November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
11 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. Hope and Change

    @ Sly

    May we please have some more koolaid please, master?

    You still live in slavery times, but now it's an Uncle Tom you serve.

    You will never learn.

    Don't beat me boss man. I'll accept that free stuff as long as you feed me.

    November 5, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. Peg

    I do remember them talking about plans that were grandfathered in and they did say the law would increase coverage requirements. I do not see how this should be a surprise to anyone. All of this was said.

    November 5, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Crampon

    Pinocchio's will be called Obama's from now on.

    November 5, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. j peterson

    "Obama Changes Health Care Promise?" Note to CNN... a change or alteration to a promise makes it a promise no longer… i.e. the promise has been broken. Please report truth! Headlines can be so deceiving!

    November 5, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. KG

    Please read Orwell's 1984. It is amazing to me that Obama can say "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," back in 2009 and now comes back with "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." No, what YOU said was "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan". What an egotistical maniac this guy has turned out to be. He looks us all in the eye and boldly lies like no other President this nation has ever seen. When you compare what Nixon did with the crime Obama has committed, it is amazing that the news media isn't roasting him over an open fire.

    November 5, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. Paul

    This is all because Obama wants the middle and a little higher than middle class to suffer. The poor get subsidies and the rest have to pay a fortune for this garbage. So the working class will be just as broke as the poor! .....and Obama's getting just what he wants.

    November 5, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. Jason

    He's selling snake oil...and wants to force us to buy it.

    November 5, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. skytag

    What has me really frustrated about all this is that the people who are responsible for this law and the provisions in it — congressional Democrats — are MIA from any discussion of the problems that have come to light. They haven't acknowledged them or even hinted that they're working on ways to address them.

    It appears they're just letting Obama take all the heat even though he didn't author a single provision in the bill. Obama had been a supporter of single-payer in the past but Democrats didn't go that route. Where is Max Baucus? Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was the lead guy on the authorship of the ACA and you wouldn't even know he's still a member of Congress based on what he's said about this.

    Obama could have and should have been more involved in the development of the ACA, but his critics act as if the ACA is the product of a bunch of executive orders issued by the president. It isn't. It's a law authored and passed by Democrats in Congress, but we're not hearing a word from them about any of this as far as I can tell.

    The problems can be fixed, but not by ignoring them and Democrats in Congress just seem to be ignoring them.

    November 5, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  9. Chelsea

    If you have a Netflix account, please go on there and find the movie "Ethos". We are essentially destroying ourselves in every way. We do not live in a democracy and we haven't lived in one for many years. This isn't a left/right thing, this is a 1% against the 99% thing, and will remain this way until there is a complete revolution.

    November 5, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Hope and Change

    Read 1984, by George Orwell. Published in 1949.

    Government controls it all anyway. Now and will be in our future.

    November 5, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. CryBabies

    From a Washington state voter.....Thank you Senators Murray and Cantwell for following this Pied Piper on the ACA. Apparently, you two have the brains of a gopher....and you Patty Murray, were on the front lines with Reid and Pelosi in putting this crap law in place. How you got as far as you did is credited to the "low information" voter and your ability to be a follower. Thanks for nothing!

    November 5, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. al

    PURE LIAR IN CHIEF !!!! premiums for 27-year-olds rose an average of 78% on ObamaCare exchanges, whereas in "blue states" that voted for Obama, premiums rose a smaller 50%.

    November 5, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Keli

    Just more evidence Obama is not only a failure as a leader but self centered. When our economy tanked and people were losing jobs and their homes our "leader" was more concerned about pushing a healthcare legislation through than actually addressing the larger more pressing problems at the time. As expected this has turned out to be a fiasco and that Obama has lied yet again. If I were to have a similar performance in my job my boss would fire me as fast he could. We need a real leader to lead this country.

    November 5, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  14. Zeke

    It is really sad that if Obama had the courage to step up and said I misspoke 29 times on the subject and if this has caused some Americans pain, I apologize. But he can't do that!!! He can never admit that he was the cause of this problem and so it goes on and on. What kind of president have we elected that continues to play games with the truth? This man does not deserve to be President of anything.

    November 5, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. Really?

    sly-"50 MILLION PEOPLE"? Every day that number gets bigger. 50 million? why not say 100 million or 1 billion? Do u think the entire healthcare market in the US had to be blown up just so pre-existing condition be covered? Or could genius Obama just change that with an amendment to any bill? Do u think that I had to loose my oncologists just so u can have health insurance?

    November 5, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  16. gman

    Now this is a change I believe in

    November 5, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  17. Gwen W.

    Despite the Republicans, CNN and other media's attempt to skewer the health care law, people are beginning to see the law in action. People who really need relief are learning that (1) if your policy is being cancelled because the benefits offered were inadequate (the notices are not immediate), be patient, call, search the web or work with your insurer and you will find a better plan for less money, (2) uninsurable people are now insurable for the very conditions which they need help, (3) prescription drug costs for seniors are free or next to nothing, and (4) the well-insured (Republicans and media personnel) talking with the well-insured about why others should not have insurance is falling on deaf ears of people who need and want medical insurance. That is why they are so desperate to kill the ACA before it is fully implemented because the outrageous claims and out-of-context examples will be exposed and the nation will be better off.

    November 5, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  18. aNOY

    So the solution is to do what? Go back to what? I guess all thes nay sayers have nver lost a job or gotten sick? have you ever tried to use your insurance? Whos going to tell those poor people , women and children they no longer should have access to care. lets go back to emergency rooms and lets pay for care that way. After all why should we pay for the free loaders? Is this really about health care or changing demographics? think about it? its ok to admit we are really scared?

    November 5, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  19. Istlota

    Obama is either incompetent or a flat out liar. Either way, he has proven to be more articulate but, otherwise, just as worthless as his predecessor.

    November 5, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. John

    In essence to help 1000 it's ok if 10 families suffer. Sorry if you are those 10 families.

    November 5, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. Js

    Did Obama default? fall back on his bills and stopped regular payments of "protection money" to CNN, CBS and co? the recent slate of articles critical of his administration is quite interesting. Unless CNN is finally wising up to their declining ratings as an indictment from the people on their tainted flavor of journalism.

    November 5, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  22. janskor

    The insurance companies have been waiting for this...just an opportunity to raise premiums or dump those members that they have, It's liike what Obama did with the credit cards. who really did benefit...not the consumer. He is conveying the message that he is helping Americans...while really he is helping big business. Same old...same old... and the music(lies) goes on and on.It's like a dictatorship rather than democracy. Fellow Americans this country was built on democracy and it will fall in the hands of Obama and the democrats. Watch it and weep

    November 5, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. Lloyd

    So how many of you Democrats are getting your healthcare revised or lost all together? Yes, along with the GOP as well. "We'll read it after its passed," sound familiar...

    November 5, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  24. Paul

    The pledge hasn't "evolved". The promise he made, the pledge he made, was broken. Period. Does anybody other than hopeless Obamabots even trust Obama any more? Let's try it another way...do you have any doubt whatsoever that he will say ANYTHING (regardless of whether or not it is true) in order to further his agenda? I don't doubt it at all. Obama is completely untrustworthy, and I'm fundamentally ashamed to say he is my President.

    November 5, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  25. Jeff Steinbeck

    Jay Carney-the C.E.M. of the White House
    C.E.M.=Chief Excuse Maker (for the Obama Administration)
    Someone might call it hypocrisy, others might call it flat out deception.

    November 5, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
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