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. cle

    one thing this week proved was just how much obama was bought and paid for by the big insurance companies

    November 5, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  2. Robert Duncan

    You can't believe a thing this guy says. No wonder he wants to be friends with Bill Clinton.

    November 5, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. Cookie girl

    It is only because Obama is a liberal Democrat that the media isn't screaming for his impeachment.

    November 5, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Tim

    The President clearly lied repeatedly in order to get Obamacare passed. If he had told the truth, (i.e. that you could NOT keep your current insurance, that you could NOT keep your doctor, that your premiums were going to increase dramatically, and that you would be forced to pay for coverage that you do not want or need, AND that it would blow up the deficit and debt) the law would never have passed. He knew all of those things would happen from the beginning, but did not care because government control of the health care system was too important to let something like the truth get in the way. President Obama has set the country on a path that is unsustainable, and that will lead to our demise within our children's lifetimes.

    November 5, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. tiffinS


    Parade of RWNJ sockpuppets on here today eh? I rather preferred the Red Sox parade last Saturday
    Parade of LWNJ tin foil hat apologists on here today eh?

    November 5, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. Cookie girl

    Obama just taught every child in America that it is okay to LIE and DENY!

    November 5, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  7. Brian

    Just because Insurance companies sabotage the affordable health care act , We should blame the president?
    It's the Insurance companies that citizens should scoff, Not our president.
    Does anybody here realize that with the new plan, a person will receive up to 80% of their money paid.......returned?
    (permitted your healthy) .
    Up until recently over 50% of the U.S. budget was spent on health care! Thats insane! Things had to change, are you people blind?
    Look, I didnt vote for this guy myself, but I am at least smart enough to see that the guy has done quite impressive work thus far especially having to clean up the mess of the biggest criminal in the nation.....our previous president "W".
    It's easy to blame Obama for everything under the sun, but when the man is no longer in office, and the stats come out, you people are going to feel pretty damn retarded when you see how much good he's done, but instead of recognition he gets called a liar and a con. Look at the facts before pointing fingers and name calling, I dont see a health care issue here at hand, but an educational issue, after reading some of the comments here! "Look mom, .......No Brains!"

    November 5, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. VT

    Durham...isn't your mother at 82 covered under Medicare?

    November 5, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. RevWright

    How many 'Hail Marys' will Obama have to say to be forgiven for his lies about the ACA?

    How many years until we can get an HONEST PRESIDENT?

    November 5, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  10. Big Gov

    he honestly thinks we are so stupid that we won't notice his lies. he is such an idiot.

    November 5, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  11. Hope and Change

    Barry, Nancy and Harry should be impeached for lying to the public. Elections do have consequences.

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

    ACA as written is a train wreck and this president bears the FULL RESPONSABILITY.

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

    Seriously who wrote this article? Who proof-read it? There are so many errors it is barely readable. My 4th grader can write better than this!

    November 5, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. Jeff

    If you like your cablevision, you can keep it.
    But, now you are required to carry HBO, Showtime, and Playboy channel. What you had before was not good enough. You have to pay more, but more channels!

    November 5, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. wrm

    "Changes his promise."

    "See how the promise evolved."

    This is just pathetic.

    November 5, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  16. Freedom Storm

    CGI, the Canadian company which completely botched the website, not only has key executives with close ties to Obama, but they are also the company that built Canada's federal gun registry to track ownership of every hunting rifle and shotgun. Well, "built" is not exactly the right word, given that registry also suffered many problems.

    November 5, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  17. Animal Farm

    Is Obama re-writing the seven rules again?

    November 5, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  18. donan54

    You can put this in pretty tissue, box it up, wrap it with pretty paper and put a bow on it – when you open it up, it is STILL bulls%$#&!!!! Keep telling stupid people stupid lies and they will think you are a god all day long!

    November 5, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  19. PoliticiansRCrooks

    OVER ONE MILLION MIDDLE CLASS AMERICANS have already signed up for ACA and also opted OUT of ACA and taken the stiff fine vs the train wreck that is ACA.

    November 5, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  20. Kevin

    The only thing more disgusting than this habitual liar are those that defend him. Truth means nothing to any of you.

    November 5, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  21. Kitty Litter

    If the government likes your plan, you get to keep it. Nobody is going to take it away from you. Period.

    November 5, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  22. Jay G

    Doesn't he get tired of lying?

    November 5, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. cra2008

    This was NEVER brought before the American people for a vote. It was completely conceived of and implemented by the Democratic party. In Massachusetts the Globe published an article about the loss of primary care doctors in our state and of course they said it can be fixed. H'mm ok: Why should a doctor be forced to take less money instead of retiring or specializing in an interesting area of medicine? No, they are gone and they are NOT coming back. Also, the thing that the Democrats missed was that fees are as a result of medical malpractice insurance cost.

    November 5, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. tiffinS


    Amazing how many folks are happy with paying 1100.00 a month for 80% coverage. If my health plan provider sent me a cancellation notice, I would send them one back saying, "don't let the door hit you on your way out of business".
    I'm upper middle class. Have four members in my family. And thanks to Obama care, I only pay $350 for 100% coverage.
    Thre are more lies in your post then all of the presidents lies combined.

    November 5, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Mario

    Are you joking. This is our leader ??
    He treats the American public he serves with such condescension and contempt !
    How can anyone without a political agenda stand up for this disgusting behavior by and defend this.
    Adult voters who chose this path , well, we simply deserve this as a country and our children will be paying for this dearly for generations.
    Remember what history has taught us, taxation from the top down will eventually affect you / everyone.
    So long as you feed the "Federal State" it will continue to feed until there is nothing left to feed on.

    November 5, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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