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. Kenny

    Does any body remember when the administration said the fine wasn't a tax!

    I wish reporters would go over every thing Obama has said and call him on it.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. Joe

    Look, Obama the Great Failure is telling a lie. No rush, Obama lies all the time and Americans love it.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. TheBUrp

    @Wire Palladin, S.F.

    I was looking at the same republican plan. Can't find anywhere that is says, I have to pay for dead beats medical coverage.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Bob Penn

    Obama is always unaware, blaming someone else, or lying. Obama told several lies about Obamacare.

    Obama by executive order delaying Obamacare for one year only for corporations was unfair and unconstitutional. The Republicans are right, Obamacare should be delayed for everyone by law and the politicians should be put under the law they passed.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. s~

    You can keep you plan.Period

    Obama just flat out lied. Period.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. Rob

    @TampaTim..who are you to say someone had a "junk"policy. There are people who have had insurance with the same company for 20-30 years who are getting cancellation letters because of Obamacare. These were policies these people were perfectly happy with and which provided them with exactly the coverage they needed. Now all of the sudden they are "junk" policies because they do not cover what King Obama says they should cover? Obama knowingly lied to your face, and all you can do is blame the insurance companies? Hope you at least ask for a reach around when Obama screws you next.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. asdfasdf

    he promised what people wanted to hear...and that is what it boils down to. he did not lie, he manipulated people who wanted to be manipulated.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Bruce

    Seems to me that one piece is not getting the coverage it might deserve. I am a working American getting my healthcare through my employer. While I was told I could keep my plan if I wanted to, no one pointed to the "Cadillac Plan" clause. So I will still get my insurance next year, through my employer. But my coverage is being lowered and my deductible being raised because we had a "Cadillac Plan." I will loose close to 8% of my income covering those increases. I wonder why this is getting no coverage in the news.

    November 5, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. Guest

    I think there are obvious writing mistakes in 75% of CNN's articles. Doesn't anyone proofread over there?

    November 5, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. Truth

    Another blatant CNN Obama defense story. Pathetic.

    November 5, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. Tampa Tim

    It is downright unAmerican to shut down government and default on our debt, yet the domestic terrorists in congress and the senate almost created another republican global disaster

    November 5, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. Natrldiver

    So what CNN is saying is that though Obama has been quoted as saying several times over the past three years was not what he saying all this time? I did not know that there was a different version of the English language. Is this the liberal media translation or just the CNN translation?

    There are over 20 instances in the past three years where Obama has clearly stated that if we wanted to keep our plans and our doctors we could. Why do you defend the lies that are coming out of this administration?!/!

    November 5, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. Ron

    This administration keeps saying only 5% of the population is being harmed, but that is a huge percentage of the very people this turkey was supposed to help.

    November 5, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. California

    "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what." – President Obama, July 16, 2009
    As we all know by now this was a blatant and out right LIE from Obama.

    Sugar coat it anyway you please libs but the facts are the facts.

    November 5, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  15. Yuri Bezmenov

    Change the words "changed his promise" or "refined his promise" to "broke his promise" and you have an honest headline.

    November 5, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. tiz

    just another Chicago lie...... becoming quite commonplace these days.

    November 5, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  17. John

    I'm sorry but he needs to be called out by the media. his exact words where if you like your insurance you can keep it PERIOD. He made those statements and now coming back after we find out this is BS and claiming well that is not what I said is a flat out LIE. Obama there is something called video and there is ample video with you standing in front of the American people saying "If you like your insurance you can keep it" Not sure what is worse a President that lies at the drop of a hat or a media who chooses to protect him and cover for him.

    November 5, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  18. Pete in Guilford

    What the president said was not a lie. If you were paying attention to reality and not the right-wing echo chamber, you would have known that this was not some socialist, government-run plan. And if you, for some reason, thought that the insurance companies were not going to do whatever it takes to maximize their profits (because after all, you're getting your insurance from them—not the government—see it's NOT socialism) I can let you visit my unicorn farm.

    November 5, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  19. jaime

    This article is ridiculous. It basically starts out using soft language to excuse him. It doesn't call it a lie, but instead a refinement. What a bunch of nonsense. Could their affection be any more obvious?

    November 5, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. Tampa Tim

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

    November 5, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. VanHagen

    A lie is a lie no matter how you spin what you meant.

    November 5, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  22. Jett

    Sorry, you can't "refine" a promise after you've already made it.
    Sounds like “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what." should have been "“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, asterisk. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, asterisk. Someone might take it away though." See, he was just using the wrong punctuation.

    November 5, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. longfisch

    Wire Palladin, S.F.

    I reread the republican health care plan again today, all zero pages of it. I noticed it says nothing about eliminating lifetime caps,providing insurance for those with pre existing conditions, allowing students to stay on parents plan, helping those who are poor to have health care, etc.
    November 5, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |

    Posted February 22, 2010

    President Obama released a new health care plan today, which CBO admits cannot be scored due to lack of sufficient details. House Republicans have had a health care plan for months. It was scored by CBO in November. Yet, Democrats refuse to consider it as a viable option.

    You don't have to like the proposed Republican Healthcare law from 2009, but my guess is you didn't even know it existed since you stated this in our comment above, now you do.

    November 5, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  24. Philia

    Insurance Companies: an Unnecessary Evil!

    November 5, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. middleclassguy

    A lie is a lie, unless your a democrate.. It is amazing that he will try and snake his way out of this and will with the help of the media.

    My plan changed and so has everyone's I know...

    November 5, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
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