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. rick

    In other words.. HE LIED. Sounds about right.

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. Pens777

    WHY did you shrink to the masses and make your post nothing more than a variation on an overused theme? Get off the GOP piano key and play the whole keyboard if you want to be impactful.

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. Incredulous in PA

    I'm amazed at the people defending ACA and Obama by arguing that this is the insurance companies' fault. The majority of the plans "grandfathered in" under ACA did not meet the minimum standards set out by ACA and thus, when changed by the insurance companies to meet said minimum standards, they had to be cancelled, because they were no longer the plans that were grandfathered in. Obama and his team knew this would happen when they created this monstrosity, yet they continued to repeat the line that "you like your plan, you can keep your plan."

    Was healthcare insurance reform necessary? Absolutely, particularly in regard to pre-existing conditions and lifetime caps on coverage, but those could have been addressed separately and without going down the road of the ACA, which is nothing more than government grossly intruding, yet again, into the personal lives of the US citizenry. As a 40 year-old male, I don't NEED maternity coverage, but I am forced to buy it because ACA says that all insurance plans must have it; I'm paying for something that I, due to basic biology, will never myself use.

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  4. Wakeup

    Hey CNN. It's called a LIE. Having a tough time bringing yourselves to say it...huh?

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. Paul Dayton

    This goes down in history as one of the least transparent and most deceptive administrations ever. Mr. Obama has lied and was caught. Regardless of what the pundits say, Americans know Mr. Obama has lied and Americans know ObamaCare is a bad deal.

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. Joe

    "what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform," Obama replied.
    .Isn't there a severe penalty imposed by the Government for not getting ObamaCare?
    Obama is a master of lies

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  7. Sniffit

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

    "Plan" is a gross misnomer. That post on Boehner's site is nothing more than a collection of statements that constitute vague goals everyone would agree with ("bring costs down") and ideological platitudes as to how to achieve them ("using free market principles"). It describes nothing specific or detailed that could even remotely be characterized as a proposed organizational structure or operational systems that could achieve anything. The word you were looking for was "propaganda."

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  8. harold

    This is so stupid! What he said was that if you liked your plan, you could keep it. This applied to your plan BEFORE the law was inacted. And that remains a true fact. BTW, that was in 2010- not Oct 2013! He never promised anything about the plan you bought after the law went into place. Besides, this turnover is impacting 2% of Americans. I like solutions that solve 98% of our problems. Not the panacea but PROGRESS.

    November 5, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  9. nmdave

    Who the hell is "we", "what we said..."?? Be a man for once and say it like we heard it, "I said..."! What a liar this guy is, and to think he is our president, and he lies about everything: Benghazi, the IRS, the NSA, " Not my RED LINE", "I didn't know...". His credibility is shot, do us all a big favor and just resign!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. Liar In Chief


    Barack Obama you are a shameful man and an even more shameful president. I'd ask you how you kiss your mother with that lying mouth, but that prostitute died many years ago. You are the spawn of satan. Pure evil.

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

    Why is CNN essentially trying to deflect the blame from the President on this issue? He made the promise. It was stated a hundred times in no uncertain terms. Now CNN is defending the president by trying to push the responsibility for canceled plans on insurers and deeming this a "refinement" of a pledge – rather than calling it what it is – an out and out lie, intended to deceive the American public long enough to win re-election and get this law into place with minimal backlash.

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Rick

    I used to defend this man, but no more. He really is a liar.

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Obama

    how is it that with a behemoth deductiable $7500, you woul only pay "out of pocket once in a great while" ???

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. J. gregg

    @Rudy NYC. That's because the the intelligent members of the GOP realize that those things are NOT NEEDED. Really? Forcing Insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions? Do you have any comprehension of how insurance works?

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  15. SGT Rock

    So RUDY NYC, you are willing to give President Obama a free pass for lying to the American people since 2007 concerning ObamaCare? If yes, what other transgressions are you willing to let him get away with? Benghazi? Fast & Furious? IRS? NSA? Ordering ICE to NOT do their job? What?

    Is he, in your eyes, "Obama the Perfect?" Is he the anointed one? Is he the embodiment of everything a true liberal should aspire to emulate?

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  16. Jk

    Politics and honesty do not go hand in hand

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  17. Anonymous

    You voted for CHANGE, now he "changed" the promise

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  18. s~

    Don't ever trust a man who wants to FUNDAMENTALLY change the greatest country in the world.

    November 5, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  19. Carrie

    I am waiting for the ball to drop on our family, we pay $1,100.00 a month about $13,200.00 a year with a $4,500.00 deductible for a family of 4. My husband works for a company that has under 50 people and I am hoping that United Health Care does not drop them, if so I will be going to work at Dierbergs their insurance is 80.00 a month for a family of 4.

    November 5, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  20. Data Driven

    @Tom Paine,

    " Go back to what we had? Thats as unacceptable as Single-Payer. "

    I dunno, the principal seems to work OK with Medicare.

    I will be DELIGHTED to stop defending Obamacare in favor of single-payer, or, as I like to call it, "Medicare for All".

    How popular would that Public Option be right about now? Very popular indeed. Folks could consign the misleading and threatening letters from the shakedown artists like LifeWise and Humana ( where's THAT story, CNN?) to their recycle bins and sign up for a Medicare-like insurance plan provided by the state or the feds.

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

    You get what you paid for. Good job idiots.

    November 5, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  22. Joe

    When is Impeachment scheduled?

    November 5, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  23. Michael, Chapel Hill.

    "If I had a son..."

    November 5, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. Peach

    Simple-–"I LIED" and should have said "If WE (government) like your insurance, you can keep it". I am the ruler you WILL obey.........or else. Cause that's what DICTATORS do.

    November 5, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. ryan jerisk

    An architect of the Affordable Care Act, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Just what we need, a college lifer that thinks he knows something.

    November 5, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
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