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. aNOY

    You all are idiots. You can t see the forest for the trees. The media is owned an bought by by corporations who is pushing this non story. You have 6 months to find a plan. The president promised when he spoked to over 300 million Americans, you can keep your plan as it relate to the new law. He never promised the insurance companies would never ever change a policy. Why do you think he tried to grandfather people plans. Why is there no outrage about governosrs who refused medicaid expansion that deliberately refused access to the poor. Alll this fake media outrage is sickening. I knew exactly what he meant when he spoke. How easily we forget the republicans just shut the governement down and almost cost a global crash and all we can talk about now is the president words over 5 years ago. Are you serious. Ask yourself why are they fighting this one law so hard. We have a lot more issues in this country. Move on. Someone need to hold the media accountable. They push these lies on the president clearly taking the republican side and they are hurting the progress in this country. someone need to poll their approval rating every day and analyze every word they say. The media never apologized for the IRS scandal lie, the Bengazie lie and now here they go again acgting like FOx news for ratings not the truth.

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

    Remember,when obama tells you "you can keep your gun" you know he's lying.

    November 5, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    this is why we can't have nice things

    November 5, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  4. John Q.

    He lied. He is used to lying... not me, not my fault, I found out when you did, and so on; always in continuous deflection and evasion. The buck never stops in Obama's WH, never held accountable. In the end, all you really have in life is your word, a lesson Obama repeatedly ignores. Maybe some people can see him more clearly now for the facade he is... we can only hope.

    November 5, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. stephen farrar

    every thing here on the earth prison planet controlled by aliens is a lie .history is but a lie agreed upon :napoleon Bonaparte .

    November 5, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Remember how the Republicans were fighting so hard to keep this from happening? Hmmmm maybe we should have listened to them after all

    November 5, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  7. cpat

    I am beginning to loose all kinds of faith in this administration. I don't have to deal with the health care act but I cannot believe the mess that it is becoming; I am very, very discouraged with the rhetoric coming from the President and from his people. The man I believed in, really believed in, and voted for twice, is now beginning to sound like every other dishonest politician who speaks out of both sides of their mouths.

    November 5, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  8. Bob

    Interesting that Obama would say that I am "probably" going to get a better plan. I'm so happy that the insurance policy I got to choose for my family is now being dictated to me under the assumption of an uncertainty. I'll give you one better! I am "probably" not going to vote for another Democrat for the next decade.

    November 5, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  9. Britta Taylor

    I'm a little worried–my husband is getting dropped from my plan and now we'll have two insurance providers–and his is REALLY expensive. I wish there was a way to just drop the work plans altogether.

    November 5, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  10. Wow

    Dear Mister President,

    Keep talking. Keep making promises. Do you think we can believe anything that comes out of your mouth?

    November 5, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  11. Larry

    If President Obama can "refine" his previous words, can we all "refine" the previous elections results?

    November 5, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  12. Not right

    This is not affordable healthcare. This is forced private insurance and is not right.

    November 5, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. Obama the criminal clown

    Obama, worst President ever, even Jimmy Carter calls him inept.

    November 5, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. kj_CA

    This man Obama is a mediocre, mendacious misanthrope.

    November 5, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. Gary

    The sad thing is the way the media has supported his lies – they knew better. When has government EVER got involved & it saved us money. Hate to say I told you so but………..this guy gets away with more lies than Bill Clinton.

    November 5, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  16. ZedHed

    Many people bought into this bad plan because of assurances from Obama that ACA would provide better options – including the ability to retain their existing plan, which also included the existing costs associated WITH the ACA. This was a bait and switch tactic from the get go to pass a bad law and compel millions of Americans to increase their cost of living healthy lives. The money from their budgets has to be redirected from elsewhere, and my anticipation is that it will come from people cutting back on other insurance coverage such as life, home, and car insurance to be able to afford the mandatory medical coverage. This "contract with Americans" by Obama should be rendered null and void, as it does not provide what was promised in bad faith by the man who sold it. All it would take is for all Americans to simply not sign up as a protest against a ridiculously poorly thought out program.

