November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
5 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. styx

    I give up on both parties- after Bush and Obama I have lost all respect for both of you hacks.

    Time for a third party.

    November 5, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  2. Soothsayer

    STAY TUNED...... President Obama is continuing to alter..... just about everything....

    November 5, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. irock

    romany, he said this wasnt going to effect the middle class, Dont tell my he 'changed that promise" also!

    November 5, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. budwhite451

    My comment, (Why do they have a different comment system on CNN Money or political ticker). Three replies, ( so they stick the really controversial stories there and monitor comments., Because with CNN lies made over there ...... You can't call them out for lying, Because they dont want you to comment on their top propaganda story and discredit it)....

    November 5, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. The Truth

    You all are racists for thinking Obama is a liar.

    Obama Forever! I WANT FREE PHONE!!! GIMME MONEY!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  6. John

    This guy has been lying since 2008. What's sad is most of you never even saw it, or even worse accepted it.

    November 5, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. styx

    Obama is doing what Bush did- bringing Democrats and Republicans together in mutual hate for their failure of a president.

    November 5, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. roccotaco

    We have heard more lies the past 5 years than the previous 200. Why do democrats keep spewing these lines when they know that the American people are on to them and it will only get worse for them at voting time for the welfare crowd cannot keep on carry the water of the liars.

    November 5, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  9. GetReal

    Is everyone really this stupid? Whether you like this President, or you like Obamacare, or you are a Democrat or Republican..a racist or a non racist you are about to loose more of what it means to be an American. Don't believe the smoke screen. The whole government is pushing Obamacare!!! In the end we will get less of something. They screwed up this country so bad that the people don't even matter anymore. They called it Obamacare because they thought that would make people except it easier. Obama was put in office to get this done.

    November 5, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  10. sigh

    "Changes pledge"? Shouldn't that be "reneges on pledge"?

    November 5, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Tim

    This is less about Obamacare and more about if America really can afford a for profit insurance agency that must in fact profit off the sick in order to exist. There is a reason single payer and universal coverage is embraced around the world. If Obamacare doesn't "work" it only means that really no matter what, the insurance companies are going to screw us in the way most favorable to their bottom line. The government forces them to stop dropping people... they drop the plan altogether. They force them to take people with pre-existing conditions... we all have to absorb that cost so the insurance company CEO's can make millions a year. If Obamacare fails... the only alternative is single payer. If Americans are left to the insurance companies with no protection they will only insure the well and the first time you get anything remotely close to a serious illness they will drop you and be done with it.

    November 5, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  12. TheReal

    Seriously so much crap. Why does this have to be so confusing to the general public? What's funny is our own President can't even get to a straight point. One month it's this, next it's that. Oh you can keep you original plan–two years later, you can't keep your plan--now, you can keep your plan. Obama will be recorded down in History for one thing: first "African American" president. Congrats to all that voted this incompetent person into office. Tell me, if he and his cabinet are doing such a great job Dems, why is there much frustration from the general public? Oh, and please don't use the , "well Clinton was a great Dem. President". Seeing he was one of two presidents in US history to be IMPEACHED. Also, Obama bailed out the Clinton's campaign debt so they could have their support with the Obama Administration.

    November 5, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  13. OldAsDirt

    Spell "politician"

    P A N D E R E R

    November 5, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  14. .

    Happy Election Day!
    do not forget

    November 5, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  15. Failure is not an option

    I'm still waiting for my free Obama phone. Who needs insurance when you have a Free Phone to call 911 to complain McDonald's is out of chicken MC nuggets.

    Get Your priorities straight folks.

    Anyone can figure out, fed is going to pay you to get Free health care.

    Just wait for it.

    Don't you believe?

    November 5, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  16. Rhonda

    Obama and all the other monkeys in office need to try out the Obamacare first and if it works for them then set it out for anyone else who wants it.

    November 5, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  17. Eric

    I wanna see the following Q and A:
    Random person: “Mr. President, is it true that you repeatedly GUARANTEED that ‘if you like your current plan, YOU can keep it’ when in fact you knew that the vast majority of plans change and would therefore be cancelled without that person having any choice? And is it also true that you in no way can guarantee that their new ‘similar’ plan will let them keep their doctors or be cheaper?”
    Obama: “GET THAT RACIST OUT OF HERE!"

    November 5, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  18. Emile Mervin

    Obama said you can keep your plan! What exactly did Obama do to break his promise? Go ahead and tell us what he did, CNN! You cannot because Obama did not do or say anything that changed that promise; insurance carriers, in cahoots with the TeaPublican Party, decided to promote the scaremongering tactic of dropping people. Then journalists who became lazy and refused to fact-check the TeaPublicans, ran with the TeaPublicans' talking points.

    Truth is, Obama is genuinely trying to help those uninsured and underinsured, which total in number than those already insured. So all those being affected by being dropped or forced to pay more, will eventually get redress once the true goal of Obamacare reaches the uninsured and underinsured and insurance carriers don't have any scare tactics left. That's right folks, there are two sets of stories to be told, but we are being inundated with only stories about those being dropped by insurance carriers and not those actually benefiting from insurance for the first time. I wonder why!!!

    November 5, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  19. rplat

    This guy is absolutely disgusting.

    November 5, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  20. DL Kisting

    He's going to make Bill Clinton, look like a saint! Obama, is and has been, nothing more than the worst kind of a liar.

    November 5, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. nibirutruth

    Obama: I only lied to you to get you to go along with it. What's the problem?

    November 5, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. irock

    Your right GetReal, Soon we will all be slaves working for our big government war machine.. Well, We are now but I didnt want to seem like the town cryer.

    November 5, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  23. James

    The man's a Liar, Thru and Thru–

    November 5, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  24. George

    You need cleaner air and water, not a better plan. Of course, the focus is on "care", not on the factors that make you ill.

    November 5, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  25. gerald

    What a liar.

    November 5, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
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