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. Mick

    I have supported Obamacare up until now. I got a letter telling me my individual policy (family with 3 kids) will be cancelled but I can get similar plan for more money. There should be one rule: This law (and every law) should apply to everyone, President, Federal Judges, Congress, federal employees, big companies, small companies. It applies to all, and there is a problem, it will get fixed. Right now the people with $$, and political clout get exempted

    November 5, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. jasmine

    Wont be affected? Mr President you really have NO idea!

    November 5, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. conservative granny

    CNN, you are a big part of the problem. We know you are just a tentacle on the body of the slime lord. American's are getting wise to you also. We are switching to Fox in droves.(If you don't believe me, just check your latest ratings.)

    November 5, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. Geaorge

    If some have to change their policy in order that everyone gets insured, I don't give a rip if they have to change their policy.

    November 5, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. Ron

    If 5% of the population lose their healthcare due to Obamacare the administration says its no big deal.

    If 5% of the population is required to obtain identification for voting then the administration acts like all hell has broken lose.

    November 5, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. frankieworks

    President Oblammer and The Democrats are taking away the American citizens right to choose PERIOD! Oblammer knew that if he told the truth back then he would never get this turd passed PERIOD! Now he's telling lies about lies PERIOD! I want to Thank the Idiot in Chief becuase come November of 14 and 16 there won't be enough lying Democrat left in Office to stop the overturn of this Nightmare! By the way this is only the beginning of the nightmare there is more to come, Wait and see! This is exactly why you don't want Big Government running your Healthcare. By the way the Media is Directly responsible for this nightmare ie CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, The NY Times, Huuffington Post etc etc! If they has only done their jobs instead of blindly jumping on the liberal bandwagon!

    November 5, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Rozzie

    I have the same plans - n o c a n c e l l a ti i o n s or rises in cost
    check the truth squa! Stop the'fear-train' set upn us like dogged Repug losers!

    November 5, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. Phil

    Wonder how fast this situation would change if Congress had their health insurance cancelled?

    November 5, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. SGM

    BUSH made him do it , what a F N liar.

    November 5, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. JH

    What Obama should have said is this: If you like your plan/doctor, you can keep it. Asterisk.

    *until I'm reelected and all of this takes effect after It's impossible to get me out of the White House, then you can kiss it all goodbye.

    November 5, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. ruth

    Who is obama to tell people he knows what is best for people.....the audacity of this person.....deception for the greater good of the people is what he is saying....and the last person who said that led people into train boxcars and had them annialated in the gas chambers,and he said they were only going to take a shower....wake up America this man is deceitful and taking America as we knew it and this is the change HE WANtS

    November 5, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  12. Ross

    Lying is not a "change." Lying is a lie. Period.

    November 5, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. Crimson

    I am not schocked that he lied. I knew he was lying when he said it. What I am shocked by is how people are still supporting him after he is caught in lie after lie. He didn't lie just to conservatives he lied to leberals as well. A dissapointing and waisted vote!

    November 5, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  14. Jim

    Our insurance went up $400 a month and it is worse than before. Where is this better cheaper insurance that he talking about.

    November 5, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  15. stephen farrar

    yeah bush said 911 was done by 19 hijackers with box cutters yet 12 have come forward alive wow really how did they survive the crashing into the towers?they were never there that means someone lied ....wow really imagine that...today 11/22/1963 lee Harvey Oswald shot jfk in dallas with 3 shots now everyone should know Oswald never got to speak to an attorney after he asked many times he said he never shot the president which if you had a beef with the president and wanted him dead wouldn't you take credit not deny it?lee Harvey Oswald never fired a shot at kennedy the government cia cover up still goes on.someone lie wow so how long is this lying thing been going on? probably 2000 plus years to jesus oh yeah he was a muslim your still being lied to about him and never knew it.

    November 5, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  16. Galactus

    I lost all respect for President Obama when he gave work visas to millions of illegal aliens when we have such high unemployment. This President lies and does not have the interests of the American people at heart. He only cares about special interest groups.

    November 5, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  17. Rosa

    ConcernedCitizenVoter – Obama, Reid and Pelosi and all the other liars knew that because of ACA/Obamacare that the insurance companies would send out millions of cancellation notices. As the law (which only those against it read all 2,000 plus page) is written it forces the insurance companies to cancel the policies to be in compliance with rules and regulations impose by Obamacare. So, the go blame the insurance companies and they being greedy. In NY since it's an Exchange state, you can not even apply for individual low cost insurance, just try and you will be told that have get health insurance through the exchange. And how do I know this I called to see if I could get an individual plan outside the exchange. Obama's plan was to force everyone into the exchanges!!

    November 5, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  18. Government waste

    What a bald faced liar. Problem is his followers will just swallow this with another big gulp of koolade.

    November 5, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  19. Ratt

    Phattee Said; " The problem is the greed of the insurance companies. The health and well-being of Americans SHOULD NOT BE A FOR-PROFIT INDUSTRY."

    Hey Phattee, incase you haven't noticed ObamaCare ,ACA, mandates that you purchase Health Insurance thru a Gov't Exchange from a 3rd Party vendor, that would be from the Health Insurance Companies, you know, your FOR-PROFIT INDUSTRY. Obama is forcing you into the clutches of the very same Health Insurance Companies you hate.

    November 5, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  20. Jesse

    I really hope you progressives middle of the road voters who voted for this knucklehead are happy with yourselves.

    November 5, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  21. Tom

    Not only will many people have to pay more; they'll have to pay for Congress and the Dictator to get premium healthcare coverage. Isn't it obvious what's going on here?

    November 5, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  22. Crimson

    Liberals....my appologies for the typo

    November 5, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. JAH69

    Wolf Blitzer and CNN, quit defending Obama's lie you're embarrassing yourselves. Seriously, if you want to become relevant again just report the news correctly and no sugar coating either party.

    November 5, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  24. daniel

    The biggest problem i see with this is the blanket statement that DC and co said you have to pass the bill to find out what is in it. Please tell me where the logic is in that level of thinking.

    November 5, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. William

    Give me a break CNN! Stop covering for this guy. Millions of people opposed the ACA, not because they are racist, not because their hatred of Obama blinds them, but because it made no sense when you got into the details. Forced collectivization with anything never works out well, and voluntary collectivism only works so-so.

    November 5, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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