    November 5, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  17. Mark

    I'm thoroughly disgusted. When will Americans realize that this very conversation is a microcosm of the destruction of America as we know it? This country was founded on the principle that we didn't need a babysitter. We didn't need someone taking care of us. I'm not talking about the government here. I'm talking about the American Spirit of the founding generation. Now, we want the government to take care of us. Some say prosperity has killed that spirit, but I say no. I say it's apathy. We've let the political machine run amock in our attempts to not have to do anything for ourselves. Just listen to the rhetoric in this article. The Administration is calling 10% of the population a very small amount of people who are getting screwed here. Guess what, the number of actual uninsured americans is....50,000,000. Guess what percentage of Americans that is. About 10%. It was a big number when they wanted it to be. Now it's insignificant. They tell us whatever it will take to get us to shut up and be complacent. People, first, healthcare is not a right. You have no right to demand services from another American who spent the time and money to acquire skills that may prolong your life or make it easier despite your best efforts to destroy it or your own poor luck. Nay, you have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; however short or hard that life may be; liberty to make decisions that might improve it, and the ability to define your own happiness. Second, you shouldn't want to give the government the power to take care of you. Remember when your parents cared for you? There were rules, and guess who made the rules. They did. We're adults. We're Americans! Why are we letting either party provide for us in a government that is truly broken?

    November 5, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. nwcommenter

    My how quick many of you forget about the LIES THAT GEORGE W BUSH PLAYED ON US ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. Aloisae

    Whenever they talk about how few people ... "albeit millions of people".. this is happening to it makes me wonder if the proponents of the ACA have even looked at what it was being promoted as doing. You could just as easily say that only a few people are expected by even the most optimistic projections to gain access to health coverage because of the ACA... again, "albeit millions". But in both cases it is a very small percentage of the American people as a whole.

    It also irks me when they talk about us now having access to "better coverage"... many of us don't. And we know it. We will be paying much, much more for much worse coverage for our situations... if we can even afford the thousands of dollars in extra premiums we are going to have to pay starting next year for coverage with much, much higher deductibles and co-pays than we currently have. There are a lot of responsible Americans who made an informed choice to not include maternity coverage, for example, in their policies because it is a biological impossibility for them to need it. Adding that to their plans does not make the plan "better" for us in any sense at all.. it just makes it a whole lot more expensive.

    I know the ACA is going to help some people and it may even end up being a positive for society as a whole. But, seriously, just stop telling those of us who are facing severe financial hardship and possible loss of health care coverage that we are better off because of this. We are definitely not.. we are the ones society could care less about since we didn't gamble with our health all these years and have been making responsible, informed decisions concerning our health care coverage and prioritized including health insurance either in our employment decisions or by finding insurance we could afford if our employer didn't offer it. And, we are the ones paying the largest price to expand coverage to a small percentage of Americans... an incredibly small percentage of which couldn't gain coverage for a pre-existing condition after reaching the cap on their former insurance but the vast majority of whom had made the choice to gamble with their health rather than prioritizing health coverage.

    November 5, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. Dr. Ray

    What a terrible person this black President is not thinking of some substandard plans being cancelled before being upgraded. Things like this and Benghazi should occupy Republican minds for ever because these are impeachable offenses!

    On the other hand, George W. Bush should receive special global accolades for the minor mistakes he made such as:

    1) taking us into a bogus war in Iraq costing $3 trillion and 4000 US lives,
    2) giving tax cuts to the super rich to the tune of $4 trillion and ticking,
    3) giving boondoggle gifts to Big Pharma and another $4 trillion and ticking gift to seniors so Bush could get re-elected in 2004 (Medicare Part D).

    Oh, those are just minor! Benghazi and saying "you can keep your plan" when a plan can be upgraded are terrible, just terrible! How dare the President do that?

    November 5, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  21. GI Jane

    Bottom Line Up Front....50 million of Americans will be able to get health insurance similar to the other 250+ Americans. Currently, I pay less than $600 a year for health care, because, I am a retired soldier. My husband had a major surgery and spent two days in the hospital our bill was less than $50. For all of you complainers, including CNN think about the 50 million Americans that will be able to get health care. Stop whining, signup by phone or in person if the site takes too long. Over 7300 people have signed up in the state of Oregon without using the state's website. Bullying is contagious. Stop being bullies.

    November 5, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  22. conservative granny

    To all you egg-sucking liberals out there that voted for this man, just suck it up. You deserve what you get.
    It must really suck to be a sheeple.

    November 5, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  23. Tammy

    The lies never end with this Pinocchio of a man. He also said in 2009 that those who lie about the will be called out and the American people are calling Obama out...

    November 5, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  24. Curtis K

    He is so full of it. He is just being the politician he is.

    November 5, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  25. frankieworks

    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! If this was a Republican admin they would have been looking at every single page of this bill. But what did we get lies from the media too! This is what you get when you pass a bill without READING IT FIRST PERIOD!

    November 5, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
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