November 5th, 2013
09:54 AM ET
9 years 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 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. opinion8it

    Hey repubs, can you please scale back on all that WHINING. .... it is so pathetic.

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  2. Oh my the mess we have gotten ourselves into.

    Very messy situation going on here. The insurance companies are always going to find a way to better their bottom line. Obama and it's administration should've been better prepared at this and should have known the mess this was going to create. It's a mess, seriously/

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  3. crabman1

    i know what i said -- but that's not what i meant - but i meant what i said - when i said what i was sayn--–next question

    November 5, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  4. Sniffit

    "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."

    I beg to differ, Rudy. That blog post on Boehner's site is merely a collection of statements that constitute nothing more than vague goals anyone would agree with ("bring costs down") and ideological platitudes as to how to achieve them ("using free market principles"). It contains nothing specific, detailed or descriptive that could even arguably be characterized as a workable organizational structure or operational systems that would achieve any of it. Calling it a "plan" is a gross misnomer.

    November 5, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  5. mikeh420

    So, anyone else would be a liar, but 0bama "Changed His Promise"? Maybe if CNN's lips weren't so securely attached to 0bama's backside, we'd get Real News, instead of Propaganda.

    November 5, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  6. mookie1972

    In all but eight states, individual premiums under the ACA have increased, some as high as 179% over their old premiums (see Forbes website). Average increase is 41%. If that's not a tax, I don't know what is. It's a buried tax, just like when you pay for gas.

    November 5, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. Evervigilant

    So now it's the insurance companies fault. As usual playing the blame game.

    November 5, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. ConcernedCitizenVoter

    So in people’s minds when Obama said “If you like your plan, you can keep it” what they assumed he meant was “We are taking government control of private insurers and forcing them to keep your plan at your rate forever and they can never change it” when the ACA clearly does not say that anywhere. Now, I understand a lot of ignorant people and fear-mongers want the world to believe that’s what the ACA does, but shouldn’t those same people who are also against the ACA be happy that it’s not true? Why are they getting mad that it’s not doing some imaginary thing they didn’t want to begin with??

    What he clearly meant, and anyone who bothered to take time to understand what the ACA does, is this: if you like your plan, the ACA does not force you to give it up! Simple as that. However, Private insurers can, and always have been able to, change your plan or cancel your policy any time they want.

    It’s so annoying when people get mad at someone else for their own ignorance.

    November 5, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. Bob Dobalina

    Now I see what he meant by "hope and change".

    He hopes when don't notice when he changes things.

    November 5, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. s~

    You can keep your plan.Period
    You can keep your doctor.Period

    Obama just blatantly lied. Period.

    November 5, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  11. Dianne Hill

    He is a liar!! He wouldn't know the truth if it kicked him in the butt. His oath of office was a lie as well. HE isn't defending the US he is destroying the US. IMPEACH, IMPEACH, IMPEACH!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  12. BO

    Changed his promise? REALLY. It's called LYING

    November 5, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  13. Joe

    Spin spin spin.

    November 5, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  14. Fed Up with LIARS

    If anyone know of any CITIZEN, like the POTUS, Ried or Pelosi, that have LIED about OBAMACARE please send an email to to let the WHITEHOUSE know about the untruth.

    This is typical of this administration.

    Now lets try to pivot because OBAMA care is not going how we would have liked.

    November 5, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  15. Darren

    More broken promises from a folks that never intended to keep them to start with.

    November 5, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  16. kommy

    what the big deal? You don't change options in your plan- you are good. You tamper with it to get a better deal, it may get cancelled before the new will kick in.

    November 5, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  17. mkuske

    Who the heck is he to define the word "better" for me?!? As much as he, his fellow Dems, and their nanny-state government want to believe they know what is better for me and my family's specific situation, they don't. It's nothing but pure unadulterated arrogance that makes them think they do.

    I don't want nor do I need a giant, gas-guzzling, expensive Escalade shoved down my throat when what best fits MY personal needs is a small, fuel-efficient, economical Fiesta, Mr. President.

    November 5, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  18. Chris

    That sweet, sticky stuff all over the American landscape? That's millions of people throwing up the Kool-Aid at the same time.

    November 5, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  19. Uncommon Sense

    I love how the right wing turds treat Obama as if he is the first president to not live up to his campaign promises. Here's a bit of news that might be surprising to a lot of you... The government we have in place is more complicated than that. Also let's not forget Bush jr lying about weapons of mass destruction resulting in a war that claimed millions of lives. Oh well that's nothing compared to losing your health plan right? Wake the hell up America.

    November 5, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. keith

    how is it his fault that greedy insurance companys drop coverages? your looking the wrong way on this one

    November 5, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. RVT

    I had a good plan. $250 per month. Covered a family of 4. Although the deductible was $7,500, the four of us each received one annual physical, up to three doctor visits (either general or specialists, our choice), and the insurance-approved rate when we did have to pay out of pocket once in a great while. Last month we received a letter from our insurer that our plan is being canceled. The cost of a similar plan under Obamacare is going to cost us $750 per month. Thank you Mr. Obama; in return I will tell the world of my experience and I hope the Democrats suffer for this burden they are placing on the middle class. Neither party cares about the middle class. The Republicans bat for the rich, and the Democrats bat for the poor, and both parties poke their bats at the middle class in a body part I care not to mention in a polite forum such as this.

    November 5, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. JD

    This article, as with many like it, is of no value. The president realized a long time ago he doesn't have to be truthful. Just keep everyone emotional. And always find an enemy that 51 percent will side against, even if it's complete fabrication.

    Always have hired people that have a full time job of posting on message boards and other social media as if they are regular citizens either overly supporting everything or attacking any opposing views. When in doubt, cry racism. It always muddies the water in a way he could never lose.

    This is the best political machine in history. I have a huge admiration.

    November 5, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. aleya

    why would the president do something like that it makes no sense

    November 5, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  24. John

    I'm sooo fed up witht his president although I voted for him twice. This president gives us lies after one another.

    November 5, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. Rayne

    All politicians lie. No matter the party or race.

    November 5, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
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