November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
12 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. Denise

    Edward Snowden? That's all we need for president, another half-witted wingnut like Bush....I think you have to have completed your GED too....

    November 5, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  2. ja

    Not voting for Democrats any more. They all are liars and just in for themselves. Hillary let our ambassador and other Americans in Egypt DIE. Could have saved them. She won't be President. She's a bad, bad evil person.
    DEVIL WOMAN

    November 5, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  3. jj

    all the complaining about the ACA is irrelevant. We know who is getting the short end of the stick (again).

    It is we, the people.

    What is relevant is who is benefitting from this debacle. It is the insurance companies. It is the people who wrote this law. It is the people who Obama works for.

    You blame Obama? he is a pawn. The real culprit is the greed based, anything-but-free market system called capitalism that you worship and sanctify. It's your own fault for being so greedy, and abiding by a broken system in the hopes that one day you will get a slice of the pie you helped bake. By the time the capitalists are done with you, you will be lucky to see crumbs from the fruits of your labor.

    November 5, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. Jeremy H

    I don't know why everyone is shocked that Obama lied. You should be shocked if a politician ever tells the truth. It's always been about a politician's personal agenda...

    November 5, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  5. Jigganess

    How about and IMPEACHMENT out of office! What a LIAR!

    November 5, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  6. ddd_ddd

    Obama alters, rest lie

    November 5, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  7. Shane Kent

    It seems Liberals south of the border are the same as those north of the border. The Ontario Liberal government is outsourcing and privatizing our health care and driving it into the ground. Our (Canadian) media is so Liberal they lie as much as the politicians so the average person in Ontario doesn't have a clue!

    November 5, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. Bob

    My mother who is 55 now has the freedom to be forced to buy maternity coverage.

    November 5, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  9. Sad Panda

    Barack Obama will be the first person to steal the Presidency of the United States from a woman . . . *twice*.

    –Hillary '08 supporter who TOLD YOU ALL SOMETHING LIKE THIS WOULD HAPPEN, and is now a Republican

    November 5, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. Rachel

    This guy has told so many lies I'm surprised his nose hasn't started to grow yet.

    November 5, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  11. Mario

    “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
    ― Adolf Hitler

    History teaches but some people never learn or turn a deaf ear to personal agendas.

    November 5, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. Paul

    See what happens when you do not read what you support or vote on. We the people bought a " pig in a poke"
    Like Dem. leader said "I did not read it but I voted for it" all who did not vote in the last election will vote this time.

    November 5, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  13. Hcalla

    He puts even his followers in a tough spot. If you back him you appear either to be lying or stupid. How is anyone supposed to defend such blatant fact twisting

    November 5, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  14. Mike McElroy

    I have patiently waited to see what Obamacare would be. Now, I have to agree with the many naysayers that Obamacare is based on lies from the administration, starting with the President. He should certainly be ashamed of himself.

    Obamacare is self-destructing!

    November 5, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  15. larry

    This joke of a Democrat lies about lies. LOL. If it wasn't so pathetic it would be funny.

    November 5, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  16. jerpell

    Nothing this crook does surprises me......What do you expect from a man who has never held a real job!

    November 5, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  17. Change didnt come

    I call for a Vote of No confidence within the American people. This guy has lied to us for too long and seemingly only made things worse. Stop listening to the media and wake up. If the American people Rally, we can get it done.

    November 5, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  18. CheckYourFacts

    My policy was cancelled and equivalent coverage on a new policy is 40% more expensive. How is that a better deal?

    November 5, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  19. Jim Simpson

    Lied to win an election. He's disgusting and a liar.

    November 5, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. Greg S.

    This is BS! My plan is going from $201/month to maybe $600/month with less coverage!

    November 5, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. Resa

    It would be nice if I knew what this article was trying to say. I understand an occasional typo may slip through, but did ANYONE proofread this before it was published?

    November 5, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  22. onlymho

    the president is sick – he believes that it ok to lie

    November 5, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  23. Know Your Subject

    "most people will be able to buy better plans for the same price or even cheaper"

    That is not the case with my son's individual coverage through Blue Cross. His old policy is being cancelled and the new "equivalent" policy suggested by Blue Cross is essentially the same ... with four significant differences:

    (1) The old policy provided weight management coverage, but the new policy does not.
    (2) The new policy provides maternity coverage (of no value to a single male), while the old policy did not.
    (3) Most Out-of-Network coverage fell from 60% under the old policy to 40% under the new policy.
    (4) Premiums increased 70%.

    The new policy is not better -and is arguably worse because it increases Out-of-Network costs and limits options- and it costs substantially.

    November 5, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  24. Pam

    If the premiums on those already insured go up........they will quit spending elsewhere. If the uninsured or poor now get their insurance and have to pay even the smallest premium......they will quit spending elsewhere. Just like the corporations who raise the prices of their products to cover increasing cost........the consumer quits spending when their costs go up. Bye bye economy!

    November 5, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  25. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    "I" have a NEW LIE
    to FIX the OLD lie

    The OLD LIE is now OLD NEWS !!!
    TRUST "ME"

    AT THIS POINT WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE

    November 5, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
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