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. indianagal516

    @Nicole...then you must have picked a plan with no copays and low percentage pay for the insured....that is, you don't pay a copay ever and you don't pay any out of pocket (except your deductible) because I have talked to several people who have found a great plan for low incomes....

    November 5, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. Terry Murphy

    I supported him up to now but I hate liars and that is what he is. They think they can mince words when it is on the record. The sad part is we are just going to take this like all the other crap they ram down our throats. This law is going to make a lot of people suffer unnecessarily. That will be his legacy.

    November 5, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  3. Chicago

    Where have you been CNN? This guy does nothing but lie about everything all the time. How about you go back to the debates with Romney and count the lies. Unfortunately you don't do your job and call him on the lies as they pour out of his mouth the first time. Journalism is dead.

    November 5, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Hannah

    A lie is a lie is a lie. CNN nice attempt to report although its clear your are still trying to do the best to spin this in this man's favor. Bring back journalism and stop the indoctrination of the populace. You know this White House has lied throughout its entire time in office. Its only because so many people are being hit in their wallets that the White House is being exposed for what it actually is - a house of lies.

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. Me

    Poorly written article - it says "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."

    Others seem to be WHAT.....

    The statement is the right one to be including, however, it fails to provide any of the variety of reasons.

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. WakeUpAmerica

    In the world of Sales...I believe they call that "BAIT and SWITCH". Saw that coming like a freight train!

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. seafoodwatch

    This was pay back to the industry, it is to direct where the dollar stops. It is the same reason politicians continue to lie to the people, because if someone isn't getting rich, the rich won't cooperate. Lie and the job gets done for the 2%.

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  8. Keith

    It is really as simple as this: Republicans, literally, believe that some people are expendable and Democrats, literally, believe that Republicans are expendable. Honestly, do you think any Republican cares more about EVERY American than President Obama or the Democrats as a whole? Republicans are absolutely the new KKK, the new White Citizens Council, and Ted Cruz is the new Bull Connor. Yes, we need a 2 or even 3 party system of government but no party can look at any group of citizens as deserving less than they want for themselves. I know everything Republicans are against. Tell me something positive they are for? They liked the old healthcare system because they believe some people don't deserve healthcare. Still waiting on the Republican healthcare plan. Maybe if they had one and promoted it (as much as they promote their hate of people that don't look and think like them) people could discuss and consider it.

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  9. Patrick

    And NOW we know,... when President Obama says we can keep our guns... We know the real truth of the matter.

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. SteveinLVNV

    A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
    Vladimir Lenin

    Words this ineptocracy lives by!!

    Reid repeatedly stated.."We will not negotiate"!!! Then the trigger got pulled..And they gloated. Now Reid, et al are silent, except for several Dems who are seeing what they got... A colossal train wreck!!

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  11. Dan

    If you want to continue a war of apples against oranges, start another on with bananas.

    The arguments we are having now, are dumbed down and have no bearing on policy; however, it allows those with influence to continue on without any hitches because everyone else is too busy with infantile efforts that have nothing to do with what is really happening. Don't get fooled by any of this. If you label yourself conservative or liberal, you are fighting the moot battle. That was created to keep you looking at the shiny object. You may be dumb, and that is what is needed for these people to survive, politically. Fortunately, you can fix dumb. Start off with elevating the discussion beyond yourself; and stay away from "good" and "bad;" There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    November 5, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. chris

    Since Obamacare passed, my insurance has already gone up 240 per month towards my premium. Under my current insurance, we can no longer have another child, we must get a new plan. My current plan will be discontinued by the end of 2014, so we must change plans. In addition, the new plans, offer no 100% coverage after deductible is reached, they are all at least 20/80. In addition, our max out of pocket went from 2500 to 6500. The new premiums for a plan that still isn't good as the one I've had for years for a family of three, went from the already increased $650, to now close to $900. I live in Virginia, and income considered middle class. My point is, Obamacare is causing a massive new financial burden on our family, and money I could have invested, or used to purchase other items, will now go to pay for something I have had all my life and responsibly paid for, while I am now stuck paying for those less fortunate and the irresponsible. It is a massive transference of my wealth, to – no, not the sick and needy, but rather the health care industry. Obamacare is sham, a farce, is destroying the middle classes lives, and I am fully against it. I am non partisan.

