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. Truth will set you free

    Could we just please call a lie a lie. Obama lied, period!

    November 5, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. Sniffit

    "The only health care reform plan from Republicans was released in June 2009"

    I beg to differ. That blog post on Boehner's site is merely a collection of statements that constitute nothing more than vague goals everyone 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 remotely be characterized as a proposed organizational structure or operational systems that would achieve anything. Calling it a "plan" is a gross misnomer. The word you were looking for was "propaganda."

    November 5, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. JIM

    if it where a republican CNN would be yelling at the top of there lungs LIAR

    November 5, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  4. Steve Johnson

    This is still private insurance. They can change whatever they want, whenever they want, for any reason whatsoever.

    It's always been this way.

    Obama's stump speech was misleading, but can you imagine how much worse the outrage would be if the government passed a law that said insurance companies are not allowed to make any changes to their offerings?

    That's WAY more "big government" than simply setting minimum standards, which is what happened here.

    November 5, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  5. Clint

    Why can't we say it. Obama lied to us. Period.

    November 5, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  6. Jason

    Obama flat out lied and used that as part of his re-election campaign. Now he is getting away with it because the vast majority of the press are jizzing in their pants over Obamacare and ignoring all of the problems.

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  7. Name

    He's a dictator

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Moogly

    Liar liar your making Bush look like a friar...

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. ru serious

    What?!!! CNN "breaking news" ObamaCare train wreck article. Even the cheer squad is coming out with negative articles. Well, somewhat negative, this is CNN afterall....gotta blame those insurance companies so as its not totally Great Leader's fault............................

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  10. Nick

    He can refine all he wants – he lied and that's all there is to it. The law, as written, is economically impossible.

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  11. Bruce Mears

    I checked and my insurance would go way up from what I am paying now. I don't see how it could be legal for our elected officials to force us into something like this. I HAVE NEWS FOR OBAMA... Penalties, Jail Time, Whatever... If I am forced to go to another doctor, then he can kiss my ass, because I like my doctor and I am not switching. PERIOD!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  12. KBNJ

    You call it 'refinement'. Rational humans call it a LIE.

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  13. RIchard Long

    Simple True-or-False: Did the President state: "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan,"?

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  14. PresidentTruthtellerObama

    Guys, he wasn't lying. He was just refining the truth.

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. Megamind

    I find it rather refreshing that CNN, FOX, HUFFPO, and just about all of the other larger media outlets, regardless of political leanings, are all starting to report basically the same thing about obamacare (and even obama in general). Looks like just about everyone is slowly catching on to what political incompetence in the presidential office is!

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Steve

    Nice that they kept the stuttering, hesitant tone in there. It really conveys the liar's tone well.

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. Walter Davis

    People don't think this doesn't concern you. You will get your insurance cancelled soon. It is simply the requirements of Obamacare is causing (forcing) your current insurance plan to cover more things - therefore your insurance company won't offer extra services for the same money you pay now. Got it? Your company has two options under Obamacare - 1) Pay the higher costing insurance for you, or 2) Pay a yearly fine of only $2,000 for you to the government - Of course they are going to pay the fine, and you WILL lose your insurance!

    March on Washington D.C. March 31, 2014 to end Obamacare!

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Polopoint

    Ahhhhh, so misinformation and deception is now what can be considered 'change'? Is this the hope and change we could (or still can) believe in?

    November 5, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  19. Jason

    When was the last time Obama said something that wasn't a lie or deflection? This guy refused to be accountable for anything.

    November 5, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. JeffB

    why would anyone would trust this blatant liar is beyond me. i hate Bush as much as anybody, but at least he was honest about his depravity. Obama pretends to be the next messiah and then lies to us every single chance he gets. when is America going to wake up to the fact that the two-party system serves its money masters only and does NOTHING to help the American people? Pure evil and not a shred of honesty.

    November 5, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. If You Like Your Plan You Can Keep It

    A lot of people have just recently found out their plans are being cancelled. Just wait another 30 days and see what the political climate in the United States is like.

    November 5, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. sammy zoso

    Boy talk about beating a dead horse back to life. This is old and inconsequential. Let's move on CNN and all fellow Nazi GOP creatures with small IQs.

    November 5, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. Bob

    I couldn't keep my plan because it was CANCELLED because of Obamacare. And we can't sign up for a new plan because my state's website is not working. We will be uninsured January 1st. Thanks Obama!

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. Rudy NYC


    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.
    I would like to know how is it that all of you living in states not particpating in the Medicare expansion can complain about the new rates you will be charged when the web site is broken, which means that you cannot browse new rates in the first place.

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  25. Sam

    On the White House's own website today:

    "If You Like the Insurance You Have, Keep It: Nothing in the proposal forces anyone to change the insurance they have. Period."

    November 5, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
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