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. Flex

    This is the "Change we can believe in" Obama promised all of us wen he ran for President. Thank you for breaking that promise, we no longer believe your change or any change coming from you, and you can also....keep the change.

    November 5, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  2. Jeff Tartt

    Will the people finally wake up and see this President for what he and his administration are?They LIED to pass a bill that was signed into law.PERIOD!They should all have charges filed on them and be removed from office.PERIOD!

    November 5, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  3. George T Hibbs

    Hind sight is always 20-20, Every IDIOT knows that, including the President. Lets see, an election year, a little white lie or major deception on his part.

    November 5, 2013 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  4. repu8

    This is much bigger than just a lie, it is fraud. I cannot understand how leftists posting here are defending a fraudulent program such as Obamacare. How is it possible that we all are promised one thing and then delivered something entirely different, but there are no consequences for doing so? Obama needs to be removed from office over this fraud and the law needs to be repealed. Period.

    November 5, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  5. comen

    Obama = disgusting. Period.

    November 5, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  6. SnehDavis

    What's this "SIX THINGS", "FIVE THINGS", booring stuff constantly crowing on this CNN home page?
    Why is it not one, two, three, or four THINGS...? Stop numbering the LIES...you'll run out of numbers!

    November 5, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  7. Capt. Zeb

    And tired of their control and pillaging by King, The people rose up and took arms. Some with no more then a pitch fork.

    History repeats itself! The government knows this. That is why FEMA Area 3 is being prepared.

    We The People!

    November 5, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  8. noteasilyswayed

    His words today are more proof that all politicians lie and change their tune as a weather vane as to what they tell the voters..... they are all for sale to the highest bidders..... the insurance company lobbyists wrote the ACA and they knew up front that it would bring them more profits than ever before..... that is the real reason that most of these laws passed by Congress and signed by the President are effective in gradual form..... to cushion the shock to the voters as to prevent major demonstrations and possible riots. I think it's very likely that implementation will be delayed for quite a while, because of the problems with the healthcare website and because it's impossible to enroll without going through the web site (this was gradually revealed too, as he had previously said that you could apply by phone or mail.... also lies).

    November 5, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  9. Fred

    I have a plan Obama come and talk to me about it, I assure you it will work.

    November 5, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  10. Rich

    Just got my health insurance renewal from my employer and my premium for family coverage only went up by $1 per month! Thank you ACA!

    November 5, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  11. Paul Cooper

    Face it folks. He lied. CNN can spin it all they like. He lied. He told you something he knew was untrue, and then his administration set up rules to ensure that it would remain untrue.

    ObamaCare is a fraud. It always was. And a lot of you helped him win re-election because you believed the lie.

    November 5, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  12. Zooly

    This is Barack Obama's "READ MY LIPS" moment.

    He lied. Now even MORE millions of Americans are uninsured.

    Costs are going UP, not down. Premiums are going UP not down.

    Congratulations, American Obama supporters. Your inability to heed warnings about THE LIES from Barack Obama has caused an already expensive healthcare system to become manifold more expensive.

    Why would any rational, thinking person trust a politician with something as important as their healthcare?
    SHAME ON YOU.

    November 5, 2013 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  13. Ped

    Yeah! Me too.

    Just got the 2014 rates from my employer. I feel lucky with ONLY a 35% increase.

    Time to stop all charitable donations since I need the money to take care of myself.

    Thanks obammy!

    November 5, 2013 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  14. gahh

    We have all learned the hard way, every time Obama opens his mouth, another lie falls out. He has to lie to cover his last lie, then tell another lie to cover that lie, then another, and another, no end to it.

    November 5, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  15. Zooly

    Mainstream media, SHAME ON YOU. A CURSE ON YOU. Your inability to vet Barack Obama or actually ask him ANY tough questions has brought us here. You carried the water for this snake-oil salesman. Your inability TO BE JOURNALISTS BROUGHT US HERE.

    SHAME ON YOU.

    November 5, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  16. Chanin

    The President said over and over that if you wanted to keep your plan you could...PERIOD. That was a lie. If he had been a bit more vague it may have been believable that we couldn't, but no way anyone can justify this. Shame on him

    November 5, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  17. Ken

    The notion that Obama is a liar is already a well known fact. He lied to steal votes from voters who were naïve enough to believe him. Just like he lied about recognizing the Armenian Genocide. His excuse for lying ? Does not won't to hurt relations with "ally" muslims.

    November 5, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  18. esu589

    I love watching Jay Carney stumble through the press conferences. Must be tough getting up there and supporting lies.

    November 5, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  19. gstlab3

    pants on fire!!! liar liar!
    yup we told you so.
    It hurts to be so wrong.

    November 5, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  20. rich

    Obama was and always be a liar.

    November 5, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  21. DontLie

    @BE: You make a good point about insurance companies being "for profit". It is definitely commerce and this is why the Supreme Court ruling validating the Individual Mandate was completely erroneous and boneheaded. The Individual Mandate is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause. Just because 4 liberal SC justices and the SC Chief Justice conspired to make a political ruling (instead of one based on the law – our Constitution) doesn't change the illegal nature of the IM. Where else in our society are we assessed a TAX for not buying something? Answer? Nowhere, because it's illegal. Obama defined the IM penalty as a fine, repeatedly and steadfastly stating it was not a tax. But (and coming from a supposed Constitutional scholar) as a fine, it's clearly contrary to the Commerce Clause. Therefore in order to retain the IM, the SCOTUS had to deem it a tax in order to skirt the Commerce Clause. But again, when and where are we ever taxed for not buying a commercial product? And make no mistake, Obama has put the IRS on your trail if you don't pay the "fine". We all know how wonderful that experience can be.

    November 5, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  22. Dollface

    Bait and Switch

    November 5, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  23. Carol

    The Parties should stop throwing insults back in forth to each other, and admit we've all be had, then do something about what is going on.

    November 5, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  24. Zooly

    The good news is that your insurance company cannot drop you if you have a pre-existing condition!

    The bad news is that your insurance company CAN drop you because of the regulations from Obamacare.

    This man lied about something that is most important to me and the well-being of my family. He LIED to get elected. He LIED to gain this power. He LIED and demonized those screaming about why Obamacare would be disasterous for our healthcare system. Liberals lie and cloak their real intentions to gain power. Once in power, they rationalize and RULE AGAINST THE WILL OF THE MAJORITY OF THEIR PEOPLE.

    Barack Obama, shame on you.

    November 5, 2013 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  25. Cory

    So basically he lied.

    November 5, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
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