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

    Ok, in light of the most recent revelations of this president, can we all NOW agree the job is above his "pay grade"????? what a joke! Jimmy Carter is euphoric, he is no longer the WORST president in history.......AND, Carter was honest, so far as we can tell......another leg up on Obama

    November 5, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. tony

    It's not a lie. He has always told the truth. You losers are just saying he is lying like what you say has any credibility. just shutdown the govt again if you believe he's lying crap so much

    November 5, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  3. david

    Wow, what a liar, how did this guy got elected for a 2nd term?

    November 5, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. bryan

    I guess its not his fault after all math is a racist concept

    November 5, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. misterbilll

    More lies about his other can always tell when OWEbama is going to lie, he's standing up in front of a camera or a group of people and he opens his mouth to talk, you know a LIE is coming.

    November 5, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. ReadingisFundamental

    All plans bought by March 23, 2010 had the option of being grandfathered in. They were not required to meet many of the ACA provisions. The only caveat: they could not raise premiums, and could not significantly reduced coverage. Americans should learn to research and read before repeating false information.

    November 5, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. Me


    Come On CNN.. it's about time your news organization got it's facts stright. There is no such thing as Obamacare.... which is nothing more then a republican attack slogan. Call it what it is... THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT already... and be a TRUTHFUL, non-bias news organization for a change.
    Pot calling kettle black??? You liberals referred to the tax cuts during bush's presidency as "Bush's tax cuts" so now you don't like it when a piece of legislation is tied to your president. LMFAO you get what you DESERVE!!!! IT IS OBAMACARE!!!!! You didn’t mind it being called that when the country actually thought it was a good law! LOL

    November 5, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  8. tinwatchman

    Eh. Honestly? I can't say that I care all that much.

    November 5, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. Jacob

    Wah Wah Wah, all the cry babies who can live with other people living a miserable life just to survive, but when change comes for all of us to live life with benefits, the trash comes out and rolls back to their pre-existing nightmare scenario of the Bush era.

    November 5, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. George

    CNN and other news media needs to give this issue a rest. Its not really that important. At the end of the day the people that got the cancellation notices will be offered even better health insurance.

    November 5, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. Chris

    Why can't the president be honest and admit he made a mistake? Everyone makes mistakes.

    November 5, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  12. Big Gov

    I really MISS Bush.

    November 5, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  13. scad

    It is sounding like Obama himself has never really understood the play?

    November 5, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  14. bluesjordan

    Obama: So if you don't believe that lie here's my newest one!

    November 5, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  15. djacob

    Obama didn't break any promises, the government is not requiring insurance companies to cancel people–that's they're own decision.

    November 5, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. rufus

    "Changes promise" or admits a lie?

    November 5, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  17. scad

    It sounds like Obama himself has never really understood the plan?

    November 5, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  18. tony

    When I was in the business world, a person who had attained a high position, yet was totally in over their head and without a clue, was called an "empty suit". Mr. Obama is the poster child for "empty suits".

    November 5, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  19. glenview0818

    I have to use that one, "I am going to change my promise". I promise.

    November 5, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Trish

    Apologize and work with congress to amend his law, and then with insurance companies to help them provide the plans their clients can purchase. There is something else going on, no one is addressing. Insurance is one the largest businesses in the country, why are they not complaining more? There is some sort of deal, they lobby with millions, I want some one to uncover it.

    November 5, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. JL

    "Just 17% of Americans said they'll be better off under the law,"
    This proves something very significant. It proves that this law would have never been passed had Americans known what was in it. Had Obama and his administration told the truth, it would not have had the support to pass. That's why he lied.
    Is this the country you want to live in? One where bureaucrats create bills too complicated to understand and then implement on you? If we can't remove a law that the majority of Americans don't want, how is this a democracy, or a republic? It's become a dictatorship. Congratulations, we now all live in Cuba.

    November 5, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. glenview0818

    Hay George, what is the big deal? I will tell you, it is called a lie, I know you have heard of that before.

    November 5, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  23. Failure is not an option

    You know, it's George Bush and Dick Chaney 's fault.

    Okay, it was worth the try.

    Stop laughing now.

    November 5, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  24. Neal Richardson

    What was all the stuff about being the most transparent administration ever? A transformational Presidency?

    November 5, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  25. Pat

    The Republican beef is this: a person has their insurance cancelled, they can't get signed on to ACA because the site is down and the phone lines aren't working, they get sick or injured who pays for that? It isn't their fault their insurance got dropped. It isn't their fault they can't get signed up for new insurance. So what do they do in the meantime?? Not one person from this whole plan can or will answer that question. If you were paying attention you would know that that is THE question the Republicans keep asking. I would like to know. If I can't get signed up and I get sick what then??

    November 5, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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