    November 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  13. irock

    I know, I was just being silly, He should be terminated.

    November 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  14. Joan

    My insurance company cancelled my high deductible individual plan for my family of four. Now they offer a plan that costs $600 a month more, for less coverage and a higher co-pay. I can't pay an additional $7,200 per year for insurance. It looks like our only option is to get divorced, and have my husband go on Medicaid. I wonder how many other divorces this law will cost.

    November 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. Ykuos

    There are 4 words this President should have never uttered: I accept this nomination.

    November 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  16. jguy1957

    Obama has always lied and this is one the media cannot hide, although CNN is trying hard.

    November 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  17. Ben Franklin

    Over 80% of Americans with healthcare change their plans on any given year.

    The sorts of changes that were being required were to guarantee that the plans in question still complied with the law. For example, your plan cannot cancel you because you get sick, your plan has to cover maternity benefits, your plan must cover your children up to the age of 26 years old. Why would you want to keep a plan that you're paying for that short changes you.

    The president's problem is that his messaging was oversimplified. The problem is that too many Americans fail to grasp nuance, which then requires talking points rather than substantive debate.

    November 5, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  18. firenze345

    I suppose it is too much to ask CNN with it's many unsupported "breaking news" stories finds this breaking news?
    What on earth makes this breaking news? Perhaps you could have put that piece in perspective to how the GOP sabotaged the ACA at every turn, how Governors refused to accept the law which lowered the poole of consumers or how the 30 something times they attempted to block the ACA gave the impression to many that it was NOT GOOD!

    If you are looking for lies and dirt...try some real stories on Wall Street and the money that leads to the very highest offices, try voter suppression, climate change, and the myriad of real problems facing us and other countries. You and Huffington Post are the New INQUIRER-rag sheets. Try some real investigative journalism. Try giving people a fair shot at unbiased headlines that let each of us read the story and make our OWN decision. You are all about opinion and not about reporting fact based information. I make you my home page to get the weather. If I want to read and understand for myself what is going on I go elsewhere.

    November 5, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  19. shines

    Put Obama right up there with Nixon in the lying to the American Public. Anything to win the election.

    November 5, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. Bob

    That 'small percentage' of Americans probably amounts to a greater population number than is to be found in some countries we have invaded. So in fact a lot of people adversely affected, and ten to one many of whom are actually going to pay more for health insurance than they previously did. Some of that including services they do not require. If you make a promise, you should keep it – otherwise you have no credibility. The only winners here, and they are huge winners, is the insurance industry.

    November 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  21. deb0155

    There's nothing more or less to it – Obama is nothing but a liar and a political opportunist! I'm so glad that I did not vote for him either time.

    November 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  22. JAH69

    Let's see how CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS try to spin this lie from Obama

    November 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Mike T.

    My plan at work went up from $1125 a month to $1625 a month to cover my family. I had to drop down to a lower plan and I am still paying $1230 a month. SO I am paying more for less. And this is through my employer. I am getting screwed. I pay around $15000 a year for the coverage. I would pay less with no insurance and just paying for my Dr. bills out of pocket. The $15000 doesnt even include all the copays and uncovered costs. GOOD JOB Mr. Obama – sure glad you fixed things for us!!

    November 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. Smacmack

    Sooo....let me get this straight: we are being forced to purchase health insurance that we don't want from an exchange that doesn't work, and the policies we do buy are not being honored by a whole host of doctors, clinics and hospitals (been in the news a lot lately). The policies might cost us less, but they aren't going to be any good for us. Yup...government-managed program at its finest.

    November 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    I depends on the definition of "keep" you keep.
    It also depends upon your type of plan, through your employer or a directly from a private insurer. Your employer is going to make the decision of whether or nor you can "keep" your plan for you. The ACA was passed 3 1/2, call it 4, years ago. As for private insurers, I dare anyone to claim that they've had the identical premium for 4 years running. You haven't.

    But, not even reasonable rate increases can disqualify a plan from being grandfathered in. Only significant changes to the coverage plans would disqualify a plan. Oh yeah, if your insurer decides that they don't want to sell that product anymore, then you lose your old plan. But, how many times has that happened to someone that you know over the past decade or two, or three?

    November 5, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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