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. pgraham52

    Every American who can read knows he flat out lied in order to get this debacle of a law passed. Some just choose to accept his lies.

    November 5, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  2. Martin

    im still confused on all the anti Obama responses how is the president to control what your insurance companies do. How is he the lier when the insurance companies canceled the plans that you hold so dear. blame the ones who control that not the one who put a standard in place, My loard do you not want to live with at least a minimum standard or do you find living without a standard would in fact make it better....think long and hard about it because as with anything else we are standardized, jobs, mimumum wage, equality, taxing all of that starts with a standard to follow and we work forward from there would you really want to go with no rules on how helth insurance works, all these canceled plans are fall out of no standardizations within them and they are not profitable so go back to your insurance companies tell them you want to keep the plan they are canceling and go toword the people that can actually do something about it because as far as i know the President this one or any other is not the author of law. that is left to the groups in the house and senate and both of them played a part in this if i remember correctly.

    November 5, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  3. Jim

    Can someone Impeach this guy! We need someone who makes a promise to the people, and actually will keep it.

    November 5, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. steven

    Did Obama screw up? I do believe so.

    I don't know whether "Obamacare" will help more American's or not, but the system is broken and needs to be fixed, companies need to be MADE

    November 5, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. Disgusted

    My stepmother is one of the middle class folks whose current insurance plan has been canceled, because it doesn't include maternity coverage. She is in her 60s! The cheapest plan available to her on the Obamacare website is twice as much as she is paying now, AND she hasn't even been able to apply for it online because the website has been so messed up. Any politician supporting this fiasco has now lost the vote of every single person in my family.

    November 5, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  6. steven

    to honor the agreements they made via the insurance plans, the customers paid for and overall something needs to change, whether its obamacare, overhaul of the entire system or some other idea. Things need to be fixed, People should not be afraid or worried about whether or not they will get healthcare.

    November 5, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  7. AmericaStand

    Ed Shultz last night on MSLSD, I mean MSNBC, tried to convince viewers that 14 million citizens who are receiving cancellation notices from their medical insurance companies will be better off. Really? How is taking away freedom better? How are skyrocketing premiums better? Why are senior citizens being forced to pay higher premiums for things they don't need like birth control, invetro fertilization, etc. The man of the house can decide what his family needs. This is the USA, not the USSA. I've served almost 30 years in the Corps and can't believe millions of Americans are willing to give their freedoms away. This is beyond sad! Add to that Americans don't care that we don't leave Americans behind, but we did in Benghazi! No one cares about that either.

    November 5, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  8. Bob

    Look, I know I lied to you, but hey, there aren't really that many of you and my sheeple will believe anything I say, so yeh, you cares.

    November 5, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  9. zac d

    I honestly wish the president would worry more about the everyday struggle americans go threw without jobs and mim wage is 7.25 a hr. If a person does the math thats not enough funds to feed yourself three 5 dollar meals a day. Instead lets develope more bills for Americans. Only if u knew how stupid obamacare sounds then maybe u would get ur head out of ur ass mr. president

    November 5, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  10. Bob

    4Truth- CGI is only one of the companies that is working on the roll out.......Oh, and did Obamacare and CMS mention that they CHANGED THE CRITERIA for the ACA near the end of the 3+ year rollout. It was originally set up to be able to get on it and browse around before signing up. Then CMS decided it would be better to have people sign up first, then look at their options. Nothing like buying a car- then getting to test drive it! They were also told that there were still problems after the changes and that they should push back the release date..... CMS also lied about that they were never told about that.

    November 5, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  11. kvining

    So like, the new Republican complaint is that people are not getting the insurance that the Republicans never wanted them to get in the first place? And we now are to place this next to the other Republican complaint, that the website is not signing up the people it never wanted to have health insurance, fast enough, right? While Obama has done an abysmal job on this roll out, the utter non-cooperation and obstructionism of the GOP has been even more astounding, and I cannot help but feel how much better all of this would have worked if they had simply worked with the Democrats to get this done for the American People, but hey, they work for The Tea Party, so I guess I am dreaming....

    November 5, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. Jim37015

    I don't care anymore for this political spin by Dems on this disaster. I'll take my vote from now on and go somewhere else.

    November 5, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. jefvnk

    "Most of the people who will have to pay more will get better insurance than what they had before."

