

    I was always a Democrat, most of my life. I voted for this President in 2008 to what I must say is my shame today. What he has done has not hurt wealthy people to help the poor. He has hurt middle class struggling people to help the poor. Every time I hear that a child can stay on Mommy and Daddy's plan till they are 26 y/o I cringe. My children were married by the time they were 26. I had already had all my 3 children by the time I was 24. What kind of law is this?

    How many middle class people will not be able to afford health insurance now that this President has gotten his hands into our own health care? And how many people will go bankrupt because of it? And yet this man does not care and his party does not care.

    So since I was a Democrat I want to say I think that everybody should vote in the Republicans come next year's elections. Let the President work with an entire Republican Congress. This might be our only revenge, not that I like the tea party. But we don't have to keep them in power for long, only till the end of Mr.Obama's term.

    Barack Obama was the only man seeking the Presidency that I actually ever believed when he was going for the office. I believed him hook, line and sinker I am ashamed to say. But I wasn't the only one. He is an expert con artist. He would smile at you while he held a gun in hand and was about to shoot you dead.

    If he cannot be impeached and I am told he cannot, then the American people have only one way to fight back, at the polls for Congress next year. He needs to wander in the wasteland of a Republican Congress so that he gets absolutely nothing done and ruins his reputation even more. Because this is a man who cannot bring himself to even apologize and do something for the millions who are now going to be hurt by his new law.

    November 5, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
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