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. Slexs

    you can always tell when Obama is going to lie. Its not when he rubs his chin , or his hair, not when he tugs on his ear. It is when he opens his mouth

    November 5, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  2. roadrager1

    This guy is slicker than Bernie Madoff.

    November 5, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. TickedinNY

    Is anyone really surprised this "President" lied, again?

    November 5, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  4. JohnNY

    You are all focusing on the small stuff!!!
    The INSURANCE COMPANIES changes all of the plans, but guess what? A new plan proposed for the old plan will give you better coverage. It is up to each of us to check that our primary care doctors are in the plan that we choose....and if you shop smartly, just like you do in the grocery store, you will get a better price! I know that I did, and now my annual flu shots are covered at no cost to me!
    By the way, the New York State web site works fine....I've been on it several times.

    November 5, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  5. TruthandConsequence

    The only people truly happy with Obamacare are the beneficiaries, that group of people who have come to expect someone else to pay their bills. Those carrying the burdens of increased premiums, copays and deductibles or cancelled policies and lost access to their doctors are heaping mad at a President who lied to them.

    November 5, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. originalwill

    Hey CNN! You either keep a pledge or you don't. You can't "change" a pledge. Which do you think it is?

    November 5, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  7. rc

    How about all the employers that will no longer offer insurnace and will send people to the exchanges? What about the employers that refuse to offer coverage to spouses (UPS) ? The President either knew he was misleading people or he was naieve and didnt know like he didn't know about Benghazi, the NSA and the failure to test Not sure if I consider him unethical or incompetent, but neither option is appealing. While I admit, I did not vote for him, I did hope that he would usher in a new era of transparency. Sadly, it's business at usual.

    November 5, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  8. Js

    Hmmm.... serious criticism of Obama, which website am I on? CNN or FOXNews? Lol.

    November 5, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. ConcernedIndependent

    ObamaFRAUD, coming one day to a malicious website, just for you! See why we told you to sign first, read later?

    November 5, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. Lela

    Once someone proves himself a liar, as someone that just speaks promises because they sound good then I pretty much do not care about the specifics anymore.

    November 5, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Megamind

    Liar, liar, lair. All presidents say stuff during their time in office that turns on them (ie. "read my lips...). But this current president lies about something every time he speaks. Socialism – it's the new democracy!

    November 5, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  12. Balanced99

    Notice they complete the quotes before the term "PERIOD" – said time and time again.

    The administration was fully aware his statements were LIES – repeated for YEARS.

    Repeated with full comfort that most of the media would give them a pass – like this story – and every other SCANDAL from this administration.

    Obamacare is a plan to get to a single payer system – and they'll continue to lie to the public – perpetually – to get there.

    November 5, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. VJ

    When we give more, people will question why I need, when you give less at that time people ask more. It is impossible to satisfy every one in the planet. This applies to Obama care. Before Obama care implementation, people getting kick out of insurance for no reason and increase the premium, more questions for a claim rather than resolving and lot more.

    November 5, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  14. gmrush

    At the rate he is going and as quickly as he is angering the American public, I can potentially see an assassination attempt on him soon. You can't keep promising people something and then retract that promise followed by bad news and unexpected unbearable consequences without putting yourself into a really nasty predicament.

    November 5, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. real world 123

    gee obama has been lying and CNN has found out, only took them 5 years...

    November 5, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  16. Wood yee

    Hello! It's a LIE, not a refinement or a change in message or however the journalist wishes to spin this.

    November 5, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  17. Fed Up

    This president flat out lied. He should be impeached. I'm one of those who lost their plan. The "new and improved" plans that my family has to choose from come with an increase of AT LEAST $300 more a month and a $5,000 increase in my deductible. How, Mr. President, will this help MY family?! Thanks CNN for finally jumping off the "I love Obama media circus" and reporting the truth. This is not a democrat or republican issue. This is personal.

    November 5, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  18. rufus

    CNN, couldn't you spin this any better? How about, he had to lie because the insurance companies made him do it? Or, he meant if you had a decent plan you could keep it but who would want to keep a deficient plan. Come on, be creative. Spin, spin, spin.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. Amos Moses

    And this is a surprise to WHO?

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  20. s~

    You can keep you plan.Period

    Obama just flat out lied. Period.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  21. stanfordgal

    So now the Obama supporters are finding out what the Republicans have known all along. Republicans knew better, because they exercise independent thought and reason, and could see this was a bad plan. Democrats didn't know better, because they just listen to the media and don't do their own homework.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  22. JC

    They keep saying that the plans that are changing are just the ones that don't meet all of the standards that ACA requires. My friend purchased his own plan that met all of the requirements and then some. It was a very nice plan. In October, Anthem cancelled it and offered another plan with similar benefits but many less doctors in-network. He has to pay a lot more money now to get a plan that includes his doctors.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  23. Nick

    Wow, I cannot believe people are still buying into this disaster and the lies told to sell it. The bottom line is that this is going to be very bad for everyone. Once the government controls healthcare for millions of Americans, who in their right mind thinks that this will not become a bargaining chip in future budget debates and future debt ceiling debates? "People will lose their healthcare!!" will be the battle cry when anyone has the audacity to challenge this out of control government on their spending habits. "We must sell out future generations prosperity in order to pay for those unwilling to take responsibility today!" may as well be the mantra.
    Look, no matter how you slice it, the healthcare system in the U.S. is broken and ACA is NOT the way to fix it. Getting control of $55 for a box of tissues, or $100 for an aspirin is where we need to start. People would not need to worry about their health care plans if the economy of medicine and healthcare were able to compete freely. Stop being distracted by partisan politics and follow the money.

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  24. JRS

    Finally a somehwat direct article on a lie that Obama told. Why isn't the press pinning Obama against the wall on this or other issues? His presidency has been an abject failure and he and his team have been completely negligent in leading the country at some of the most critical moments in hisory. What gives?

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  25. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    The law does far more thatn help 15% of the population. It helps 100% of the population. You can get a health plan that is actually useful if you need major medical. Many people don't realize how little their insurance carries until they need it. Most don't realize their existing plans had payout ceilings. The truth is that the law helps 100% of the population, not just 15%.

    "Nice try, but we gotcha."
    Talk about spin. Well, you're the expert on spin, I'll give you that. How does the ACA help:

    Those who don't wish to carry insuraqnce, but will now be fined for it?
    Those who were perfectly happy with their policies and can no longer have them?
    Those younger folks whose rates will increase dramatically?
    Those who will lose the physician that they're accustomed to?
    Those who lost a high-value plan because the ACA says it's "too good"?
    Those whose contributions to an HSA were forced down to $2500

    I could go on and on, but I guess those don't count in your 100%, do they? All is good in the Borg collective.

    "Nice try, but you got NOTHING."

    November 5, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
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