November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
12 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. Mike

    A better plan at 2x what your current paying or a plan at the same amount you are now paying but with MASSIVE deductibles.... The medical/insurance industry will make billions off of this..... did no one see this coming..... really!! Everyone I've seen who said they were getting a good deal are getting the deductions and couldn't afford insurance in the first place...

    November 5, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  2. Tony

    shutdown the govt again over this. you'll have your chance next year. DO IT. I DARE YOU.

    November 5, 2013 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  3. jzopks

    The stories I am reading on here about doubled premiums, if not exaggerates, smack of price gouging. If they are charging you *that* much more, contact your state insurance commissioner and file a complaint. I got into the exchange and looked up costs for my family and they are about the same as my employer provided coverage without the employer subsidy. If your employer is going to drop coverage, I would sure as heck hold out my hand and request the subsidy they were paying before. You cannot blame everything on the government when the insurance companies and employers are gaming the system to their advantage.

    November 5, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  4. sam

    Not pre-screened. Riiiiiiiiiiiggghhhhttttt..............

    November 5, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  5. Bob

    Obama is not a King or dictator so he can't keep a private business from dropping plans. Insurance companies (who are making record profits) can change plans offered at any time. If you don't like that, petition your Congressperson to vote for a single payer system and end the tyranny of insurance companies forever.

    November 5, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  6. marvgrant

    Remember this comment for the future. "If you like your guns, you can keep your guns. PERIOD!"

    November 5, 2013 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  7. Steve

    Does "change" mean "lie" in CNN-Lingo?

    November 5, 2013 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  8. SushiHammer

    To Elisa Deemer: Elisa, CNN and much of the news media has a bias. We have seen that many times during the present administration when they shielded Obama from would have been a call from impeachment if a Republican had been in office. He is incompetent. And now, we can safely say he is a liar. If I were you, I'd dissociate myself from this guy. 18 trillion in debt. Solyndra. But the real truth is this guy has blown it so badly that the the press can no longer protect him.

    November 5, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  9. pogojo

    I still blame a YouTube video

    November 5, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  10. VegasSmitty

    Did anyone actually hit 'Click to Play' to hear more lies?

    November 5, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  11. Robert Duncan

    Jimmy Carter has been replaced as the worst pres. In my lifetime. That took some doing Obama! Your lies show your true malevolent character.

    November 5, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  12. rgcnn

    My insurance just went up from $1800 to almost $4000 THANK YOU MR PRESIDENT!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  13. Rocinante

    This is the beginning of what will someday be called the Health Care Bubble. Just like the Housing Bubble. This is what happens when the Federal Government messes around with the Free Market Economy.

    November 5, 2013 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  14. SaraD

    This is all so unexpected. My best friend is in the middle of fighting cancer. She has had both breast removed and her ovaries. Her insurance had to be changed because of Obamacare. Now she HAS TO CHANGE doctors in the middle of this stream. She feels so disrespected as a hard working person – she never minded helping others a bit, but this is too much. Plus her insurance is more expensive – and it contains maternity because it HAS to according to Obamacare regulations. She can't possibly get pregnant, but must pay for maternity. This is all pathetic. If any business in the world was run like the government, they would be bankrupt. The government just raises taxes to pay for their stupidity... When are we going to learn...

    November 5, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  15. jomv

    This whole Obama care thing is nothing but a mess!!! The middle class are the ones that will pay for this. Some are considering divorce and not working. Who did the study this stupid thing?

    November 5, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  16. rumorasit

    He can't control what insurance companies do. If they change a plan or eliminate it how is that in Obama's control?

    November 5, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  17. Namejoker

    This is crap! Those who believe in Obama are crazy! He doesnt care about the American people.....nor has he ever! We will all be in the pits of Hell when he is done with us!

    November 5, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  18. Soe Naing

    Working taxpayers people subsidizing for those who do not work. Working taxpayers people subsidizing for those who work but do not pay tax. In my book, this is quite similar to Communism.

    November 5, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  19. Jonathan Jupp

    The problem is the insurance companies can pretty much do what they want. Single payor system would have been much simpler and more efficient to implement.

    November 5, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  20. Giancarlo Moscetti

    Wow, some are still surprised that Obozo lied, again? Silly rabbits. Wake up and smell the coffee, fools. That boy is out of control, but he doesn't care because...he doesn't have to, as any lame-duck will tell you. Prepare to reap what ye have sown, those who voted that clown into office.

    November 5, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  21. Don't Lie to Me

    If Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebulius HAD to lie.

    If voters knew the truth, Obama would not have won the election in 2012. PERIOD.

    November 5, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  22. Gdawg

    The real pity is that whoever wrote this article didn't edit it. It's terrible. Forget the ACA and health insurance! How about some basic writing skills.

    November 5, 2013 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  23. Don't Lie to Me

    Obama had to give a false narrative, has with Benghazi.

    If you knew the truth, you might not have voted for him. PERIOD!!

    November 5, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  24. socal71

    Had this come out before the election Obama would not have won re-election. PERIOD. Obama is by far one of the worst Presidents to serve in our country's history. He is selfish and self-serving and history will NOT be favorable to his Presidency... if he even makes the full second term. Dumb liberals and government leeches that will yet again benefit from someone else's hard work may buy their excuse, but not the rest of the country. He lied plain and simple and there is no way around it.

    November 5, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  25. Don't Lie to Me

    Con artists are using Obamacare confusion to sign people up for fakehealth insurance. The scammers lure victims with false promises like,
    "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan."
    The scammers will tell you that, so you have to be careful.

    A lot of people are accusing the president of being less than truthful.
    In fact, a couple of weeks ago President Obama called me and told mepersonally that if I like my current job, I can keep my current job. And
    I believed him!

    Jay Leno

    November 5, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
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