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. Dwayne

    The good ol' bait and switch. Tell the American people anything, to get anything you want, then once they get stuck with it, tell them whatever to get them to accept being worked over.

    November 5, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. bozo

    WTF you expect when you give corporations(insurance companies) a government piggy bank?? We should have done single payer and gotten the greed out!!! but noooooo insurance companies wouldn't like that. Republicans wouldn't like that.. so we are stuck with a half baked mutant abortion... the worst of both plans..

    Obama has continually disappointed.. just another shill..

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. bigdoglv

    The biggest "misspoken statement" in this whole debacle will be that it is deficit neutral. We have all been taken for a very long ride.

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. s~

    Obama: Hope and Change = Deceptions and lies.

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Lynn

    How about the insurance companies who raked in the money selling lousy policies with poor medical coverage?

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  6. Ralph

    All one need to know about the pres is that he will tell any lie to get one's approval. The ACA is a perfect example of how he says one thing when he really plans to do another. The cancellations are a result of HHS regulations written in such a manner to force insurance companies to cancel Yet Obama lies to make it appear the blame is on them.

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  7. ImvotingforHillary

    Bush's lies got 4500 American killed and over 30,000 wounded.

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. coastlinecascot

    new york times stated he misspoke? how do you miss speak over 24 times. lol

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. freedom fighter

    Yall bunch of liberal socialist i caint beleave that u all voted for this joke . Not once but twice. U get what u deserve !!

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. Bruce bruce

    So not only is the ACA causing my insurance to go up but cut my hours as well... (Substitute teacher). I already work 2 other jobs to make ends meet. This is the first time I have ever been scared of my future

    November 5, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  11. hkdakota

    T.Paine, Obama's own words make him a liar, as far as WMD's they acted on the info they were given even your precious libs bought into the info from the intelligence services. You can try to defend this guy, try to deflect the subject, but in the end a bold faced lie is a bold faced lie.

    November 5, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  12. CJ

    If someone does not have Insurance or sub-standard Insurance, all of us with quality insurance end up paying for it in the long run. We need to find ways to lower the costs of Health Care, which in turn would lower the cost of Health Care Insurance. It can be done but the two parties have to work together for a change. I assure you this nation will be bankrupt by 2043 due to Medical costs. (with or without Obamacare). The only way to resolve it, is for both parties to act like Americans instead of Democrats and Republicans.

    November 5, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  13. We wuz lied to

    This isnt even a partisan issue anymore. This administration lied straight to our faces when the knew otherwise. This kind of bait and switch, is illegal in this country. If they were honest, they would have lost both elections and you people know it. Please wake up America!!

    November 5, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. crabman1

    thats not what i meant --- L O L

    November 5, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. NameAlbrit

    Only in America we are striped almost 8% from every pay check for Social Security benefits and Medicare and pay for health care Insuranse,in South,Central America,Mexico and Canada the Goverments use the Social Security money for their Health Care population,no people buy health care policy

    November 5, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  16. Siestasis

    Pres. Obama's staff does not serve him well.

    November 5, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  17. Javier

    And still 47% of this country think he is awesome.

    November 5, 2013 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  18. thinking outside the box

    The Real Tom Paine

    ... If it fails, then what? Go back to what we had? Thats as unacceptable as Single-Payer....

    Sorry tRTP, but I would argue that Single Payer is not as unacceptable as you think. First, it's the best way for consumers (i.e. the public) to get a good deal on insurance. I'll admit this assumes the Federal Government is looking out for our best interest. But the Feds can always get non-profits to do that aspect. Second, it won't destroy the for-profit insurance or health care industry, just like a monopoly doesn't bankrupt its customers. There is still a symbiotic relationship there, one side is just trying to get the bigger end of the stick. And if you think Single Payer in health insurance is so bad then do you advocate we get rid of it elsewhere? The Feds are the single payer for military spending. The military industry still makes a profit. Or should we ax that set up and have for-profit armies that get their funding directly from the public?

    November 5, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  19. Carl

    Can you say forked tongue?
    Can you also say this is only the beginning???
    Anyone who promoted this piece of garbage legislation or voted for it NEEDS TO GO wether by impeachment or vote!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  20. KimH

    Obama lied! Period.

    November 5, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  21. Larry in Houston

    if this thing backfires, like mr. o'reilly is saying on his nightly show, you better believe 'ol Hill is going to distance herself from Obama...... + it will depend on how things go, in the midterms, before she decides anything.....I typically don't watch his show, other than listen to his talking points in the beginning of his show, due to all the arguing / fussing / talking on top or over one another.....

    November 5, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. john customer

    Barry, nobody wants obamacare. You are trying to force this disaster on the american people, and you started by lying to all of us. Don't bother trying to force hollywood to sugar coat it. We can see right through you and we are fed up. You should just quit.

    November 5, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  23. CJ

    I agree with "The Real Tom Paine" totally. Very well said.

    November 5, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  24. mookie1972

    In 42 states the premium for an individual plan will increase anywhere from 2% to 179%. The average increase nationwide is 41%. Nice job. See the Forbes website for forther details.

    November 5, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  25. Sniffit

    So for 5 years we listened to the MSM prop up the birthers, the idiots screaming "death panels," and myriad other ridiculous outright lies from the right and they finally get ONE misstatement to hang around Obama's neck and they go bonkers over it. Guess what, CNN? NOBODY BUT THE RWNJs CARES ANYMORE. This has been beaten to death. It was beaten to death 3 years ago when people pointed out that grandfathered plans would eventually fall out of compliance and need to be changed. All kinds of articles were written about it back then. Harping on it now is nothing more than carrying the GOP/Teatrolls' water because the website issue is a dead-end as it will eventually be fixed. Your bias for latching onto controversies the right wing wishes to manufacture and promote is showing.

    November 5, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
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