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. Cookie girl

    A man is only as good as his WORD. It is who you are in the final analysis. We are diminished as a nation by electing and propping up a pathological liar.

    November 5, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  2. Sniffit

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

    In fact, yes, we do. The 3Q% of people we're talking about here who are "going to have to pay more" were getting duped into buying worthless non-insurance from the insurance industry and it was, in fact, damaging the health care industry, causing costs to rise for everyone else and damaging the economy. So yes, some people are too stupid to know what they need or simply so gullible that they fall for the for-profit motivated fraud perpetrated by the insurance industry.

    November 5, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. Malory Archer


    If any other president pulled that, people would be throwing pitchforks through the white house windows.


    The previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvanai Avenue "pulled" a lot worse – and got thousands of Americans killed, and tens of thousands more maimed for life in toe process – and you ilk actually elected him to serve a second term after he was appointed by the USSC for a first term! Not only did NOBODY throw pitchforks through the WH window, anyone who protested his abuses was immediately lambasted by the reichwing radio bolviator and a whole host or reichwing tv screaming heads!

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Sniffit

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

    In fact, yes, we do. The 3% (THREE PERCENT) of people we're talking about here who are "going to have to pay more" were getting duped into buying worthless non-insurance from the insurance industry and it was, in fact, damaging the health care industry, causing costs to rise for everyone else and damaging the economy. So yes, some people are too stupid to know what they need or simply so gullible that they fall for the for-profit motivated fraud perpetrated by the insurance industry.

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  5. Pam

    I have current high deductible insurance. I like it. Right now I pay on average out of pocket in a year about $1,500. With Obama care that could jump to over $5,200 (whether I go to the doctor or not). I will cancel all of my insurance, take the penalty, and go to the emergency room for my "free" medical like everyone else. When I get the bill, I simply won't pay it!!!!!!!!!! I am so freaking tired of this crap! Obama has lied right to our faces. I am done with trying to work hard and do the right thing. In another 10 years when I retire....I might just go rob a bank, wait outside calmly for the cops with my hands up, then go to prison and spend the rest of my days getting a roof over my head, 3 meals a day, TV, free classes, and great free medical. I will not have to scrimp and save.....sharing the cats food just to survive because all of my social security has been ripped off. I urge every baby boomer to do the same. We work our asses off. We pay our taxes. We support our communities and charities. We serve our country. And we get screwed. No freaking more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. Thomas

    I was informed my current rate with BlueCross/Shield is going to skyrocket. My coverage will not be better for a similarly priced plan they want to put me on but significantly WORSE! To get a health plan that is similar in coverage and not price, my cost will INCREASE by $153.50 PER MONTH. Please tell me how this is good for me or fair?

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Jim

    The same rules apply to employer plans, Obama was just smart enough to postpone the changes until after the election to dupe the gullibles. The only problem is that the employer policy cancellations and rate hike will occur right before 2014 elections

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. jrm03063

    This isn't really a change. The real promise was that if you liked you plan (and it was a competent plan) – you CAN keep that. If your "plan" was none at all – or something pathetically lame that won't really cover when the chips are down – that's right YOU CAN'T KEEP THAT! YOU HAVE TO HAVE COMPETENT INSURANCE!

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. Frank

    Remember when Obama said he would not raise income taxes one red penny on anyone making under 250k? Then everyone one in the country was hit with a 2% income tax increase? Cost me over 1400 bucks a year. Now my 100/70 plan I have had for 30+ years of working is no longer available here were I work, knocked us all down to the 90/70 plan with a 1500 deductible before the insurance company pays a DIME! and raised the price a hundred a month on the premiums!

    Now instead of me paying a 20 buck copay and the rest 100% paid by insurance and 200 buck copay for hospital with 100% after that I have to pay the 1st 1500 dollars of my doctor and hospital, I never pay more than 1500 a year SO ITS NOW LIKE I DON'T EVEN HAVE MEDICAL INSURANCE! I have to pay every penny OUT OF POCKET until I hit 1500 bucks THEN, they pay 90%.

    This is all about getting us away from what us WORKING PEOPLE are use to and then slowly pushing us to single payer which is simply another name for SOCIALIZED RATIONED MEDICAL CARE.

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. George

    CNN viewers: This Obamacare mess is what you have supported.

    November 5, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  11. Middle Class Guy

    Obama is a liar.

    November 5, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  12. TED

    If I had a son that was a liar, he would look exactly like President Obama.

    November 5, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. matey

The President has assigned high tech wizards to get the Medical care website working better, The problems can be corrected, so why is anyone surprised if the advanced computer website has some technical problems that requires technical fixing. The Extreme right wing Republicans should be supporting The President to get the Medical Website fixed, instead of them complaining about the difficulties in operating an advanced website to sign on the population of The USA to buy the medical insurance.
The Extreme Tea Party and some Republicans do nothing to help, but just complain about why it is not working properly.
Why The Tea Party types do not realize that they have to participate to get the technical problems fixed, instead of doing nothing but complain. How do they expect to lead and govern The USA if all they do is complain and do nothing. Tea Party types; please grow up

    November 5, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. DaveinIL

    Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters that he had smoked crack cocaine.
    President Obama commented that "If I had a son, he'd look like Bob."

    November 5, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. Bill

    Never forget the actual, verbatim lie out of his mouth:

    "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what." – President Obama, July 16, 2009

    No one includes insurance companies, doesn't it?

    November 5, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. Socialism_is_Communisms_ugly_little_sister

    The Liar in Chief tells lies within lies. It's never been about health care. It has always been about government control and socialized medicine.

    November 5, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  17. Dan

    This is like watching a circus clown with a can of shaving cream

    November 5, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. LetsHaveANationalReferendum

    Since the ACA was sold to the American people, and congress, based on lies, lets have a National Referendum on the ACA. If a private business lied about a product like that, it would be FRAUD, a bait and switch.

    So lets have a ACA Referendum and Repeal!

    November 5, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. A.S.

    What a crock – I can't beleive you people are willing to give him a bye on everything. I have employer provided insurance, my monthly premium is going up 25% to $600 a month, my deductibles are going up 25%, and my maximum (out of pocket) deductible for the family went from $2000 to $20,000 – something like a 900% increase by my estimate. yet he's talking about what a good deal this is for everybody, not just the uninsured. how about this – how about instead of you dopes taking everything he says as gospel, how about you actually take a few minutes and educate yourselves on what's going on. how about you ask yourself if it's really possible that a person can be so completely in the dark about everything going on in his administration and if you would buy all that nonsense if it were anybody else (conservative) claiming it. wake up.

    November 5, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  20. Hope and Change

    "You are too stupid to pick a good health care plan" So, the government has to do that for you. That is why you pay taxes. Because you are required to be stupid.

    November 5, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  21. Well Informed in Buffalo

    Actually, this whole thing was Mitt Romney's idea; blame him. Oh.... yeah... I forgot HE LOST THE ELECTION!!

    November 5, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  22. Mr. Beepo

    If you didn't vote for this clown does this insurance scam thing affect you too?

    November 5, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  23. John Illinois

    This jerk is baltantly lying....AGAIN!!!! How stupid are all of you people that you can actually buy the crap he is saying?!?

    November 5, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "Well over 1,100 comments here on this story. And liberals think that all will be ok."

    And RWNJs think that we don't recognize it as a RWNJ sockpuppet festival? Laughable.

    November 5, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  25. Hope and Change

    TEA party time.

    November 5, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
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