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. vinster76

    you liberals own this, all of this, and the guy in the White House.......He's like Sergeant Shultz from Hogan's Heroes........."I see NOTHING"...................

    November 5, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  2. aNOY

    Do you have insurance?

    November 5, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. Taggert

    "I have altered the deal, pray I do not alter it any further"

    November 5, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |

    What? Another President lied? Shocking!

    November 5, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  5. Me


    Ok come on guys seriously, lets take this same situation over to a diffrent market and look how you sound.
    Lets say it was a car you drove and not an insurance policy. If you wanted to keep the car you liked (Mustang for example) there is nothing in the law that says you cannot keep it, but there is nothing in the law that says the company has to offer it either so if ford drops the mustang production do you go blame the administration for the loss,... um no.. its the car company that made the decision to drop the production, in this case the insurance companies are droping plans that are non profitable for them this could of happened at any time with or without the ACA you now just have a piviot point to stand on a soap box. Listen insurance companies have been droping plans for decades these letters are not new they are standard operating procedure in a for profit market called insurance.
    all the AcA did was enforce a standard that all NEW plans must adhear to in order to meet the law requirements and any existing plan would be allowed to be grandfathered in (caveot is that insurance companies cannot keep the older plans due to the profit and loss that would be incured to continue to service these plans, remember no one can buy into a grandfathered plan so the whole idea of a grandfathered plan was fleeting as it was never ment to last in any case. this is common definition for any grandfathered clause.
    Your logic completely fails, using your example, if the government (liberals) didn't create the law in the first place, Ford would still be offering the cars you used in your example!!! Therefore it is a DIRECT result of the law and the FAULT of the law, period (to use Obama's word, LOL)! If Obamacare was not put into law, these plans would not be dropped and people would still have them, plain and simple!

    November 5, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. maggie

    the reality is corporate insurance companies are only too happy to dump their consumers, they don't want to live up to a minimum standard of coverage and it's profits over health. Obama did this country a favor. Those insurance companies who dumped their consumers were lousy any way. it's time to step into something better

    November 5, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. Bill

    Come on Gang, all politicians are used car salesmen. They act like experts on what they are selling you, but have no clue if what they are selling even works. Once they discover it doesn not work, then they want to tell you how you can fix it.

    Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. Take what you get and like it or else.

    By the way taxes are going up.

    The Federal government employees will not be getting that 1% cost of living increase. And stay tuned for year two of furloughs as well.

    November 5, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  8. renaissancemon

    If you like your plan AND I LIKE IT TOO, I'll let you keep it.

    November 5, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. JoJo

    Lying is what I call it.

    November 5, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. DAVEnyusa

    DISGUSTING example of a person.

    November 5, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. Sherman1989

    He lied CNN, it is that easy. Stop trying to cover for Obama.

    November 5, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    "The cancellations will not affect most Americans, but they could hurt public support for the law." But that won't stop the press from trumpeting it as a failure of the law in order to hurt public support for it, despite the fact that it does not affect most Americans. What the media offers and what the simple-minded public use it for are killing all hope for this country. Think, America.

    November 5, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  13. Tim

    The anointed 1 speaks like a used car salesman trying to get the clunker off his lot. Funny thing is he is good at what he does because the general public is stupid and will fall for anything. Welcome to Obama Care everyone. It is like going to the store being forced to buy things you don't want. I am here to buy mild and eggs, you also will have to buy bacon along with tampons a bucket of nails and a rubber chicken before you can check out.

    November 5, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. ed

    god awful president

    November 5, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. prussian11

    REALLY need to fix the teleprompter ... keeps making errors the poor guy is getting blamed for again.

    Shouldn't the fact that the insurance companies were supporting the bill before it became law have been a clue it was not going to make insurance more "affordable"? Now the spin is that the coverage was inadequate and needed reform. THAT is why the plans are changing. NO you boneheads, the COSTS needed to be addressed and thus why it was sold as "affordbale care". Proving to be more expensive, with many getting exemptions, selective mandates, and at risk fo financial collapse since no one "healthy" is signing up to support the balance the risk analysis. (Costs will rise AGAIN when that becomes fact.)

    November 5, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. Trust they tell the truth

    It's easier to change a lie, than a promise!!!!.......oh, wait as Hilliary would say "what difference does it make". The problem is the takers outnumber the taken from.

    November 5, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. She

    I would like to say that for me personally, it has not made insurance more affordable, it has however made better insurance affordable, and that was my main issue with the previous assistance. THere was cheap insurance out there.. but to actually get any level of decent coverage you had to pay out the nose, there were a lot of insurance scams out there really, and that hurts everyone. This change means that if you want basic level coverage you can get it, but they cant mask it as something else and sell it to you for some inflated cost.

    November 5, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  18. Chris

    Liar in chief.

    That's not even miss speaking, or misleading, that's an outright straight up lie this president told. If he had any shame he should resign, but he doesn't so he should be impeached and put in prison. This is the united states, not sub Sahara Africa. This kind of lie from an elected official should in no way be tolerated. There should be severe life altering consequences if they tell lies like this.

    November 5, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  19. Joan

    Still love him,...,

    November 5, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. USCitizen

    The ACA laws forced all American to have health insurance coverage; however it can not forced the health care providers to lower the premium they charge to all Americans.
    The correct way is Obama should tell Congress to issue a NEW LAW to force all health care providers/insurer to lower the premium so that all Americans can afford to have health care coverage. Insurance Companies are sucking money from Americans and Obama has no power stop them from over charging.

    November 5, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. Jim

    Isn't he being honest? He said "keep your plan" when he was talking about the health care law he WANTED, in 2009 before it passed. After the law passed, he specifically said that you could keep your plan "as long as the insurance company doesn't change it".

    People keep taking things out of context.

    November 5, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. Lied To

    "Who ya gonna believe, me or your own lying eyes"?

    November 5, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. steve

    When a statement is then taken back it should be called what it is... a lie

    November 5, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  24. Failure is not an option

    When will we learn?

    Some didn't inhale, some didn't raised taxes, some didn't full around, some didn't promise, and some didn't lie.

    It's all in the meaning of the word "is".

    November 5, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  25. Smellferd

    Ok... Now that everyone finally sees this for what it is, can we please work together to bring massive pressure on our elected officials on both sides to repeal this and start over? It's never to late. We the people still run the show. Email or call your senator with a little reminder.

    November 5, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
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