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. G D

    "That can be scary.. " picking a new plan. What's scary is the price tag of those plans that so few of us can afford. Instead of helping my kid pay for college, I'll be insuring him instead as his low-wage job with no future. Nice choices, which is why the ACA was flawed in its inception (the true need to control costs is not addressed).

    November 5, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

    November 5, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  3. Partisanhackshatefacts

    'alters his pledge" ????

    you mean he lied

    "but..but.....but... he can't lie; he's a Democrat...he's Obama"


    November 5, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    WOW, now they are lying about lying

    November 5, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. i12bphil

    Well, like the wicked witch said, I guess we'll have to pass this bill before Obama knows what's really in it.

    November 5, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  6. outspoken

    Is he a biiger liar than Bush Jr ?

    November 5, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  7. Brad

    Apparently Crack use is not only a problem in Canadian politics. Obama must have been on crack to implement this bill.

    November 5, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  8. jack

    Didn't you hear, the NY Times said Obama misspoke, albeit 29 times. But was it the lie that you could keep your plan? The lie that you could keep your doctor? Or the lie that your premiums would go down $2,500.

    Now he is lying about his lies and his supporters (as you can see in these comments) are lying about his lying to cover up his lies.

    Next year businesses will start dropping employee plans, and the employees will be getting their notices right before the 2014 election.

    November 5, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  9. OBG

    Below is an example of the distorted and ill conceived logic that got us Obamacare.

    The ACA was a fraud and deception on the American people from the start.

    "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 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  10. Patrick

    Obama lies about his lies.

    November 5, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. Corruptible Insanity

    When did we decide to become a nation that can and is told what to do by the government? Freedom has a cost. The lack of freedom has an even greater cost. This should not be an issue. this should not be forced down our throats. Sadly, i see us traveling down the road many other great societies have gone. We are the modern Roman Empire. Sheep are too blinded to see it though.

    November 5, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    When Obama talks, used car salesmen listen.

    November 5, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  13. Rosa

    JohnNY I know you registered or you wouldn't have full access, the question is have you sign up for a plan? And if so how do you like the idea having 3 visits to a doctor before the $2,000 deductible kicks in (which by the includes prescriptions, that is your prescription coverage will not kick until the deductible is met) even when you sign up for an HMO and visit in-net-work doctor. Also, one of the more affordable plans was with Empire/Blue Cross (not the best) with a $600 deductible, with a $25 co-pay with primary physician and $40 for specialists. This means each time if need to see a specialist the first time it would cost me $65 ($25 for the primary and $40 for the specialist). Just imagine how expensive it will be if you need to see 3 or more specialist at $40 a pop in one month. By the way, when I called the Exchange, the rep I spoke to told me she could sign me up because the federal website was down, and that was this past Friday.

    November 5, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  14. Maria

    WOW, Now they are lying about lying....

    November 5, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  15. c-lo


    The problem is the greed of the insurance companies. The health and well-being of Americans SHOULD NOT BE A FOR-PROFIT INDUSTRY.
    Insurance companies do not provide for the health and well-being of Americans, they are a middleman for payments for those services. Therefore your ire is misdirected, it should be at the surgeons, PCP's nurses, etc wo are providing the service. So by extention, you sould be for socialized medicine from a group of underqualified individuals...enjoy your treatments.

    November 5, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. Fair is fair

    Thank you Obama for the growing number of republican voters!

    November 5, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  17. HeyHey

    It's almost like they accuse people of doing exactly what they are doing or planning to do, and that somehow dulls the reaction to their offense. Strange indeed.

    November 5, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  18. Scott

    Obama has told the American people an outright lie straight to their face. It was intentional.This is grounds for impeachment. Hopefully Americans will wake up and understand that the government is not to be trusted. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat,it does not matter. The government has to be reigned in.

    November 5, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. Solitairedog

    Some "plans", while cheap, were not worth the paper they were printed on. They couldn't meet some basic requirements, so they're offered anymore. They got sifted out. That's a good thing.

    November 5, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |

    When is the Country going to wake up and impeach this socialist? He is a LIAR.
    Let's see what the families do when patients who loose thier Doctors start DYING of thier diseases because that relationship they had with a Doctor who knew thier history have been taken away by this monster.
    It's time for a revolt.

    November 5, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  21. Nostrathomas

    3 more years of Obama and this country will be screwed for the next 30 years. Time for America to realize this is unacceptable.

    November 5, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  22. Smarg

    Lesson learned: when you elect a [bleeper], you get one.

    November 5, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. Rick MacK

    we'll have to pass it to see what's in it.... just like a stool sample....

    November 5, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. cathy

    I do not understand why CNN keeps hiding the truth! Will it take their job loss to make them see the truth

    November 5, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. Durka Durka

    "Altering his pledge."

    Bwahahahahaha. That is some top-quality damage control if I've ever seen it. Just call it what it is, CNN; Obama lied.

    Obama Supporters: "N-no! He d-didn't lie! He j-just...he...he didn't explain it w-well enough. H-he just...changed it a little after h-he said it!"

    November 5, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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