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. sly

    Big Insurance had prevented me from obtaining Health Insurance, and I had to pay $25,000 last year for a few days in the hospital.

    Thank you President Obama for the Affordable Health Care Act, where 50 MILLION people like me can now be insured.

    50 MILLION folks deprived so fat rich white men make millions in salary for Big Insurance.

    November 5, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. Keeponswimming

    Keep on swimming swimming swimming through the lies. Obama has officially beat Bush in who can lie to the people the most. Congress should HAVE to get the affordable care act just like everyone else. I'm tired of these rich clowns running our country to be exempt from their own dumb laws. Goal of a politician, how much federal dollars can I get contracted for my business. Feds are going to crash and burn in their corruption.

    November 5, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. CryBabies

    You lefties were the inspiration for SNLs skit on supporting BO regardless of what he did or would do. Although a spoof, it does not stray too far, if any, from what I read here. BO has become nothing more than a "used car salesman" Show me the carfax Mr. President. You won't be able to.

    November 5, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  4. David Yang

    Everyone complains about it until they need it. Are you gonna be complaining when you need a life saving proceedure? NO. Are you going to complain when you have a serious illness and can't get dropped from your insurance? NO. and Obama never lied he clearly said if you health care provider is keeping the plan you can keep it. It's up to the insurance companies to determine whether or not they want to keep the plan active.

    November 5, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. Jeremy H

    It's like we hired a child to fix a flat tire on our car...except now the engine is completely busted too

    November 5, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. irock

    Honey I didnt lie to you about not going to the strip club, I just changed my promise not to, Ladies and gents we have a genius for president!

    November 5, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. onlymho

    let's have a redo on the vote for obamacare – what senator has the gall to vote for it again

    November 5, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  8. alan smithee

    One of the fundamentals of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle used in nuclear physics is that attempts to measure the system will affect the system (for example, measuring voltage drains a bit of current and changes the voltage). This could be a metaphor for the massive changes that the ACA imposed on the healthcare market . . . expecting the underlying existing market (current plans) to remain unaltered after the ACA was implemented was not reasonable; the fundamental economics of the marketplace have changed, and the landscape of available plans changes in response. The ideology of 'you can keep your plan' presumes that the plan would still exist in its same form, a condition that many predicted would not be true.

    November 5, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  9. Cookie girl

    CNN: someone who "changes a promise" is more accurately known as a LIAR. Obama has emptied his account in the bank of public relations, and all the media spin in the world can not fix it.

    November 5, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. Joel D

    He lied? It's a recurrent theme with this President. Partisan politics aside, some of us have known since 2008 that this guy is a Grade A politician with elitist views that have nothing to do with democracy. He gets re-elected, and still he acts as if he is still running for office. This country needs a strong leader more than ever and the fact that the President never ever admits that he is wrong on anything goes to show or never takes responsibilities for his faulty decision goes to show what a really ineffective LEADER he really is. Benghazi, Fast & Furious, IRS scandals, Solyndra, wiretapping our allied leaders and finally the debacle that is the ACA roll-out. He's entering Nixon territory.

    November 5, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  11. joe blow

    well well well, now all those youngsters that wanted shared sacrifice don't like it so much when it's them doing the sharing.... welcome to your lying clueless democratic puppetmasters.... less government is always better...duh

    November 5, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  12. Qwen

    Since the ACA was passed I have paid more for my health insurance with less coverage.

    November 5, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  13. Paul

    I have figured out Obama's agenda with all of make the middle and a little higher than middle class bankrupt. The plans that we are being forced to buy are anything but affordable. So the poor get subsides and the people who work are going to be poor from paying for this garbage.

    November 5, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  14. H.G. Wells

    Obama has lied about virtually every aspect of Obamacare. Oh, and Benghazi, Snowden, Syria, Libya, the deficit, the debt nauseum.

    November 5, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  15. stooges999

    problem is, they are all liars, starting with Obama, down to Boehner, Pelosi, the right, the left, the Tea Bag Party, etc.. What horrible horrible leadership, but then we have not had that in awhile...........

    November 5, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  16. Hope and Change

    Democrats, do you have buyer's remorse?
    If you like Slick Willy, you really must like Lying Barry.

    All you need now are balloons, crowds, music, banners, and two teller promoters to better communicate what the real "Unaffordable Health Care Act" really has in it. It is all in messaging. Right?

    Want some ocean beach front property in North Dakota? You believe anything want you.

    November 5, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  17. mike

    Oh so they've been paying for hateful,insensitive,bias t.v. n radio ads against democrats n especially Pres. Obama. Using their billion dollar status to incite n change the opinions of Americans n that's o.k. cause they donate money to hospitals? But Belafonte says something along the lines they pay to do n he's bad? Haha, pot calling kettle black!

    November 5, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  18. MIke

    Dont you Dems forget now............."Yes, We Can!"...................."Change is coming!" How goes it now?

    November 5, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  19. stooges999

    they are all liars, starting with Obama, right down to Pelosi, McConnell, Boehner, Reid, etc etc. No leadership at all anymore.

    November 5, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. onlymho

    another distraction – Obama and Hillary did this

    November 5, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  21. Fish

    I think the President should simply do a quick mea culpa and admit to miscalculating the response from the insurers along with the failure of the website because if the website were operable it may be possible to better mitigate the damage or at least better respond!!! The fact that his adversaries are attacking calling him liar should not go unanswered much longer, hell if it were I I'd say that I wasn't cut out to be an insurance salesman but then again I'm not the President and this is very serious!!!

    November 5, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Carrie

    Big Insurance had prevented me from obtaining Health Insurance, and I had to pay $25,000 last year for a few days in the hospital.

    Thank you President Obama for the Affordable Health Care Act, where 50 MILLION people like me can now be insured.

    50 MILLION folks deprived so fat rich white men make millions in salary for Big Insurance.

    Talk about being a racist!!!!

    November 5, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. irock

    Hcalla, You put your head back up your rear so far you cant hear. After a week you pull it back out and people have stopped talking about it. And when it`s brought back up you deny deny deny it ever happened,

    November 5, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  24. Jack

    CORRECT for CNN:

    "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.PERIOD" he said back then.

    November 5, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. Jack

    Missing from CNN:

    "If you like your doctors, you can keep your doctors.PERIOD" he said back then.

    November 5, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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