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. Leeman

    "They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information." This is Obamacare passed on a purely partisan vote and and we all knew it.

    November 5, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  2. Scott

    Obama and Obamacare both suck!! Why don't Congress do their Job and Impeach him...

    November 5, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. 6

    Only 6 people have successfully registered for Obamacare (online and in person). Shocker.

    November 5, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Joseph1NJ

    It's not the Feds that are canceling your plans, its the private FOR PROFIT insurance companies. This is there way of pushing back, i.e., putting MORE of our money back into their private jets, yachts, mansions, multi-billion dollar bonuses, etc. They could have easily amended your plan to include the Federally mandated coverage, but they chose not to. My insurance Blue Cross, has been canceling my plan every 2 years for the last 10 years, each time replaced with higher deductibles, less coverage, and costing me more. So, what else is new?

    You're never going to get the profit out their dirty greedy hands!

    November 5, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. NJNobody

    This was all planned and the only way to "fix" the problem will be to let government step in even more. Eventually the private insurance market will disappear. Then they'll just need a few larger companies to dump their employees into Obamacare which will pave the way for all the rest and it will be all over. We will become just like Canada and Europe.

    November 5, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. daveugber

    HE lied ON PURPOSE to get reelected. Not only that, but the law was designed to be delayed until after the 2012 elections knowingly in contradiction to his 'promises'...a president using his office to further his own interests is a man committing a high crime...IMPEACH

    November 5, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. onepercenter

    Choices available for democrats today:
    A. He is a liar
    B. He is incompetent
    C. He cannot communicate
    D. Don't give dm what he said...all that's important is we have a democrat in the white house.

    November 5, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. DustyOnes

    Nope, the Obamacare plan is going to cost my employees on average $200 per month more for an inferior plan.

    Good news, Obama will be the last Democrat elected President for 50 years!

    November 5, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Badmadmartigan

    "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," he said back then. bait and switch, in the sales world you can lose your license, the political world you get a few thumbs down. I would feel good about my vote if I voted for this saleman. he is a lawyer people it’s his job to lie. How do you feel now about your vote for this lawyer

    November 5, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. David Benson

    In California not only is your non-grandfathered plan being cancelled, the insurance company is moving you to a plan with a narrow provider network (1/3 of the full provider network) and one major insurance company is moving insureds from a PPO plan with coverage in and out of network to an EPO with no out of network coverage.

    November 5, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  11. BBB

    Obama: "I have altered the deal. Pray I do not alter it any further!" 🙂

    November 5, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  12. danny

    He lies.
    Again and again.
    I lost my coverage, so did my sister from Blue Shield for no reason a few months ago. Then they allowed us to re-up. Why? So we are not "grandfathered in" any change in policy allows them to do whatever they want.
    Now my coverage is less, my deductible is higher and in January it is going up AGAIN!
    Also they have raised my cap for paid out medical bills so I have a higher cap before all bills are 100% paid.
    SO, a double increase with less coverage and the girl at Blue Shield said to me yesterday that it is better because my increases will be paying to cover other peoples medical cost's. She said that!
    This is highway robbery by Obama and the democrats, I think democrats should be forced to pay for everyone else s healthcare and Republicans should not have to. We did not vote for this liar or his lying demorats bill.
    What a crock.

    November 5, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  13. BobJackson

    If you go back and look at his speeches, like the one where he repeatedly says, "Period." you'll see that he wasn't necessarily saying that every person can keep their plans. He was responding to concerns about socialized medicine and about everyone losing their health care plans because of it. He wasn't talking about the recently vocal 5%. That's being hyperbolized by our sensationalist news media, because inflammatory statements and controversy pay their bills. Stop buying into it.

    November 5, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  14. Engineer in Raleigh

    This is the problem with howling nonsense like "Death Panels"... It means you miss the chance to point out legitimate problems with a reform proposal.

    Without question, Obama should be held accountable for this. Republicans should also do some soul searching. When your party loses its mind in such a public manner, you lose the ability to influence the public.

    November 5, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. TransAmer99

    And thus we see how this supposed leader is nothng more than a liar. A lame duck liar who continues to fleece his flock until the countdown ends.

    November 5, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Sam

    I have lived in a democratic socialist country. I remember when there was "Chevron" and "Gulf" gas stations and others. The government took over the refineries and gas has skyrocket for years, 8 dollars a gallon. They also took over the medical industry, socialist medicine for everyone, the government is in charge, and there is shortage of doctors and nursers for years. To get cancer treatment it takes years, and the lines are long. It is sad to see the USA following the same path as that of an undeveloped country. Shortly after that, the media was taken by the government.

    November 5, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "Think rising insurance costs are a problem now? Just wait until this time next year. "

    You mean when the insurance industry has to fork out well over a billion dollars in rebates like it did last year and is going to be doing this year? All because of the ACA?

    November 5, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  18. Jim

    how is this not considered a socialist plan? Regular Americans must pay more so that those who pay nothing can have.

    November 5, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. Mark

    This, like so many of the right-wing-manufactured fake fusses over "Obamacare", is an absurd flap. If the ACA had never been passed, insurance companies would STILL be changing many of their plans year after year. It's called private enterprise. Did this never happen before the ACA? Seriously?

    Can we move on to the next childish temper tantrum over giving health insurance to 20 million people? This one has already gotten stale. GET IT THROUGH YOUR THICK HEADS, REPUBLICANS: Obama doesn't control what insurance companies DO. Why? Because contrary to what your squawk-box talk radio station loves to imply, the ACA is NOT GOVERNMENT RUN HEALTH CARE. The private sector is still in control, much to the dismay of the consistent majorities of Americans who would like to do away with this parasitic industry that adds zippo to your health care delivery, while still siphoning off a portion of your health care dollar.

    November 5, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  20. zelskid

    The new requirements for elimination of lifetime caps, coverage to age 26, etc cancelled existing plans

    November 5, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  21. Specialplaces

    Even CNN has figured out which side to be on at this point...

    November 5, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  22. John Biron

    The rates are good for me, BUT there are no doctors in network. I mean all the doctors I go to are not in the Exchange network and do not plan to join due to low reimbursement rates and paperwork.

    November 5, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. Brian from Denver

    Oh, big deal! You just found out you can't pay $165 a month for that policy that covered nothing and now have to spend $205 a month for free exams, free colonoscopies, free birth control and covered maternity. Wake up! You used to pay United Healthcare $1800 a year that ALL went to their CEO's salary package. Now YOU get coverage and a real health plan that you can actually use! Rejoice!

    November 5, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. tiz

    This is what happens when something gets rammed through congress by one party..... it never works.

    November 5, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. harleydavidson

    CNN finally has to publish the is very difficult to continue to hide an overwhelming truth...lest CNN loses its credibility for good.

    November 5, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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