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. jenuinelysweet

    This president uses way too many Probably's in his statements. When a president says "oh you will PROBABLY be better off." that is a chicken way of not being able to actually commit to anything. This president has not only bold face lied to the American public, but some people keep on buying it? I don't understand how people can not see through him even at this time. There was 3 years to get this website up and running.. THREE YEARS!!! I cannot imagine any company out there making a huge promise to the American public and giving them at least three years warning, and then their product not working. If this is how the website works, how does anyone think the health care law will work better? I just hope that we can survive what this man has done, and is continuing to do, to our country before he ruins what is left of our freedoms. No one, and I mean no one, should be able to tell me who to get my health care through or my insurance through. This president has put his nose into my personal private business just one too many times!

    November 5, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. Denise

    No wonder the college educated bloc voted for Obama......Look no further to the demographics and voting blocs of red states.....

    November 5, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  3. Hope and Change

    Anyone who would like Jay Carney's job, apply now. I see a job opening soon.

    This man can't go on forever, his conscience will eat him alive. He must have the biggest ulcer.

    But, as long as CNN, ABC, MSNBC, CBS, AP, HUFFINGTON PRESS and the rest of the liberal media stand behind the lies they helped promote – Jay is a lifer.

    The daily press conferences make me sick, all that sloppiering and thrill up their legs for Barry. Oh, can we see him, can we love him, and can we worship at his feet? Oh, great Messiah.

    November 5, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. alpine queen

    Remember President Slick Willy? Now we got President Slick Barry.

    November 5, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  5. onepercenter

    "You vill have health insurance and you vill like it. You svinehunt!"

    President Goebbels

    November 5, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  6. Jason

    This freakin guy is selling snake oil and wants us to buy it....

    November 5, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. Name O

    Nothing is easy from begining. But all of us need med coverage. Supporting Prasident

    November 5, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  8. bdby

    Obama is desperate to establish this ACA. It is all part of a POLITICAL PLAN. The reason for this is to later have illegal eligibility included in the ACA modification that the Democrats are going to push through leaving the REAL AMERICANS once again subsidizing illegal occupation. REAL AMERICANS are once again going to be MILKED by the Democrats just for F@#$% votes to enable them to stay in power. It is a backdoor to recruiting illegals who would be thankful and vote for the Dems in the future.

    This Obama cr@p has got to be repealed NOW !!!

    November 5, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. critical thinking

    My father always said that a liar and thief go hand and hand.

    That got me thinking, Obama has lied to us so many times and in the process has stole our future and our kids futures. I guess Dad was right along.

    November 5, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. aNOY

    Thats a great point. I dont agree with anyone bashing any of our presidents past and future . I think we are diminishing that office with the way the media over exagerate issues. I do think in this case with so many media outlets and so many blogs and it pays to hate the government.
    As you may can tell, I blame the media for allowing all this fake outrage to distort whats really going on. The government will shut down again, because the extremist are not held accountable. The strategy the republicans are using are working and they will keep doing it again. But one they we will all look up and this great country will no longer be the great power it is now, due to our free out of control press who is so shock by spying that has been going on since Moses, and all this concerned for a few tea party family who follow Rush. Someone like me who follow the news have lost faith in their simple ability to report a story objectively. Everyone is into this reality TV drama reporting now.

    November 5, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. ra wa

    How many years is it going to take for the POTUS to realize he made a major error.
    Why must we subsidize the poor and the lazy who expect handouts?

    How is paying just over $1600 a month (new BCBS policy) better than $750 per month (old BCBS policy) for the same deductibles and coverage?? I will never become pregnant (male) and will not need early child care. AND I will not qualify for any subsidies. BTW, BCBS does not have the answer either, as they are baffled by my situation with their hands tied!!!
    I expect the POTUS to visit me personally on his next visit to the Chicago area and explain to me his thinking.

    November 5, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. Paul

    This system is set up to fail anyway. You cant offer affordable health insurance to sick people. The money to pay these bills has to come from somewhere and if people are not being charged enough it will bankrupt itself.. This is kinda like a life insurance company trying to insure a bunch of 90 year old people for millions of $ each for $10 a month. there is no money coming in to pay the ones that are still alive. As for a politician lying omg what a surprise .. If you remember correctly he said he would end the war also ..

    November 5, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. Des Perado

    Of course we’re CNN and we’ve always been in the tank for this perjurious Racist-In-Chief
    We even posted this story in the least open comments format to give conservatives grief !!!

