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. Rudy NYC

    Wire Palladin, S.F. wrote:

    I reread the republican health care plan again today, all zero pages of it. I noticed it says nothing about eliminating lifetime caps,providing insurance for those with pre existing conditions, allowing students to stay on parents plan, helping those who are poor to have health care, etc.
    -------------
    The only health care reform plan from Republicans was released in June 2009, which was before the rise of the Tea Party. It can be found as a blog post on Rep. Boehner's official web site. Please note that there is separate "Spkr Boehner" official web site, at which you will not find the plan.

    Except for the individual, insurer, and employer mandates, the plan is actually almost identical to Obamacare. It is also a massively unfunded plan. It basically gives everyone below a certain income level Medicare, which they do not pay for. The Tea Party would eviscerate it, which is why you never hear Republicans talk about their own plan.

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

    Obama never tells the truth. What's new?

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. 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 l i e.

    November 5, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  4. Dave

    This is just another "IS as IS was or IS as IS will be" moment. Democrats lie to get what they want because they belive they know better than the American people. He lied that is a fact no way around it but he is not man enough to admit it. It really is sad for him I could no look myself in the mirror if I was that uneithical.

    November 5, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. Alpha Propellerhead

    " I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further." - Darth Vader

    November 5, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. D. Clark

    Obama is now obviously under the control of the insurance industry. Essentially he was bought off!

    November 5, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. comradbill

    His dictator ways are really showing.

    November 5, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. Dc

    He lies – purposefully and repeatedly. He lies about virtually everything. So what's so surprising? Almost everything we 'know' about this man is a lie. Honest, objective minds have seen that since shortly after the media propaganda campaign to canonize him kicked into high gear prior to his first election.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  9. showbaba

    Do you guys have to pay before you can get good health in America? If you have to buy an insurance before you get good health I think it's time you consider coming to Canada. We don't pay to get good health service no insurance to buy. I am proud to be a Canadian.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. ogona

    “In a way, the world-view of the Party imposed itself most successfully on people incapable of understanding it. They could be made to accept the most flagrant violations of reality, because they never fully grasped the enormity of what was demanded of them, and were not sufficiently interested in public events to notice what was happening. By lack of understanding they remained sane. They simply swallowed everything, and what they swallowed did them no harm, because it left no residue behind, just as a grain of corn will pass undigested through the body of a bird.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  11. ranlo

    JohnRJohnson,
    Honey, sit this one out. You are so 'blinded' by your love for Obama. Sit down and some coffee, then come back when you have gained some sense.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  12. Religious Guy

    I am not sure what the issue is? He said Govt. will not force you to change your plan. And that's what the case is now – Govt is not making you change your plan. Insurance companies are now changing plans. Insurance companies were aware of the changes for past couple of years but kept you in the dark and now forcing you to change. So why is it that people say he is lying when its the Insurance companies forcing you to change?

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. L Metcalf

    Is this Obama con job equal to the "weapons of mass destruction?" Sheep people, you have really been taken..TWICE!

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. ricardo1968

    I demand that our politicians be clairvoyant and always know and divulge everything that they might possibly need to know. Anything less than total perfection is completely unacceptable.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. mdr

    Breaking News: ACA is so good, Congress and the President have announced they will switch their medical coverage to ACA.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Maria

    Oh please people, other Presidents have lied so get over it already. And,in part it is true. Why don't you do some research on what other Presidents have lied,and some are real whoppers.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. TW

    "You are all focusing on the small stuff!!!
    The INSURANCE COMPANIES changes all of the plans, but guess what? A new plan proposed for the old plan will give you better coverage. It is up to each of us to check that our primary care doctors are in the plan that we choose....and if you shop smartly, just like you do in the grocery store, you will get a better price! I know that I did, and now my annual flu shots are covered at no cost to me!
    By the way, the New York State web site works fine....I've been on it several times."

    The federal exchange is not working and the Web Broker is not functioning properly. No one cares about New York.

    Secondly, Better coverage for who? The 60 year old man that now has a higher premium because maternity care is a mandated benefit that used to be able to be carved out to save money?

    I do this for a living and the only people that are happy are the poor and the people who have group sponsored insurance. Everyone in between has to pay up to $180 a month for a $6500 deductible. No, they are not happy.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. greg

    It's a shame that all the uneducated people voted this lying cheat in. They didn't learn after one term,
    so vote him in for 2. I guess when you expect freebies for nothing, you'll do anything to get them.
    We'll, that will be running out and good luck when the working class can't support you anymore.
    Can't blame Bush anymore and if you do, you are pretty stupid!

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  19. rs

    tom l

    "It helps 100% of the population. You can get a health plan that is actually useful if you need major medical."

    The arrogance of the left knows no bounds. How do you know what insurance plan is "useful" for an individual that you have never met? How do you know that the plan is "swiss cheese" when you have never reviewed the plan nor do you know the person that has purchased the plan? It is incredible to me that liberals think that they know everything.
    ____________________
    C'mon, Tom- you know fully well that more people insured is better, and as the ACA is weeding out the junk policies, what people are getting is better coverage. This isn't a "liberal thing" (like Obama is liberal?), it is an industry thing. You guys forget, it isn't the government providing healthcare, it is the insurance industry and the healthcare industry- and that is because that is the way the Right wanted it.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  20. Padraig

    The easiest thing to have done was for the President to tell the truth, by doing this he would not have to remember the lies he said before. This character has no integrity at all.

    To quote H.L. Mencken – “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  21. liberal disease

    Why would anyone be surprised? he is a lawyer after all!

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  22. EdinNC

    Two simple words sum up how he changed what he said..........HE LIED.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  23. Dav

    Only fools ,illegal aliens and welfare frauds voted for comrade Obama. He is a communist ,why is anybody surprised he is a lair.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  24. Anonymous

    If you like your President, you can keep your President. If you liked him, so you kept him, and now he is a changed man.

    November 5, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  25. D. Clark

    Hey Mr. Prez, would you like your children to be board members of our insurance company? Chelsea did it, so can you Mr. Prez>

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
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