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)

    POTUS' lies are always memorable and always expensive. GW Bush told us there were WMDs in Iraq and led us all into an expensive and bloody conflict that settled nothing. Obam the prince of Hope and Change has led us into a place where there is little hope. The only thing left in our pockets is a little change.
    It is time for Americans to seriously consider secession as a reasonable path to the future for our selves, our children and what's left of our fortunes. It's the only escape from the lies of the Federal government.
    and that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. jonjojr

    and all of those Liberals that support this President should take note, that our leader is lying to us. and now he has to hire PR to hide the lie in a 'misspoke' rhetoric

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. cut2it

    As much as I may not want to see another Democrat in the the White House come 2016 it will most like occur. If Hillary runs the changes are slim. The sad fact is unless the Republican party (anybody at all in the whole darn party) does something remarkable and breaks the current mold and conceptions of the GOP they won't have a shot. Even if lighting strikes and the GOP does something for the good of both parties and mainstream America. The press will tear it down. For most part the media will not be fair (Fox way to the right and pretty much every other media outlet to the varying degrees the other way). Right now I can not stand either option, it's broke. I just keep watching as everybody becomes more polarized and the country begins to crumble as the very infrastructure continues to erode. Both parties are to blame and neither wants it to be fixed so they can blame the other. Tough choices have to be made, unpopular choices to turn things around for the future. But neither can just do the right thing.

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. commonsenseperson

    If a Republican president was this incompetent and lied this much, he would be impeached. CNN would be asking for his head on a silver platter. Hypocritical much?

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. ColdWarVet

    Just like John Kerry...."I was for it before I was against it".

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. Carrie Deliliea

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

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. c-lo


    Nicole, your income qualifies for subsidies. You shouldn't be paying 1200 a month. Have you checked yet?
    Since you are so happy for her, rather than having her go through the befuddling experience of, why don't you save all of us the trouble and send her a check out of your account for her "subsidy" each month?

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  8. SimpleLife

    I think if people and politicians tackle our healthcare issue from a standpoint of a hmm HEALTHCARE problem as oppose to a Democrat or a Republican problem we can actually fix this but of course that's never going to happen. The healthcare problem is this country will always be look at as a political problem and not an actual systemic problem in the medical and insurance business.

    November 5, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. NCrealtor

    My plan is canceled and the most similar plan being forced on my family will costs an additional $568 per month. Guess my kids can give up preschool so I can pay the health care costs for someone that doesn't want to work the 60 hours a week I do. Anyone that refers to America as a free country is sadly mistaken.

    November 5, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. Agrav8td

    Does it really matter? Other than obviously Obama, all of you will just put the same representatives back in office at the next election, and then blame everyone else's rep's and/or parties for being dishonest, etc. They lie & promise you the moon in their election ads you fall in love with them all over again. This people in this country are pathetic.

    November 5, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Charles

    The Tea Party tried to tell CNN that this would happen, but you laughed us to scorn.

    November 5, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. Tony Harrison

    Nice try CNN, but the MIT professor is full of it. This is hurting way more people, and is way worse than he thought. This is also a huge deal, because Obama assured so many people about something so personal, and then he betrayed them. American's weren't sitting around thinking how much they wish they could lose their insurance or their doctor. I had good insurance, through my wife's job at the county, and it just got more expensive, and worse. This has got to be happening all over the place. A repeal of Obamacare would improve things greatly.

    November 5, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |

    Secession. The only answer.

    November 5, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. Marc Condos

    Ironic how "a small percentage" losing their coverage, isn't very serious. Yet, before passage of ACA, we were looking at a number which is twice that "small percentage" who were actually uninsured, and so the entire system had to be taken over by the government!

    November 5, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. Keane

    Obama apparently didn't realize how zealous some people are for others to be able to keep their sub-par healthcare policies.

    November 5, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. rich

    The fact is, a lie is a lie and they can backtrack and try to cover it with another lie (they like to call those things clarifications), but it's just another lie. Why would anyone believe hm again on any of this???? He is after all a VERY convincing liar, but a liar all the same.
    For the first time in a long time (since Jimmy Carter actually) I am ashamed of our president! He sold us a bunch of lies and dragged his whole crowd, ie – Pelosi and Reed and Schumer et al along for the ride. It's sad and disheartening. Again, I am ashamed of our president!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  17. 3D

    Wire Palladin, S.F.


    November 5, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. Robin Jones

    One person's tax credit is always offset by some other person being forced to pay more.

    November 5, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |

    The only people that got to keep their old plans are the politicians that have the FREE GOVERNMENT PLAN that they get for FREE at the taxpayers pay for!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  20. BBBBBB

    You people are idiots if you are saying he lied. NO HE DID NOT LIE! He didn't change their insurance company the insurance company is changing their plans around because they don't accept pre-existing conditions. Its just that simple its not like their not going to get another plan and not have healthcare!!! God you people are morons!

    November 5, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. Dav

    comrade Obama lies ,what else is new

    November 5, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. 866bway

    Snore. The president should've said something different blah blah blah. Cheap insurance plans were only cheap because insurance companies could keep costs down by kicking out sick people. Now they can't and you have to be pretty hard-hearted not to think that's a good thing.

    November 5, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. John Biron

    in response to Brian from Denver

    Actually, my plan is not $165/month, but almost $1000/month, has maternity coverage, no annual maximum, in- and out-of network coverage with small deductible, free screening exams, and actualy everything covered as in Obamacare. The Obamacare plan will actually cost me $200 less ($800), BUT the new plan has different network of doctors – few doctors, who cares that it is $200 less, there is nobody to treat there.

    November 5, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Darth Obama

    I am altering the deal, pray I don't alter it further.

    November 5, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. jerome

    If Obama can change an already issued promise, are voters allowed to change their votes?

    November 5, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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