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. sam

    for those blaming the insurance companies, be realistic the policies that are being dropped are being dropped because they do not meet the MANDATES of Obama care. everyone, men and women past childbearing age MUST have maternity and newborn care coverage. everyone MUST have coverage for alcohol/drug treatment/rehab. these are just examples of the stupid included mandates that have lead to the loss of so many policies. between covering subsidies and the explosion of millions of new Medicaid recipients, expect to see another 2-3 trillion dollars added to our deficit. and come next year expect to see even higher increases in insurance rates. Obama, you are a liar who lies over and over to cover previous lies. this country bends over backwards to cater to those sucking up every entitlement imaginable and lowering the bar so that more and more people can qualify. what a mess our country is.

    November 5, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  2. Paul

    It nut-sheel – President Obama deceived majority of his supporters. His policies were never clear, he had no vision. Yes- he had vison for self growth. I have been his staunch supporter but I cannot hide my feelings towards him. Let's HOPE we have a better prsident next time.

    November 5, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  3. Steve

    Bush senior lost an election because of "Read my lips, no new taxes". As a conservative I agreed that he deserved to lose the election because he lied. Now we have the same thing with this President only worse, he has repeated it dozens of times. "You can keep your plan", "You can keep your Doctor", all lies. We Americans have to stay a responsibility to stay consistant. This President has let this country down.

    November 5, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  4. msd250

    Obama lied, my healthcare plan died

    November 5, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  5. ernie boomer

    Obozo the clown, is just starting to make it up as he goes along, all you clowns out there that voted for this clown, are really looking like clowns

    November 5, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  6. cj

    Referees reviewing the film, You can keep your insurance/doctor "period" "end of story" "no matter what".
    Ruling on the field – President lied, law overturned.

    November 5, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  7. Name

    Pray he does not alter it further.

    November 5, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  8. Mark Morgenthaler

    Another fine example of our government getting involved in something they know nothing about. Let the private sector take care of insurance with some oversight.

    November 5, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  9. jerome

    What was Obama's famous line from 2008? "You can put lipstick on a pig..."

    November 5, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  10. cj

    I feel like I've been dealing with a used car salesman when I hear our President walk back on his statements.

    November 5, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  11. secureman10

    This president will change anything to get his way with this ACA he nothing more than lair as all politicans are nothing ever change execept the our so called leaders

    November 5, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  12. JohnDeep

    If my 9 year old son did this, he would be punished. We would tell him " We do not tolerate game playing and word wrapping, if you talk with us, you will be 100% honest" Now go to your room, your grounded.

    November 5, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  13. ObamaIsAMonster

    Mr President:
    If you like your lies,
    you can keep your lies.

    Period.

    November 5, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  14. Tessa

    I just reviewed my insurance plan for 2014. My Medical went from $170 a payday to $179 a payday, and my kids ages 21 and 22 are still covered even though they are not in school. Decent trade off in my opinion. Of course, this is not going to be the same story for everybody, some will see higher increases and some may see decreases, it's the law of averages. Prices are STILL set by the insurance companies. We are blaming the government for companies using ACA as an exuse to raise rates AGAIN (which they have done EVERY year for decades) while still managing to make record profits. I'm not willing the blame the government for corporate greed other than they let them get away with it.

    November 5, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  15. Thunder4

    Back in 2009, Obama's comment about keeping your plan was a reassurance to the American people that the government was not trying to take over health care from the private sector. The comments were to counteract the GOP fearmongering that Americans were headed for a socialist state. He did what he said he would do, hand over healthcare to the insurance companies on a silver platter and not veer towards a canadian or Euopean system. To say that he misled to the American people is just silly.

    November 5, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  16. Carl

    Obama's a liar.

    November 5, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  17. Deac

    The ignorant american people are to blame. If you couldn't tell what was being fed to you by this administration and MSM, then you deserve the nightmare called obamacare

    November 5, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  18. Manuel

    Does Obama really think people are that stupid or..... Oh wait, his sheeple will jump to his aid. What a joke this guy is.

    November 5, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  19. Diogonese

    Socialism is not for the faint of heart...just the weak of mind.

    November 5, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  20. nibirutruth

    Told you to vote for Ron Paul, but noooooooo – you wouldn't listen.

    November 5, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  21. MIke

    Yep, finally everyone has seen the wolf in sheeps clothing. You can say and spray whatever you want Odumbo, but the American people will make sure your party knows it this coming yr. Count on it. Liar in Chief.

    November 5, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  22. Mark

    "what we said was"... he sounds like a lawyer... and a politician.
    America voted him in – twice (I didn't either time). Many want this (I didn't), and now it is here. What next, mandatory dental insurance?
    States can't even track mandatory car insurance... yet the government is using it's IRS to hold us accountable to it's terms.
    Watch what you ask for – you might (and did) just get it.

    November 5, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  23. BADGUY

    Obama NEVER went back on his word. He said EXACTLY what the situation was. HE can't cntrol hundreds of insurance companys. THEY decide which policies they're going to keep and which they're going to "can"....NOT OBAMA. If people don't like Private Insurance companies and their pricing...let's go to a single payer system. But as long as we have PRIVATE INSURANCE COMPANYS, "in the loop".... DON'T complain about PRIVATE BUSINESSES....DOING WHAT PRIVATE BUSINESSES DO!

    November 5, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  24. Dragon

    President Obama is such a liar......How can anyone trust a man who has buffaloed the American people into voting him back in office over his supposedly flawless healthcare crape that would cover every uninsured and keep your existing plans. He needs to be IMPEACHED........ This man cannot be trusted.... This obamacare is the biggest mess I have ever seen. I wouldn't believe anything else this man has to say. Just more lies and half truths.

    November 5, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  25. GD

    This guy is in over his head. He's simply a terrible president...

    Furthermore, there isn't a single democrat on the horizon that is worth anything. The republican party is a disaster, and full of morons.

    Ladies and gentlemen - We're in trouble! That's not alarmist; just reality!

    November 5, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
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