November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
10 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. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    So you can keep your plan, but the insurance company can change your plan. Duh. That would happen anyway. Jeez, people, stop whining.

    November 5, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  2. tiffinS

    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.
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    This is a perfect example of a liberal voter and why we are where we are today with ACA... sigh...

    November 5, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  3. Wilson

    @tom

    Can someone answer "just who is it that will benifit from Obamacare?"
    ------------–
    Answer: the gimmedats.
    $

    November 5, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. Larry

    Please, someone, post a story of how obamacare saved you money. No not the ones who are getting subsidies.

    If I could, I would offer a reward

    November 5, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    Where was this calling to the matt when GW Bush lied about the cost of Medicare Part B???!!! Where was this vitriol when GW Bush LIED to the UN, to the American people, to the entire world about WMD, Aluminum Tubes, and Yellow Cake!!??? Where was this jeering in the media when Bush lied about the economic impacts of his tax breaks for the wealthy???????

    November 5, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  6. M Smith

    I am a 35 yr old male, I DO NOT NEED MATERNITY CARE. My wife is 34 and can't have kids anymore why does she need maternity coverage?

    November 5, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  7. Web Guru

    Remember Ladies and Gentlemen the buck stops right here at the Presidents Desk, Unless I draw a Red Line, then it might end somewhere over there next to that planter, or in the hallway. What I mean to say is I'm a lawyer and unless it is offered in writing that Buck could very well make its way round the globe and back before it ever gets to me.

    November 5, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Enjoy the kool-aid people!

    November 5, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. maxim030390

    Don't promise Obama! He lies!

    1. Obamacare is going to be much expensive than you think. It is not going to be $50-$100! I checked it. Like me, I have a health care for $95 / month = with Obamacare I will pay $189! Do you see have it is cheap? :))))))))))) Twice higher than I have now!
    2. When Obamacare will be a law for 100%, everyone should have his health-care!

    I AM NOT GOING TO PAY FOR OTHER PEOPLE WHO DON'T WANT TO WORK OR HAVE NOT HEALTH INSURANCES. OK!!!!!!!!!!!!! I PAY FOR MYSELF AND THAT IT OR I WON'T HAVE ANY KINDS OF INSURANCES!

    November 5, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. critical thinking

    President Obama has a subtle tell when he is lying. If you notice real closely he is lying when his lips are moving, every time.

    November 5, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  11. WOW

    I'm just blown away by some of the Liberal comments on this page who are shifting blame anywhere they can to save face for their deity. Shocking how foolish people are......

    November 5, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    How do you know when Obama is lying...?
    His lips are moving. Has been this was since he first campaigned for the Presidency.
    One of my favorites: My parents met on the bridge to the 1964 march on Selma, Alabama.
    Problem here is: Obama was born in 1961.
    Then again, he'd sell his mother and grandmother down the river in order to "relate" and prove his blackness. Obama is one steeping pot of a mess.

    November 5, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. Eric

    LIES! and MORE LIES! When will the media hold the presidents feet to the fire? When will the media ask the hard questions? When will the media expose him for what he is? There is a reason CNN's viewership is at an all time low...

    November 5, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. Clown Patrol

    LOL, rich getting richer, lies, deceit, spying... Obama is as bad a Bush... if you voted for him you get what you deserve!

    November 5, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  15. getalife

    cnn hits record lows.

    Turn off this corporate media crap.

    There are no perfect roll outs of government programs.

    November 5, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  16. TC

    The biggest problem is not the law. It simply needs some tweaking. The biggest problem is NOT the web site. I have now gotten through it twice in less that 1/2 hour each time. THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS THE GREEDY HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANIES THAT HAVE DECIDED TO USE THE LAW AS A MEANS TO LINE THEIR POCKETS WITH EVEN MORE PROFITS. The plan that I currently have is being cancelled. Even though it does not meet the requirements of the mandate, they did not have to cancel the plan now since it was in existence when the bill was signed into law by the President. Why is it that no one is talking about the greedy Health Insurance Carriers.

    November 5, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  17. Denise

    Maternity care has been covered the same as sickness for sometime now and has always been the same cost for group plans for males and females. Using that same logic, I am paying for Boss Hogg's Viagra?

    November 5, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  18. getalife

    Our President does not control insurance companies stupid.

    November 5, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  19. frank

    hey cnn, you are very good at covering Obamas lies and not posting the truth of what and how they feel and say about Obama . i do not hide my feelings, just very out spoken on the truth but you can tell Obummer i personally do not have any respect for him and any of his democrapers.

    November 5, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  20. Darrell

    You're late to the party CNN. He lied, period. We know it, you know it, he knows it. This law will cost the dems a number of seats in 2014 unless they dump a good portion of it within the next 6 months. Even though Reid isn't up for reelection it still might happen since the state of Nevada is seeing the biggest jump in premiums for the "new" and "better" plans. Many of the private plans were negotiated in good faith, and those people got what they negotiated for. The cruddy website simply took attention away from the mess, but at least we are getting a chance to see what is in it.

    November 5, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  21. Randy

    Obama lied, period. CNN, does anybody watch your crappy network? No integrity, no ratings.

    November 5, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  22. Web Guru

    Is no insurance better than Obamasurance?

    November 5, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Darrell

    WOW said...

    I'm just blown away by some of the Liberal comments on this page who are shifting blame anywhere they can to save face for their deity. Shocking how foolish people are......

    Don't be blown away, they are being paid for their work.

    November 5, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Guest

    It's difficult to fix a blatant lie.

    November 5, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  25. Web Guru

    I admire the way President Obama...................................................................sorry I got nothing.

    November 5, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
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