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.

Debunking 4 Obamacare myths: Both sides get it wrong

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."

Obama 'can't go back' and change Obamacare

"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.

6 things presidents wished they hadn't said

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. Rick D Miami

    Here he goes again, explaining his lies!!! That's a bunch of $%#&. He is never responsible for anything that fails under his clock? Who is he going to blame now? He never knows anything. Does he think we are stupid? What a joke!!! If you like your insurance, why does it need to be changed????? If 27 million people are not insured, how could this cost $600,000,000
    We had a total of 6 people enrolled the first day!!!!!! "We have to pass the Bill so that you can find what's in it" "Nancy Pelosi, March 10, 2010".

    November 5, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  2. nyse777

    “First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.” – Barack Hussein Obama, July, 2009

    November 5, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  3. dwstick

    So, Obama is still denying that he said 'if you like your current healthcare plan, you can keep it", even though there are something like 29 recorded instances of him saying EXACTLY that?!
    Candy, read the transcript!

    November 5, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  4. Jaime

    He had his fingers crossed when he made his pledge.

    November 5, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  5. Chris

    I know one think though. People will move away from Democrats thanks to Obama:)
    As a matter of fact, in next election, they should vote anyone that is not Democrat or Republican:)

    November 5, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  6. bryan

    obama is turning this country into a banana republic

    November 5, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. id

    He really said "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, PERIOD"... what does PERIOD mean?

    November 5, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  8. Me

    The Real Tom Paine

    No one has died as a result of having to change to a policy that meets a basic standard of coverage, but plenty died in Iraq over a lie. I guess our soldiers being killed for a lie was acceptable, but being moved to new policies is: what is more outrageous is that people may have to sacrifice some time away from watching "Honey Boo-boo" in order to do so. Wow, what a sacrifice.
    Do you have proof of this claim real tom??? It very well could happen, if an individual’s cheap catastrophic coverage insurance was cancelled and they couldn't afford the "better" coverage and something catastrophic happened and that person died, that is a direct result of this law!!! Do you have proof that this hasn't happened or couldn't happen??? I bet not!!! And by the way, prove Bush lied, maybe and more likely, he was lied to by his advisors or whoever stated Iraq had WMD!!! I am pretty sure Bush didn’t do all the research himself. Remember, there were a LOT of Dems that voted to invade Iraq too so you must be calling them liars as well. All they can do is act on the information they were given! Obama knew this was going to happen, look at the notes from his Obamacare “war room” as well as his statements trying to dance around his lie, he knew!!!

    November 5, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Lardoggy

    I thought Carter was the worst keeping us in gas lines,but Obama what a lying loser,i would like to thank the people who voted for him giving us the biggest healthcare TAX and reducing welfare people $200.00 dollars a month,NICE GUY,Oh and the 17 trillion debt we have now (7 trillion to 17 trillion in 5 years wow)What a ACE in the hole!

    November 5, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. Dan

    1) people don't know their plan isn't sufficient until they get sick. The plans that are cancelled have annual and/or lifetime limits, which are now illegal. Basically, this means that if you get cancer, you won't be able to "run out" of healthcare. Essentially, the government has made "rationing" of healthcare illegal. Funny eh?
    2) Only 17% think they will be better off under the plan. You know what the size of the individual healthcare market is? About 15%. For the vast majority of us that have Medicare or Employer based coverage, Obamacare doesn't change anything.

    November 5, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. smiley jackson

    Only in the media is a democrat's "changed promise" not called a LIE.

    November 5, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. Kat

    Has anyone seen a percentage on how many people are affected by "employee insurance increases due to spouse can get their insurance from their own employer"?

    November 5, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. ernier

    i have been a strong supporter of the president and still do feel he is a good man trying to do enormous things but i think this health care law may very will tarnish his reputation he really had to do one thing fix it and as americans we all know what wheard when he said if you like your health plan you can keep it than that's the way it should be

    November 5, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Failure is not an option

    Can CNN be objective? Non bias? Provide journalistic integrity in asking the tough questions and reporting what is happening with the roll out of the Affordable Health Care Act?

    November 5, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. bryan

    honestly how would any of you Obama fans want his statements taken by a jury at YOUR trial?

    November 5, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. MykeTheVet

    Don't kick the true Decmorat's when they're down, Republicans/Libertarians.

    Let them realize what *most* politicians do so we can all unite and start putting these liars behind bars.

    We need a third party as POTUS.

    November 5, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. John Illinois

    Obama is so full of it no one should believe anything he says! All this garbage should be making everyone want to vomit! He is a complete disgrace and the worst president in history!

    November 5, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. Megan

    Okay well thanks Obama because I loved my plan and now it is going to be canceled and the plans that I have been offered are worse! Again thank you for looking out for me, lying and making my life harder.

    November 5, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |

    one putz here actually went back to Iran-Contra scandal to show that it's the Republicans fault...... it's obama's PERIOD.

    November 5, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. AquaticSoda

    What was everyone expecting? If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. It's sad, but we have ourselves as a nation to blame for hanging upon every word like a bunch of suckers. And indeed, it sucks to be us right now!

    November 5, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. Failure is not an option

    Remember the comment to Joe the Plumber?

    Redistribution of wealth is the foundational change that will be brought to America.

    That is and will be the legacy of this administration.


    November 5, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. santana2di

    There is no doubt in my mind that this President has done more damage to credibility due to this blatant deception, to honesty in Government {wishful thinking} than any other President in our history. This charade is a disgrace to all of us. Ask yourself do you really believe this Obama Care plan is going to provide you cheaper health care? Or is it going to make the Insurance industry salivate more then they already are. If it is good for the people then why is it not good for the Congress? Ask your selves.

    November 5, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    All those thieving insurance companies are running for the hills and dropping all their "Brain Washed" policy holders in the dust.

    No more hike in monthly premiums, no more discrimination on pre-existing, no more telling Americans to F-Off, the insurance companies can go F-Off!

    November 5, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  24. deee510

    I read that there are alot of reporters printing negative obamacare stories that they havent fact checked and are straight lies.that will be interesting being that all the haters ate drooling happy to see obamacare fail and the facts dont support your stories

    November 5, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  25. cdub2k

    Obama's promises are worth slightly less than used toliet paper

    November 5, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76