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. Bob

    Never seen a man lie so much and believe the lie that no one else does.

    November 5, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Fr S O

    Shameful. Just plain shameful.

    November 5, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  3. paul reynolds

    google: Iraq $3 trillion
    google: Iraq 24 billion lost
    google: shutdown cost 26 billion

    And the Republicons are "Outraged" the $150 million (with an M) Website is not Perfect day one..!??

    November 5, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  4. Well Informed in Buffalo

    HAVE YOU ALL LOST YOUR WHAT LITTLE MIND YOU HAVE LEFT?? OK, in order to appease the whinners (I got my B.S.,covers nothing health insurance policy cancelled... SO I CAN GET A BETTER ONE) lets elect Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan as president in 2014. That way, you bvabies can get a close-up of what a Professional Liar sounds like, as we invade yet another country for no apparent reason. GET OVER IT!

    November 5, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. Midwest Family

    All they talk about is premiums.....nothing is being mentioned that there are no stop-loss preventions in these policies.
    You will pay 20% to 50% out of your OWN pocket in addition to premiums when you end up in a crisis! And that will renew every calendar year. No insurance company has to make an affordable plan....just affordable premiums......

    November 5, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. Dave Long

    Before Obama, politics had already deteriorated into simple sound bites to appease the electorate. Had he been more professorial in his rhetoric about the ACA, the audience would have tuned him out, while the oversimplification he gave was disingenuous, at best. Nevertheless, the onus falls upon each citizen to get informed (heaven forbid we should take any politician's word for anything), but that gets harder the more impatient we become. Besides which, who obfuscates better than insurance companies?

    November 5, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. Baby Mama Drama

    HAVE YOU ALL LOST YOUR WHAT LITTLE MIND YOU HAVE LEFT?? OK, in order to appease the whinners (I got my B.S.,covers nothing health insurance policy cancelled... SO I CAN GET A BETTER ONE) lets elect Ted Cruz or Paul Ryan as president in 2014. That way, you bvabies can get a close-up of what a Professional Liar sounds like, as we invade yet another country for no apparent reason. GET OVER IT!

    November 5, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  8. eric

    Why does anyone support either of these political parties? Haven't we learned by now they are ALL liars?

    November 5, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  9. Goodbye Middle-Class

    alters promise = liar

    November 5, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  10. sofork

    How can any intelligent American stomach the likes of Pelosi, Reid, Obama (the Three Stooges) telling us lies on how we need to get health care insurance, what will be covered and what to buy?

    November 5, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  11. mike

    If you don't like what people are saying about you, just change the past to a more acceptable version. IDIOT doesn't know he's on tape?

    November 5, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. Goodbye Middle-Class

    my comments are moderated. I dont cuss or call people names. I can think for myself. I guess that makes me dangerous. ??

    November 5, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  13. Smack Dab

    I don't care how you spin it, the President of the United States of America is a pathological LIAR. And you fools voted for this person.

    November 5, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  14. vinster76

    If GWB had done anything like the pathological lying this guy has done, the media would have drawn and quartered him daily for the last three years.......But no, you are now beginning to see the faintest outline of how the media is attempting to explain this imbecilic nonsense away, first by using words like "misspoke", "unintended", etc, ad nauseum.........Once again, let me say it brings me a tremendous sense of satisfaction to be able to say "I told you so", to the millions of dolts who voted him into office, not once, but twice.....He was supposed to be the agent of "hope and change"........Each day brings fresh lies, new outrages, further shame and disgrace to the White House, and the Office of the President.......

    November 5, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. SG

    Everyone would feel much better about ACA if they would just DRINK THE KOOLAIDE! I'm on my way to teh God King Obama shrine to sway and hum with the other Obama Zombies. Come, join us.

    November 5, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  16. Hugh Jorgan

    Typical Snake Oil Salesman

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

    If I want to get a plan like the one I have I get to pay 3x the amount I pay now, 5x the deductible, and 10% more in a copay. I am 4 months pregnant and my insurance now doesn't cover maternity but since I am going to a pregnancy center and paying the hospital in advance its will cost less than $3000 to have this baby. If I go with a new plan under the ACA the cost of having the baby after the deductible and copay will be about $9000 to $10000. What about that is affordable.

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

    He lied for the good of the country, cause they don't know better..he does..

    November 5, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  19. Bill

    I just got through on the ACA website for the first time after trying for over a month. I tried just browsing prices for me and my family first and it told me for me, my wife and 2 children I could get gold coverage for around $550/month. I currently pay $444 for a similar plan ($3500 deductible/$5000 max out of pocket). It was more but I thought I'd investigate further. After giving all my families information (including SSN's – I can't believe I did that!) the actual price quote was $1890 month! I am not making this up so don't you hold out supporters dismiss this! over 4 times as much! That is over $23,000/yr for a plan with a 10,000 deductible. You've got to be kidding me! Who in their right mind can call this affordable. This is the biggest scam I've ever seen. There is no way I'm paying this no matter what they threaten me with. I don't qualify for any "Subsidies". We have to find a way to stop this!

    November 5, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. Really?

    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.
    ______________________________
    Are u predicting the future here? Are there worse times to come? If u don't have a job how will u afford ACA's high deductibles and out of pocket expenses?
    By your logic are we suppose to screw the healthcare plans of 80% of people, that employees have just to placate the unemployed? I guess we are suppose to say thank you for only chopping of my legs. You could have taken my arms too right?
    Lets not forget which party tried to stop all this. Republican Tea Party. Looking good now!!

    November 5, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. JoJo

    So changing, altering his promise. CNN you can try and cover for Obama but what we call this outside your elitist circle is LYING!!!

    November 5, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  22. Tim John

    What's wrong with CNN? We are supposed to worship Obama, hero of the teachers, he doesn't do any wrong, worship your God Obama now! Never criticize Obama, he is never wrong. Sing songs about him, be a moron.

    November 5, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  23. Joe Citizen

    LIar liar, pants on fire

    November 5, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. Strangways

    why did he blow his presidential wad on this? it's going to become like Bush's wanting to "fix" SS. It's a hydra. better to focus on the economy, peace issues, droning al Quada...

    November 5, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  25. hitman

    When will the impeachment of the reincarnation of Fred Sanford begin?

    November 5, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
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