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. Kram Retlaw

    Wonder what he would say to his daughters if they came to him with that bologna story...shame on you Mr. President!~

    November 5, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  2. Elden

    The plan was to make Obamacare so complicated and such a failure that 100% universal healthcare would be the only option to fix this trainwreck. There would be no signups and no premiums, just a 45% tax rate.

    November 5, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  3. Thomas Nichols

    Well, what I meant was, you can weasel out of your, no...I meant I can weasel out of what I said because I am stupid and naive and all politicians lie. You can keep you plan but only if it requires a hike in your gross income, and you divert all of your net income to ObamaCare.

    November 5, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  4. jj

    He's just making sure Americans don't have substandard plans. Jeez.

    November 5, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. Dave in Houston

    Reminds me of 'Read my lips...'

    It's a shame we won't get a chance to vote him out of office. Maybe a few of the Libs and Indies will learn something here. I hope.

    But, probably not.

    November 5, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  6. Jack 2

    Obama not only said it once but 24 times.

    November 5, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. Fed Up

    This guy is a pathological liar. He and his ilk hate the fundamental principles upon which America was built and seek to change the very definition of what it means to be an American.

    November 5, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. Jerimiah Johnson

    Maybe this will sure up that 39% polling number. On 2nd thought.

    November 5, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. Angus Blackwylde

    I guess it all depends on what the meaning of "period" is.

    November 5, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. watash60

    I got your votes now here is how it really is – amazing even for liberals

    November 5, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. TJ

    Well done mr. obamanocchio! Another day, another lie. Nothing new for the lying liberal left. And people like "Sly" will continue to sing your praises, worship you at your feet, and believe the fecaI-matter coming out of your mouth is somehow spoken "truth".

    You are the best liar I've seen in my time mr. obamanocchio. The very best!

    November 5, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. irock

    I love it, Still people on here pointing at GWB saying he lied he lied he lied with big tears in their eyes talking about the Iraq war. How they forget all the dem`s that approved and encouraged an attack.

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

    Try this defense President Obama: "A lie is not a lie if the truth should not be expected".

    November 5, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. EarthWorm

    I say let the plan stay on course so it can destroy the Democratic party by next November. This plan comes in phases and with each phase will come more bad news for Obama and his moochers. Obamas approval rating is already down to 39% and I bet it will be under 20% by Jan 1. Then, maybe, then he will stop the ACA law because it is falling apart.

    November 5, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  15. Hank

    He lied or was completely ignorant. It's as clear as day to anyone but deranged partisans.

    November 5, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  16. Js

    It would be so much more better and honest if Obama simply came out and apologized for misleading the public. Trying to spin this in order to damage control is simply embarrasing and most Amercians are easily recognizing that.

    November 5, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. Eric

    The news media seems to be the last people to figure Obama out. What a surprise.

    November 5, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. sofork

    Does President Obama think we are stupid? He lied, deceived and misrepresented. Plain and simple. PERIOD.

    November 5, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  19. Steve

    If only he had gone straight for the public option without delay….

    November 5, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. Atlanta

    How about a truthful headline, CNN? "President LIED to America"

    November 5, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  21. P Con

    Obama and Hillary didn't do this. The Voters and the people that failed to vote are the real cause of the mess in DC

    November 5, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  22. Steve

    EVERY pro Obumma idiot that is defending the ACA is totally skipping over the point of this article. HE FLAT OUT LIED! Not mis-spoke, not taken out of context, not somebody twisting his words, HE IS A COMPLETE LIAR!!!! So many post on here about how people without insurance (about 80% of those are illegal and/or on welfare) are so thankful that there is one more thing they can have without working for it! What about the 5 million people who will now lose their insurance, which they can currently afford, and are forced to pay 3 times as much for the same coverage? Nobody cares, because some how they are privilaged to have insurnace in the first place.

    The 47% stat is a thing of the past. there are NOW more people who take from the government then contibute to it. It's just a matter of time before we become the next "fall of Rome". Politicians to stupid to figure it out and Obumma is the worst!

    November 5, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  23. vinster76

    I have tremendous satisfaction in knowing that those of you who voted this guy in, are really the fools I took you for.......One example after another, of a, not only incompetent president, but a malevolent liar.......

    November 5, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  24. knklhead

    My company is saving $3,000 a year (I have company-provided healthcare) and I am saving $300 per year for 2014. I have the same healthcare, same coverage and same doctors, etc. My bet is the vast majority of people will see the same results. It will be too bad that insurance companies will be the ones to CANCEL, not the ACA - notice how many are dumped that have expensive conditions. The good news? Those with pre-existing conditions WILL have the opportunity to get insurance.

    November 5, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  25. Dean

    What do we need our current president for? He is always the last to know about anything and then it is always some one else's fault.

    November 5, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
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