November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
1 year 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. barbarabeasley

    Here's one for you... I spoke with my ex-husband yesterday. He is self-employed, and lives in VA. Our son, lives with me, and my ex is required to provide health insurance for him. His policy was cancelled, and he was being forced into the exchange. After fighting with the online program for almost a month, he was able to get in and register himself and his family. When he reviewed the confirmation page, our son was not listed. That prompted several phone calls and online chat sessions, and the end result: If you have a child living in another state, you cannot cover them on Obamacare. In addition to the loss of insurance for children, how many court orders do you think this will void? Does this apply to families whose children attend an out of state college? Who picks up the legal expense to re-write divorce decrees, and pay judges to amend them? Oh yeah... We the People... I am blessed that my ex and I get along, and I can provide coverage for my son on my employer's plan, but how many people won't even know their child isn't covered because they don't have an amicable relationship with their ex?

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  2. s~

    You can keep you doctor.Period

    Obama just flat out lied. Period.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  3. Middle Class American paying your way

    No matter how King Barry wants to spin this, the bottom line is that he once again lied to you, and Demcrats still defend this guy.

    Really, really perplexing.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. Vader

    Insurance under ACA should be "cafeteria style", differing not only in $ covered, but services as well. Why does everyone have to pay for maternity coverage? There are those of us that will never use it.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. Atlanta

    So to CNN, 'millions of people' equals a 'small percentage'? The fact that MILLIONS of people in this country are losing their plans, their coverage, in some cases their doctors and treatment plans - I guess to CNN that's small potatoes, right? Poor 'small percentage'; you'll just have to suck it up and accept that Obama and some HS dropout 'navigator' knows more about what kind of healthcare you need than you do.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  6. BGko

    Glad to see the media finally got around to doing it's job. A few years late, but better than never. "Oops, sorry media. Didn't mean to wake you, but it's time to investigate the news."

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  7. h20damage

    Obama LIED....plain and Simple... I now wish I had NOT voted for him!!!!! Bad mistake!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  8. Told you so

    Really, you pass a half baked law in the middle of the night without any review or input from the American people.

    Passed by a Community Organizer without any real world experience. What did you think would happen??

    November 5, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  9. Alexander Deichl

    guy just wants to get rid of the American Dream. Obummer wants one class, he is a joke and has been spitting lies since Day 1.

    November 5, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  10. Dino

    Let's play a little good news bad news and see what we come up with here... For starters, the good news is you will not have women having abortions in a back alley with a coat hanger. The bad news is you will have to have your heart surgery in the back alley with a coat hanger. The good news is you will not have the religious right telling you what to do. The bad news is you will have the left telling you what to eat, what to drink, what type of insurance to have... Wait am I missing something here???

    November 5, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  11. bear

    Then: "If you like your plan you can keep it, period."

    Now: "what we said was, you could keep it if hasn't changed since the law's passed."

    Then could have been incompetence. Now is definitely a LIE.

    November 5, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. christophermcne

    Well the whole thing has been a silly play for political points from the get go. Obama had to insist that the fine wasn't a tax in order to gain public support during the bill's implementation, but he then literally had to prove that it WAS a tax before the supreme court. First he unequivocally stated people could keep their plans, period. Now he's trying to act like he said something completely different. I don't think everyone is as stupid as he thinks they are.

    November 5, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. Shamma Lammadingdong

    Blame Obama all you like, but he didn't send out the cancellation letters, the insurance companies did. They could have worked to keep people insured and sent notice, as they often do with premium increases, that due to Obamacare certain parts of your policy may be changing, and you have the right to cancel your policy, accept these changes, or choose one more suited to your needs. Instead, they decided to dump existing customers, many of whom I'm sure were the ones they were looking to get rid of anyhow; the high risk customers they didn't make money on. Obamacare has turned into a cluster F, but placing blame on one person isn't realistic.

    November 5, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  14. EarthWorm

    Obama has lost my complete faith in him at all! I will never believe anything else he has to say. I am a faithful Democrat but Obama has let his party down and especially let the American people down. Mr. President you are a liar plain and simple!

    November 5, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  15. cindypress

    he lied to get it passed that called politics and now he is trying to lie about having lied. Has the man no shame.

    November 5, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  16. HenryMiller

    So now Obama is trying to lie his way out of having lied. This man is truly disgusting.

    November 5, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  17. adoug123

    obama lied again, I am soooooooooo shocked.

    November 5, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  18. RA

    Liar – Liar – pants on fire!

    There is no Republican plan because they don't believe that it's the government's business to run the healthcare industry.

    November 5, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  19. s~

    You can keep your plan.Period
    You can keep your doctor.Period

    Obama just flat out lied. Period.

    November 5, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. bob

    you liberal fools voted for your messiah , now live with the consequences, Obama is a failure as is Obamacare!
    Can't blame the republicans, only yourselves!

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  21. Dar

    This Health Care plan is costing the American people how much??? What??
    You say Obama Lied??? How can that be??? He is the Hero everyone wanted and Loved!!!

    You get what you pay for people! A Community Organizer as president. Nothing more need be said.

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. Chris

    He was decieving people to sell his pet plan and he knew he was decieving people. I guess honesty and transparency in government was not included in that "hope and change" agenda.

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  23. Tony Bartlett

    Obama lies. What's new?

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. s~

    Obama, the great liar in chief.

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  25. mediafail.2012

    The defenders of Obama are sounding more and more like cult followers devoid of reality or reason. Do you define men paying for maternity care as "better coverage"? How about forcing people with 20/20 vision to by Eye Care insurance "better coverage"?

    Obamacare (also known as ACA, funny how liberals don't want Obama's name on it anymore) was written on ideology, not anything resembling concern for efficiency or cost control is in the bill.

    Here's one example: liberals have complained that it was unfair that women paid more for health insurance than men. The reason was real as women have more medical costs on average than men. So Obamacare fixed that by making the cost for men's coverage go up 99% on average and women's 64%. Yay! Equality! /end sarcasm

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
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