November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
10 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. The big ragu

    @Js
    "serious criticism of Obama, which website am I on? CNN or FOXNews? Lol."

    When the Obama Cheerleaders (cnn, msnbc, abc) start challegning the lies you KNOW the ISH is about the hit the fan...........

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  2. Butch

    Since he talks out of both sides of his mouth, no one can ever expect to hear the truth.

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  3. Matty

    If our president had not lied about the ACA and keeping your doctor and your plan, would he have won the election for his second term?

    Is that not a high crime! Just sayin!

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  4. Data Driven

    Z. Byron Wolf wrote:

    "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."

    This paragraph exemplifies everything that's wrong with CNN's coverage. It is shockingly unsupported and fact-free. Let's fisk this doozy:

    "Insurance companies appear to be doing this for a variety of reasons" - APPEAR? Can't you tell? VARIETY OF REASONS? Don't you know what they are?

    "some are pulling all their plans from certain states where they have fewer subscribers in order to save money, others seem to be." - SOME? Which ones? CERTAIN STATES? Which ones? OTHERS SEEM TO BE? Seem? Really?

    Get your health insurance news from other sources, people. You can't trust CNN; they appear to not actually know anything on this topic. Too many "somes" and "seems".

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  5. Torey101

    Do ALL comments that do not praise 'bama have to wait for 'moderation'? So CNN is not just covering for the King, but they are helping in his Repression of Free Speech campaign, too?! That's sad. And frankly a little chilling.

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  6. jaana

    small percentage? it's estimated that 90 million people will lose their insurance in order to secure insurance for what will amount to 7 million (or seems like it will be less now) people..
    CNN quit with this perpetuation of the lies, he's a liar, he lied and this law is an abomination..

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  7. MTT

    A negative Obama article? Did someone hack the website?

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  8. Logictox

    He Lied is a better way to put it. CNN needs to remove their lips from this presidents posterior.

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  9. NorCalMojo

    You can't change a promise. You can keep them or break them.

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

    The requirement to cover pre-existing conditions is the only good thing out of this.

    Free Birth Control, wellness exams, etc. are not free you pay for them in your premium.

    November 5, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. Nick

    Who really liked their insurance so much that they had to keep it? C'mon, people complain about everything!

    November 5, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  12. Burt Ward

    Wow, ultra liberal CNN got him elected. Other liberal websites are now bashing him. He even got four Pinocchios for his Slumdumbamacare mistruths. So here's my take. We will have a Democratic party president going forward probably for the rest of the history of this nation, I'm very confident of that. Its mainly because no Republican will ever be able to overcome the massive voting block of mostly Democrat entitlement recipients. So, since we must have a Democrat for president, why can't we get someone who will help things and not bury us in her past iniquities, lies, crimes, controversies, and outright witchful ways. Lets elect Michele Obama, Carolyn Kennedy, or another women with a good head on her shoulders and not a completely full life of every possible bad thing you can imagine and some things you don't want to imagine.

    November 5, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. Jack 2

    Notice this biased network says kindly that Obama changed his promise. The truth is he didn't keep his promise or outright lied

    November 5, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  14. Logictox

    HE LIED. When is CNN going to be honest about this administration?

    November 5, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  15. Sniffit

    "So the reason I am paying for maternity is due to the liberal point of view is that it is all about pooling all of our resources into one pie so that everyone is covered."

    That's the very essence of how insurance works. It is a pooling of resources AND risk. Fair was 100% correct. The example given by Fair can even be teased out more: what's the next step in your conception of health insurance? Shall we start genetically testing everyone and attempting to allocate risk according to whether Person A has a family history or genetic markers for a PREDISPOSITION (not a guarantee) for developing gallbladder cancer, whereas Person B does not have a family history or genetic markers indicating such a predisposition, so Person B "shouldn't have to pay for it"? That may be a very extreme example of the illogical lengths to which your argument could be taken, but even much less extreme attempts to allocate risk "where it belongs" would cause a complete and utter breakdown of the fundamental nature of insurance.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  16. Jason

    This man is a crook and a fraud.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. Realityblowz

    Nothing that I find that makes me more physically ill while driving on the road. An Obama bumper sticker on someones car. Can't stand this Left or Right puppet show anymore. It is all a scam, and our cities are falling into ruin by the day. The people didn't do this to us. Government did.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Patrick

    I am surprised CNN is still allowing comments on this. So many anti ACA and anti Obama comments. maybe the delete button will e used soon.

    Obama is never wrong. Obama just changes his mind. Obama was not told. Obama did not know. Is anything bad Obama's fault? Cause when the new/item helps Obama it is all Obama's doing. Odd.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Martin

    Ok come on guys seriously, lets take this same situation over to a diffrent market and look how you sound.
    Lets say it was a car you drove and not an insurance policy. If you wanted to keep the car you liked (Mustang for example) there is nothing in the law that says you cannot keep it, but there is nothing in the law that says the company has to offer it either so if ford drops the mustang production do you go blame the administration for the loss,... um no.. its the car company that made the decision to drop the production, in this case the insurance companies are droping plans that are non profitable for them this could of happened at any time with or without the ACA you now just have a piviot point to stand on a soap box. Listen insurance companies have been droping plans for decades these letters are not new they are standard operating procedure in a for profit market called insurance.
    all the AcA did was enforce a standard that all NEW plans must adhear to in order to meet the law requirements and any existing plan would be allowed to be grandfathered in (caveot is that insurance companies cannot keep the older plans due to the profit and loss that would be incured to continue to service these plans, remember no one can buy into a grandfathered plan so the whole idea of a grandfathered plan was fleeting as it was never ment to last in any case. this is common definition for any grandfathered clause.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. kona68

    what has taken the liberial media so long to come are around and see the this president is a joke everytime he opens his mouth is a like the only thing that he does great is play golf and take vacation otherwise he is a waste of space.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  21. Addison

    I love how they're playing the semantics game. "Its not the government making you do this. We just passed laws that forced insurance companies to do this to you. Its really their fault"

    No one is buying it.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  22. ConcernedCitizenVoter

    I don’t see what the “changes” or “twisting: is. It was pretty clear that what he meant was this: the ACA will not make you give up your plan. However, and as always, the private insurance companies can choose to discontinue your coverage if they want. There was never anything in the ACA that forced companies to continue coverage of people forever. If they did try to write that in, it never would have passed!

    Despite the ACA, insurance companies always have, and always will, change coverage, raise rate, and cancel people’s policies. THIS IS NOTHING NEW! A while back my own company basically made it impossible for my insurance to cover my wife if her company offered coverage by making the additional cost ridiculous. It had nothing to do with the ACA. What is new, is that now people have something unrelated to point their finger at when it happens, nevermind the fact that thanks to ACA they now have something else to fall back on!

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  23. The Real Tom Paine

    No one has died as a result of having to change to a policy that meets a basic standard of coverage, but plenty died in Iraq over a lie. I guess our soldiers being killed for a lie was acceptable, but being moved to new policies is: what is more outrageous is that people may have to sacrifice some time away from watching "Honey Boo-boo" in order to do so. Wow, what a sacrifice.

    November 5, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  24. one71721

    Once a Liar always a Liar.. the that voted for this bozo are now getting their just desserts... unfortunately the rest of us that are responsible hardworking citizens have to suffer for their stupidity.

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  25. David

    I am really disgusted at CNN....This headline is under a "breaking news" banner? CNN is one of the reasons that discourse in American politics is so empty. Stirring the pot, creating sounds bites with very little info....how about some links to reasonable unbiased opinions on the facts? makes me sick. there are real problems in America, real positive things to talk about......give me a break.

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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