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. caq

    I actually got onto one of the sites and ran a test policy case...our health insurance cost (for the exact same coverage) would triple)! That would make our REQUIRED health insurance premium more expensive than our mortgage payment! Add in quadrupled flood insurance rates (live on land that has not flooded anytime in the last 100 years)...also mandated by the Obama administration and we are going to have to sell our home of 30 years and spend retirement living in a travel trailer! This is about destroying the middle class in America...this is about bringing DOWN the middle class instead of bringing UP the poor. Congrats you uninformed've created a new third world country...

    November 5, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Bill S.

    I am one of those people worse off. My HSA plan has been discontinued and my wife and I are required to buy covereage that we do not need or want. Our insurance is going from $230 to $380/month because of the changes and that is for an off exchange policy. Ther on – exchange policies are costing us $1000 with no subsidy because of our joint income. We are part of the middle class that are financing most of this change. The goal of the change is admirable, the financing of it is unfair. We are extending our HSA for one year in hopes that prices come down.

    November 5, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "How is taking away freedom better? "

    Followed by

    "The man of the house can decide what his family needs."

    I had to laugh.

    November 5, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. paul reynolds

    Those who like their Health Care can keep it.

    What the President did NOT say is that You do not yet KNOW that you don't like your Healthcare Coverage.
    See – the first time you actually NEEDED it, you would realize you actually Have NO real coverage and that is not likeable to anyone!!

    November 5, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. rdg18

    obama is the father of lies.

    November 5, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. SG

    Bow before your God King Obama, drink the Koolaide and enjoy your government blessing of health care...when and if it ever works.

    November 5, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. Jane Smith

    The promise was crap. Employers buy their insurance from companies and the plans are changing. So, everyone who has health insurance will be affected. It still remains to be seen if the new plans are truly better.

    November 5, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  8. Gene's Point Of View

    I am disgusted the POTUS would lie. He knew the facts that the Obama Care plan would force many American off of their insurance plans and pay would go from a Ford Focus to a Mercedes.

    He also knows the financial burden will be on the middle class and not the top wage earners. How can expect the middle class to carry another financial burden? Why do Democrats and Obama hate the middle class?

    November 5, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    "manipulated the vote on the ACA, subverting a true vote by the congress?"

    Really? You want to make that claim while the GOP/Teatrolls were running around blatantly misinforming people with crap like "death panels" and "pull the plug on grandma"? What a f-–g joke.

    November 5, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. darkpoet

    I kept telling you sheep out there and you reres kept saying "How much was FOX paying me?" Well now you know FOX didn't pay me anything because my educated butt that doesn't watch FOX saw this before it was voted in

    November 5, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. congruence

    I am a billionaire with two cheerleader girlfriends. Wait a minute. Let me alter that. I still work for an average salary to pay the bills and cheerleaders are out of my league.

    November 5, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. nickabbate445103147

    It would just be nice to have some liberals come out and say we were wrong about this guy. He's a disaster.

    November 5, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. JenC

    Gasp!!!!! Shocker!
    @ caq.....I agree with you 100%

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. Ivan

    The solution is very simple.

    What needs to happen is make the president and all the politicians use ObamaCare.
    Not the 5 Star Private Insurance that they get now.

    That would end this whole issue.

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  15. billy bob

    This train wreck just keeps on going. What were you people thinking when you voted for a community organized?????

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. dwight

    to trilly3807...the wealthy Americans will pay, but can only pay so much, so the middle class will have to pay, but ironically if you want or don't want insurance you will have to pay also, but those that don't want to pay for insurance, even the wealthy can pay the penalty, which might be less than the healthcare because they have money. Everyone pays something or else it doesn't work and if the healthy don't join and contribute, then the whole system breaks in upon itself. It is a shell game with smoke and mirrors, which is why the IRS is involved, because it is a health tax.

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  17. Twiz1

    Classic Obama double speak. Tell them what they want to hear...when that isn't actually true deny what you previously said and clarify a new more defensible position...when that isn't true start at square 1. Granted this is the policy of probably better than 80% or more of Washington, but how many times did we have to hear about Bush's WMD disaster and yet no one wants to point out the same hypocrisy with Obama.

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. Gene's Point Of View


    So you think the American people are dumb and no idea what they need or don't need?

    If so, I hope a politician determines to don't need health care coverage when terminally ill and cuts you off and leaves you out of the medical treatment. I think that is fair because they know better why waste money on you, you are dying anyway. BTW..that is very possible scenario under Obama Care.

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. OldEEguy

    After Bush and Cheney Lied about WMD I voted for Obama.
    Now that Obama has lied about the ACA now I will vote republican in the next election.

    We must let the politicians know it is not okay to lie to the American people.

    If we let this pass with no consequences then it is just going to get worse with the next president.

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  20. unc dig

    interesting that Obama and the media now want to call it the Affordable Care Act. I guess even Obama doesn't want his name attached to it. I guess maybe we could call it the Pinocchio Care Act.

    A lie is a lie. Can't Obama and his advisers figure out that most intelligent American's now know that he lied and to quit wasting time trying to spin his lies as some sort of misstatements or whatever else they want to try and call them. A lie is a lie.

    The rollout of Obamacare has been a dismal failure to date. I like many Americans await to see the promises made fulfilled. So far I don't have insurance and Obamacare is failing me.

    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. Thomas Rice


    November 5, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. America, our country is bankrupt...cut the spending

    Oboyma, bankrupting America one trillion at a time

    November 5, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  23. Ant

    This man needs to be impeached . This was his idea and now it's ruining our nation . He needs to go

    November 5, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  24. Gary

    He did say you would be able to keep your policy, what he didn't tell you in order for the insurance companies to offset having to offer cheaper health coverage that they would cancel the policies you have and raise tour rates. I didn't have a deductible, now I have to pay 2,500.00 and I'm paying the same premiums. I'm middle class, I hope he doesn't continue to help me, I can't afford it!

    November 5, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  25. Nodack

    Americans fighting to see which side can hurt the other more. Our health care system is messed up and instead of fixing the problem by working together we choose to just destroy each other. Blame, blame, blame, blame, blame, get nothing accomplished.

    Did Obama lie? He said you would be able to keep your plan. The insurance company cancelled your plan, so in a way that makes Obama a liar. Fine. Maybe we should fire any politician that gets caught in a lie. Then there would be no politicians anymore, but we would still have a health care problem.

    I am completely disgusted with Americans today. They need to change our slogan from "United We Stand" to Divided We Fall On Purpose".

    Our media used to be news, now it's propaganda.

    November 5, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
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