November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
9 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. kris

    Liar in chief

    November 5, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. casperparks

    Affordable Health Care Act? What a lie. It is windfall for insurance companies. Why aren't major news outlets showing cost to low wage consumers? 8.50 an hour, price 141.00 to 211.00 at the low end with over 6,500 in out of pocket prior to insurance kicking-in and then only paying a percentage of medical bills. Could receive tax credit – more like "maybe not" on that tax credit. Besides, can anyone at 8.50 an hour afford an extra bill every month not to forget the over 6,500 out of pocket first? Politicians support the belief of government by Corporations for Corporations.

    November 5, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  3. Carlos Danger

    OMG the more he talks the worse he makes himself look. President Obama LIED, plain and simple!

    November 5, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  4. bigdoglv

    So now he "further alters". It's called lying.

    November 5, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  5. chembot

    Dealing with this president is a little like talking to Darth Vader "You said that if we liked our insurance we could keep it..." "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further"

    November 5, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  6. stewart

    once again how can you tell a politician is lying? his/her lips are moving. from no new taxes to oil will pay for the war, to this mess. they are all a bunch of lying folks. VOTE them all out return no one to the congress and make both parties give us new faces in the next cycle not the same old lying folks.

    November 5, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. Jacquelyn

    I have a friend who is 60 plus years old. She was told that her current policy wasn't sufficient, because she does not have maternity benefits, therefore it would be cancelled and she would need a new policy that covers it. Their monthly premium would go from $600 to $1000- Ridiculous. Funny story though- my grandson and I were playing American Trivia last night and we were partners. The question was 'what president is on the penny'. I was giving him clues and one was – his nickname is HONEST, he said ' Well it can't be Obama because he's a BUM. This from a seven year old.

    November 5, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. sly

    Ho ho ho - listen to the GOP Nazi's on here (Cruz: "Send all the blacks back to Africa") - trying to actually defend preventing 50 million (FIFTY MILLION!) citizens from obtaining Health Care.

    Really sounds like Hitler's Germany: "F- those Americans. We support Big Insurance, so let them die"

    November 5, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  9. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Insurance companies had 3 years to adjust those plans so that they are not substandard any more...

    ...at the last minute they drop their customers...

    ...and its somehow Obama's fault their plans were substandard...

    November 5, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  10. Earl

    First – Mr President – liar liar pants on fire.
    Second – Follow the money. I'll bet you my paycheck that it is the insurance companies who are benefitting the most and that they contributed to democratic campaigns.

    November 5, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  11. Jay

    My employer-sponsored health/medical/dental plan increased by nearly $400/year for 2014... My coverage esentailly stayed the same, but my premiums increased, my out-of-pocket expenses increased, and my deductibles increased... All a direct impact of Obama's ACA on my company's plan (we have over 20,000 employees). So, under the ACA, I get the same coverage, but it costs me an extra $400+/year?!?! Sombody please explain to me how that qualifies for "better benefits and better protections?"

    November 5, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  12. Tom

    My insurance went up 29%. I lost faith in my president. Why would you intentionally hurt me and my family?

    November 5, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. kitkat

    I hope everyone likes their hope and change! We fell for it hook line and sinker! The long and short of it is this law will cost each and every American citizen (excluding the elected officials) thousands of dollars every year. So the question remains, why didn’t Nancy Pelosi and her cronies opt to remove the government official health care plan and join arms with the rest of the American people if this was such a fantastic law? Can you imagine how much money our country would save by dumping a small fraction of the current government health benefits?
    On a final note, these men and woman have made our nation the laughing stock of the world; and you expect something better? History will not look upon Obama or these leaders favorably. So let Obama and the rest of them continue to stand up in front of the American people and say “I didn’t say that or that’s not what I meant”. My DVR says something totally different than what we are being feed now. A real man would admit he made a mistake and the health care plan does need to be tweaked, then act on making things right.

    November 5, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. Ellen

    There is no way that costs are not going up for a lot of people. This law hurts the small business owner, which the media keep calling the "small percentage" of people impacted by this law. The ones hurt are the small businesses that have individual policies. Our premiums tripled, and if you want to characterize coverage I do NOT need (aka maternity) as an improvement then yes it improved. But, I don't need that so I don't need that "improvement". My deductibles are higher than they were so that is no improvement. Basically we have to come up with another $12K in revenue next year to cover this. And I know that this very "small percentage" of people with increased premiums are not going to be the only ones paying the price – they just haven't implemented corporate plans yet. And, this law does not even begin to address the real problem – the actual COST of healthcare. The only winners are going to be the insurance companies, and the very poor. All the rest of us will pay for another federal program that will be run as inefficiently as every other federal program.

    November 5, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. aNOY

    Wait till you lose your job or one of your kids lose their job. The ACA may be more important to you then. I have issurance and my family is covered, but I realize you no longer have job security any more.

    November 5, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. may40

    Ugh, it's the low information voters that actually killed healthcare by voting this guy in knowing full well that it was a very very bad for the nation. Wow, I really do wish you would just stay home in 2016, but if you must vote then become informed first!

    November 5, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  17. wrm

    When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

    November 5, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. RL45

    Not all of us need prescription coverage, vision coverage, maternity coverage. Why can't we buy our coverage ala carte? Because the goverment know best...

    November 5, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. Jigganess

    What an idiot! A promise is not a promise if you don't or can't keep it! He is just full of lies and broken promises!

    November 5, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  20. greg

    No WAY! OBAMA DOESN'T LIE. It has to be Bush.

    November 5, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  21. Chris

    How many sides of a mouth can one person have? Obama is ruining our country.

    November 5, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  22. Jake

    I disagree with many if not most of the president's actions since taking office, but in all honesty I cannot see how he broke his promise that Obamacare would not force anyone to change their plan. All this article does is explain how insurers are deciding to stop offering some plans that Obamacare would have grandfathered in. But you can hardly blame a private company's decisions on the government, can you?

    November 5, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  23. Ron Mexico

    Write in "Edward Snowden" in the next presidental election.

    November 5, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  24. Elizabeth Adams

    Why is everyone blaming the Republicans (conservatives) because they want to (1) end this hopeless charade called O'Bamacare and give people back their insurance, (2) pay down our debt which is so large every person in America owes over $3,000, (3) combine offices in Washington who are all doing the same "job", (4) get rid of old, useless departments which should have been dismantled YEARS ago! Until America wakes up and realizes that we are headed down the "Progressive" road, the jobs will be scarce and the companies gone.

    November 5, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. Max Conrad

    "further alters"

    CNN calls themselves a news organization and they can't even identify presidential fraud & lies.

    November 5, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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