    Sure, and if I double the price, I can get a V8 Mustang over the basic Fiesta as well. Thing is, that basic Fiesta may have been all I needed, so even if I am getting something better, there is zero value in that better for me.

    November 5, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. Michael Benjamin

    There is no way Obama can totally recover from this. His was ill served by his advisers by allowing these statements to go on unchallenged.

    November 5, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  15. trilly3807

    I am really sorry to see this behavior from the President. Health Care Reform is very much needed in America. I was so glad a President was finally tackling the issue. But misleading the American people is wrong. I truly thought he was above that. At the same time, the wealthier Americans have been getting tax cuts for years under Repub presidents. If they have to pay more for health care to make up for that inequality, it doesn't bother me a bit. I just wish that had been said up front.

    November 5, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    IF we keep putting people of the same character into public office we will never over come the economic problems that we are in. That goes for all politicians! They stove things down the throats of the American people and when it does not work like they had intended, then they try to double talk their way out of it. Kind of like what our kids do when they are caught in a lie....

    November 5, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. Rick

    "I'm not going to take away your guns" -Barack Obama, Sept. 2008

    November 5, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  18. billisnice

    Obama deceived Americans. He is acting more like a republican.

    November 5, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  19. JimBob

    I find it amusing that Obama defenders still champion their saviour. He is and has never been more then just another politician wrangling for power and money. Both Repubs and Dems fight like a bunch of little children in the school yard and Obama sits back, watches and smiles. Hopefully one day we will have real leaders in this country, before it is destroyed by greed and stupidity.

    November 5, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. Tom

    IF we keep putting people of the same character into public office we will never over come the economic problems that we are in. That goes for all politicians! They stove things down the throats of the American people and when it does not work like they had intended, then they try to double talk their way out of it. Kind of like what our kids do when they are caught in a lie....

    November 5, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  21. dklajkl2jkljklsjkl

    Of course its a promise he didn't have the power to make. That's what politicians do tho. They promise the world, and never deliver.

    It will never change until we stop voting for these fools who make empty promises. Or better yet make it a criminal offense. A politician lying to the people, misrepresenting the people, or stealing from the people should carry EXTREMELY harsh sentences.

    Instead we just let them stay in office, or let them resign, and just run for reelection next year. Its beyond a joke at this point.

    November 5, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  22. bence

    He has big ideas but they never work out go back to a community planner

    November 5, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  23. Joe A

    If I make a representation to entice someone to buy my firm or my home and then they find out the statement was false or the statement was made in bad fiath, guess where my butt would be??? In COURT! This is an impeachable act of fraud upon the entire country. IMPEACH the guy and let's get on with fixing the country.

    November 5, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. Ian

    Yes the black Prezzi is nothing but a conspiracy in every way you wish. His only mistake was letting the insurance companies stay in business. The hypocrisy from the conservatives is amazing. How many times have you heard them complain about welfare programs we have? All Obamacare does is make everyone responsible for themselves. You ask for independence, now you complain about it?

    November 5, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. TimW

    oh the arrogance of this president...simple unprecedented. He flippantly made claims, in spite of warnings from some of his OWN team, that he could never support on a topic that has tremendous impact on American families – physically, emotionally and financially. The ACA is the implementation of Obama's back door attempt at Socialism. It's taking money out of the pockets of people who were totally happy with their healthcare insurance – such as me (I insured my family of six which includes two auto-immune disorders for less than 7K per year with an employer contribution of 6K about 13K). The plan that my employer purchased no longer meets Obama's standards – never mind that they suited my JUST FINE – and our new policy costs a total of 22,000 per year. Thankfully my employer will pick up 45% of the costs, but my costs went from $6,800 per year to $12,100. Hey, guess who will not get their second semester of college paid for? Sorry son! Oh deductible? It went from a MAX out of pocket cost of 5K to 15K. Winner winner chicken dinner. This is not affordable....for me. Some will fare better – at the expense of others. This is redistribution of wealth at the core: From those who can, to those who can't. It is what it is. Certainly, it benefits some, but at the expense of who? and for all those who are saying give it three years; it will levy out.......That's based upon models presented by academicians in antiseptic business models of hypothetical and "what ifs".

    November 5, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
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