November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
6 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. Cody Wagonblast

    CNN will not hold Obamas feet to the fire. They will support him,no matter how wrong he is.

    November 5, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  2. sumday

    hmm I bought my house with a mortgage I could afford. Since Obamacare has passed every year my insurance rates have increased, and once it is implemented it will be law to buy it. I wonder how many families are going to find out that they just can't afford to comply with Obamacare AND own a house that they have been paying of years/decades. Wonder how many people will go into foreclosure bc when they bought their house they never anticipated a law that would require you spend $100's of dollars each month. I’m currently paying over 600 a month now for insurance if prices continue to raise like they have been over the past 5 yrs I really don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my house.

    November 5, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "my maximum (out of pocket) deductible for the family went from $2000 to $20,000"

    Bull pucky. The ACA allows "High Deductible Health Plans" but puts a $12,500 ceiling on deductibles for family plans.

    November 5, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  4. Libdumb

    Who in their right mind would ever put their life on the line to defend anything he says.

    November 5, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  5. Tommy

    This doesn't mean a change in what was promised – it means that if u got a new policy after the law was passed, the grandfathering law does not apply to u and yet you can apply for a new policy under Obama care at the exchange which will cost them lesser, extend more benefits and possibly allow them
    Federal subsidies

    November 5, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. YesSir*salute

    You should have to file taxes to vote... would never have had this issue.

    November 5, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. Scott Trent

    Obamacare sticking it to Men.

    Mandatory Services include, Maternity Service, Contraceptive Devices and Pediatric Dental and Vision Services?

    Why is this STUPID Government MANDATING Men have this coverage? lol. This new LAW was written by some of the STUPIDEST people on the planet.

    November 5, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  8. AKANSAN

    many, most. a few......The bottom line is President Obama said "If you like your insurance policy, you can keep it. You can keep your Dr." and for MILLIONS of people that is not happening. He, Jay Carney and Kathleen Sebelius, can spin this anyway they want but this law is screwed up. People are losing their jobs, losing their coverage and losing their Dr.'s. President Obama should not be arrogant enough to say we didn't know what we bought and what it covered. We did. We are that smart, we didn't vote for you, the LIAR in CHIEF.

    November 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  9. Jamy

    http://paystoon.com/?id=jammy

    will some of you please click on the link. just click on it thats all it takes =]

    November 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  10. jeff

    I can't wait for this American empire to FALL. I will help rebuild.

    November 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  11. dalene44

    Obama was selected for his slick snake oil salesmanship and effortless lies. The world joins him in laughing at the gullible American people.

    November 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. Rationalintn

    This is what you get when you let insurance company lobbyists actually write the new laws that govern their industry. The insurance companies will do everything they can to screw the American customer in order to maximize their profits. Obama got in bed with the wrong people. He thought he was fixing our healthcare problems. Instead, he has unleashed a very hungry beast on all of us.

    November 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  13. jkoe

    So the President really thought that people would not like the insurance they had. Or that it would be inconceivable to the average person that their current insurance policies would be considered desirable. Now this inconvenient little over reach is called a lie.

    November 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Really?

    Gee folk. Who warned you about this? Republicans.
    Who said that you would NOT be able to keep your plan? Republicans.
    Who said this was bad for the country and would ruin healtcare for millions of Americans? Republicans.
    Yet u chose to re-elect Obama. Noticed how Obamacare took effect after the 2012 elections? lol U were warned about all of this and that's why not one Republican voted for this catastrophe. Romney would have been able to stop this in a heartbeat. But no folks. U were told the Republicans were lying. U were told Republicans healthcare plan was to don't get sick (see a Bill call HR2300). Republicans try to get this individual mandate delayed and Dems said no and shutdown the govt. So it seems to me Republicans were right all along They tried numerous time to stop it and failed. And in trying to stop this, they were demonized and disparaged for it by many in the media and here on CNN. They were blamed for the shutdown. Guess what folks the shutdown was to stop this madness of Obamacare. They were right!
    Nothing more sweet than vindication. Enjoy your fundamental transformation of our country into socialism and bankruptcy.

    November 5, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  15. Lee

    This guy doesn't have the truth in him....

    November 5, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  16. kaneda

    We just got one of the worst President in American history. Even though he is the first black president in American history still doesn't look good either...

    November 5, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  17. obama mama for sniff it

    Wow, there are lemmings on here that will support this liar.... no matter what he says.

    Obama and his staff KNEW that 70% of people would lose their plans and possibly their doctors.... and they LIED about it. Now they are trying to modify that lie a little–and of course, blame insurance companies.

    Come on democrats, are you really so enamored with this guy that you allow him a free pass on every scandal/lie/incompetent action...?

    November 5, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  18. Ron Davis

    "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," That is what CNN would have you believe he said!
    Barack Obama said repeatedly, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, period.”
    What is the difference? The word PERIOD!!! It implies that it is a fact that nothing will change. We all know he lied no matter what Ted Turner has his Obama supporting staff tells you!

    November 5, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  19. Sonny

    Vote The Dems OUT ! They are liars ! America has been betrayed plain and simple.

    November 5, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  20. GF

    The healthcare law is not making anything easier for my family. My husband has health coverage through his employer, but the cost for adding family to his plan is astronomical, so my two daughters and I have individual insurance. My husband's insurance is not changing their prices, and my current insurance plan is being discontinued at the end of the year. Meanwhile, the healthcare website is a headache. I've had to make three different profiles because the site is so buggy, and you can't delete the application you're working on if it screws up. According the the subsidy calculators, my insurance costs are still going to increase by half, and my budget is already very tight in the attempt to pay back debt from college and moving for my husband's new job.

    November 5, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  21. Joe Wilson

    Joe Wilson was right

    November 5, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  22. Jon Carry

    Obama is now lying about his lies. He can't keep up with his own dishonesty.

    November 5, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  23. DallasNE

    Well, now if we are going to focus on misinformation, large and small, then shouldn't we be looking at all of the misinformation. Does the ACA pull the plug on grandma as Michele Bachmann has so often claimed. And there are plenty of other wildly distorted claims. And the polling shows that a lot of this misinformation has stuck. I'm on Medicare and I am seeing benefits in that for the very first time I am not seeing a premium increase in 2014 because the cost curve is already slowing down. It also extends the life of Medicare so the benefits abound. So, CNN, how about something besides all of the negative Nelly stuff being promoted.

    November 5, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  24. Charles

    My small business is probably going to have to reduce employees in order to pay the additional insurance premiums in order to be Obama compliant. I'm sure we aren't the only ones. Watch how the unemployment lines grow!!

    November 5, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    So sad!!!!

    November 5, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
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