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. dave

    i supported the affordable care act and still think it has a lot of good points, but its starting to look like a mess as well.
    i think it needs to go back to the drawing board

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  2. Walter Davis

    My American brothers and sisters. There are millions of our brothers and sisters with life threatening illnesses who are about to lose their coverage to a more expensive plan they cannot afford. Our American brothers and sisters are about to start dying because of Obamacare. This is not a joke.

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

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. jen

    can't we ALL just come to the WH lawn and have a beer over this and discuss that NO ONE should sign up for this, and the 6 people that already did, should go and get every medical test know to man ti get their dollars worth.....the POTUS' DOG has better and more coverage than the average middle and lower class americans.....the government is on a totally different system and doesn;t pay a dime....we have once again been lied too......

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. Dean B

    So you tell a lie for 4 years, then change the language slightly to still be a lie? ( Most people can't keep their insurance, the law was written to force coverage in a way most people do not buy it)

    Why would anyone trust anything else out of this liars mouth?

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  5. lisa

    Since placing your hand on the bible evidently means nothing when swearing in and taking an oath, then perhaps placing their hand on their children's heads would work? Nah, they'd see them gone before telling the truth too.

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  6. Dave

    There is an old saying. You can fool every one some time. You can fool some all the time but you can not fool every one all the time. Mr. President be honest to American People. Be a Man!!

    November 5, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  7. Obama-does-care

    So, do you want more "Hope and Change"?

    Start now, switch your party before 2014 and 2016 elections.

    Democrats need your votes.

    The next big government program is "Obama Jobs For Illegal Aliens ". Will guarantee millions of jobs for undocumented people living in the USA. And you don't have to worry, "You can keep your job if you like it."


    November 5, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  8. Rudy NYC


    JohnNY, that may work well in NY, but the guy in Iowa now has few choices and the premium for choices he has just went through the roof. Way to look at it through someone else's eyes. Those farmers are now screwed.

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
    You are lying. Want to know how I know that you are lying. Iowa is not participating in the Medicaid expansion, which means Iowa residents must go to the federal site to get quotes or browse pricing. Since the web site is busted, then how is it your Iowa friend was able to get quotes? Hmm?

    November 5, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. RW0rld

    So let's jump to the bottom of the article where it states that in a poll of individuals in late September 2013, 4 of 10 said they will be worse off under ACA. How can creating a situation in which 40% of the population are worse off be a positive? Spin doctors, you got your work cut out for you but I'm certain you will find a way to sell those brussel sprouts that leave a bitter taste in your mouth.

    November 5, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  10. vanpearcysvaportrail

    Is it illegal for CNN and the media just to state the truth: the president lied?

    Why does the media around the issue? The administration knew what they were saying wasn't truthful but lied about it to get it passed. Obama's three-years-later, "ummm, that's not what I was saying" BS is just more of the same from a divisive, incompetent, dishonest individual in a job that's way over his head.

    Instead of tip-toeing around this, the mainstream media should have the balls to call it how it is.

    November 5, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  11. The Real Tom Paine

    -tom l

    "Burp – The problem with baggers, is that they think people with pre existing conditions are deadbeats."

    Patently false. Nobody thinks that. Perhaps you should stop thinking things that aren't true and you can get a better understanding.
    Not entirely false, tom: they overlook them because they represent the failure of the old system. My experience with my son has taught me that otherwise intelligent people scream about having the cost of people like my son being foisted onto them, and therefore they are deadbeats, etc, etc. There is no teacher like life experience. Am I accusing you of this? Not at all, but since you are asking for input and knowledge from others, it might do you some good to actually ask what you can learn from them, before you reject it out of hand.

    November 5, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  12. Sniffit

    "Bringing in socialized health care care for a huge nation is a tough challenge and I have to give credit to Obama for trying it."

    Except he didn't, because this isn't socialized medicine...not in any way, shape or form. It is a system that sets up marketplaces for purchasing PRIVATE INSURANCE and merely sets the minimum requirements for what the plans contain/cover and that everyone needs to be insured. That is not "socialism" or "socialized"...and no, the subsidies from the federal gov't to help people insure themselves with PRIVATE insurance does not make it "socialized" either.

    November 5, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  13. Floyd

    Fact: Republicans: Lie Democrats: Lie

    CNN when Repubs lie: "They're lying."
    CNN when Donkeys lie: "They're further refinging the truth."

    Fact: CNN is embarrassingly biased to the left.

    And no, as an unbiased idependent who voted for Obama and who reads news from both CNN and Fox News for balance, Fox News is biased toward the center and not embarrassingly biased to the right.

    November 5, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  14. Pat

    Typical Obama style. He tells more lies to cover the original lie. When someone steps forward from his inner circle and discloses the coverup about Americans will be able to keep their insurance period, the impeachment proceedings can begin.

    November 5, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  15. Carrie

    This is just the beginning just wait till we have to pay for it on our 2014 taxes!!!

    November 5, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  16. J

    So when my 5 year old lies I can say you did not lie you just refined your words

    November 5, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  17. AKA XDOW

    Amazing how many folks are happy with paying 1100.00 a month for 80% coverage. If my health plan provider sent me a cancellation notice, I would send them one back saying, "don't let the door hit you on your way out of business".
    I'm upper middle class. Have four members in my family. And thanks to Obama care, I only pay $350 for 100% coverage. Anyone who does not take the time to get it, deserves whatever they have to pay. You want our country to fail because you don't like our President's skin color, then you deserve to not have a health plan. Sorry, I can't stand a racist ignorant incompetent vile anti American twerking twit.

    November 5, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  18. Dave Mason

    THIS IS HILARIOUS!! I can't imagine how the Dumbocrats and CNN feel now that the truth is out about how Obama has lied to the American public. It's always nice to be able to say, "I told you so...!"

    November 5, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Grounds for Impeachment...

    November 5, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  20. dontbefooled

    People are seriously surprised that, once again, the ACA isn't what it was sold on. 1) Keep your insurance? LOL
    2) Lowers premiums ~$2500 per family? LOL.

    Wait till they don't get the 7 million privately insurance plans they NEED to keep this afloat. Currently there's states that have sold ZERO private policies...Big fat goose egg. Nationwide the count is blow 18000 and they need 7 MILLION at a minimum. Can you say "huge increase in deficits"? Remember, this thing was sold on being deficit neutral?LOL.

    November 5, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  21. Obama-does-care

    The next big government program, 'The Affordable Jobs Act."

    Guarantee millions of jobs for the undocumented people in the USA. And, if you like your job – I promise you can keep it.

    Right, and We have a bridge to nowhere to sell you.

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  22. jim

    Old and busted: You can keep your plan.
    New Democrat hotness: You people are too stupid to buy the plan you need. The ACA knows better than you.

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  23. Dale

    Didn't President Nixon say "Let me make this perfectly clear, I am not crook.", however as it turns out he was a crook. President Obama "Let me make this perfectly clear, I did not lie on ACA and other US policies", but we are slow finding out he has been lying all along?

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  24. VTGUY

    Nixon was impeached for just one lie. Obambam's turn America.

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  25. Can't we all just get along

    Look some of us need this law and I am not talking about the people asking for hand out but people like me who had to reinvent themselves because of the economic climate and make a living but have issues trying to get healthcare. Yes I have a job and I make decent money and I am well over the poverty line but my mortgage, car notes and other expenses make $600 for basic healthcare from my contracting agency a little unpalatable. I went on the ACA website and my insurance is now half that with dental. I'm good but there needs to be some compromise here.

    November 5, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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