    November 5, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. Mario

    Why would any young hard working student want to go into medicine with this on the horizon?
    The bureaucracy of the IRS and the oversight of a Federal government mandating your health care is like having a group of pre-schoolers direct air traffic at LAX.

    November 5, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  15. ralph

    This is the first time I have ever seen the GOP stand up for the little guy. Maybe if they took the time initially to actuall read the law, instead of coming up with death panels, the economy will be wrecked, everybody will have to pay higher premiums (not true) they could have predicted people with junk policies were going to get sticker shock. But as usual they didn't read anything to keep faith with their uninformed followers

    November 5, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  16. kdd

    Substandard seems to be in the eye of the beholder. You can lose your plan if it is substandard unless it is part of a union contract. Mine made changes after the law passed, but would still be considered substandard by Democratic Senators. If you had only financially supported the Presidential re-election you might have gotten favored treatment for medical insurance too. Now we know. This is so sad for our nation.

    November 5, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  17. Tom

    You know you all are crazy. How typical always bring back Bush days you know Bush has not been in office for over 5 years and you stil bring his name in this. THIS IS OBAMA NOT BUSH LEAVE BUSH OUT OF THIS. Now for the ones that just loved Obumba care well now look at it. Lied about being able to keep what you have. Doesnt look like that now does it. For the ones that voted for him you all have to suffer as well as the rest of us that knew better to vote for him.

    November 5, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  18. Don't Lie to Me

    If someone lies to you, do you say "please alter or tweak your story"? No, you tell them to tell the truth! The headline should read " Obama Finally Tells The Truth". Anything else just insults my intelligence !!

    November 5, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  19. Glenn and Katy Koons

    Gallup today, O at 39% because, our bet is, he lied and lied. Not only for AHC but the 5 other scandals which the media has not really covered. And now this lying naif in the WH, our Putin on the Potomac, wants to have a govt. comprehensive amnesty plan for illegal immigration. How many lies will he foist on the Low Info voters one sees on this site? What is worse, these people will believe him. BTW, if we can keep our health care plan, why have Obamacare at all? 95% of Americans liked their plans. Why not deal with the 5% in piecemeal bills? And the same for immigration. Govt. cannot do anything right except for the military and oh yes, according to Hagel, it is being slaughtered by Obama's cuts and firings. Yikes. And the media wants Obama and his clones nation-wide succeed???? Insanity.

    November 5, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  20. JohnParry

    The president should enlist Harry Reid's help to muddy up the text - what was said vs. what was not said. That's Reid's specialty.

    November 5, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  21. jose

    Done with politicians. They all lie.

    November 5, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  22. Nikki6

    TC: Why is it that no one is talking about the greedy Health Insurance Carriers?
    Answer: Because this country is so blind that it only sees Donkey's or Elephants. They would rather blame the president than the corporate greeedster who actually causes all the problems. Same reason everyone blamed Obama for the economic downturn, when in reality it was all caused by the big greedy banks that take private jetliners to ask Obama for bail out money. Ignorant people who don't take the time to learn economics just use the "it's the presidents fault" card.

    November 5, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  23. Just Say'n

    Gee, my family's small business insurance just got worse, while we pay the same... other than the 25 year old kid in our office who's rates went up 50% YES 50% thanks to Obummer! (He was all for ACA, now let's see what he says). Oh, and now he has maternity coverage and the guy is gay. Don't think he needs it...

    This thing is a freak'n disaster for small businesses. Way to stimulate the engine of the economy to create jobs. What an idiot.

    November 5, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  24. billy bob

    Come on CNN, Obama knows that if he just adds another lie on a lie you guys will eat it up.

    November 5, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  25. Joe

    Just thought I'd share my story real quick – I am a healthy 35 year old man, and never used my insurance. However, I feel I have to have it as a safety net. Well, I had a great plan that covered everything I would ever have needed, and it only cost me $106 per month with a $4000 deductible and out of pocket max and low flat fee co-pays. It was through an association who had an arrangement with a major insurer (anyone could join). My insurer canceled on me, claiming that now they don't offer plans in my area and I'd have to go through the State exchange due to the Affordable Health Care law. Now, with Obamacare, I'm looking at the cheapest Plan, Bronze, costing me $150 a month after subsidy with a $6350 out of pocket max and much worse co-pays (percentages – yikes). Big downgrade for me. Paying a bit more for a lot less coverage as far as I'm concerned.

    November 5, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
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