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. tigertom

    His lips move when he lies!!!

    November 5, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. Bob Knippel

    "Getting it right for the American people" means getting Obama and the government out of American's personal lives, including their choices regarding health care.

    November 5, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  3. Failure is not an option

    Reading is fundamental.

    Congress should have read the legislation before passing it.

    November 5, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. hefailed

    Perhaps he simply "misspoke?"

    November 5, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. hefailed

    "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."

    Yeah, so what if he lied, is that what you're saying? The ends justifies the means. You'll be offered another plan...whether you wanted one or not.

    November 5, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  6. sofork

    Obama, Pelosi and Reid and their congressional allies have completely lied and deceived the American public on the Unaffordable Care Act. If you believe anything they say now, you are a certified village idiot.

    November 5, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  7. bryan

    I guess he drew a red line around keeping your plan

    November 5, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  8. Tuttlebot

    This is so indicative of biased reporting. The President lies about the intent of his affordable healthcare and CNN says he has "altered" his promise. By the way, he promised the "keep your plan" throughout his campaigning for office and this bill. It wasn't one soundbite along the way. Ugh.

    November 5, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. southerninsanity

    Stop covering for the President, CNN. Stop now.

    The "pledge" isn't being "altered." The "pledge" has been proven to have been a LIE. It's one of many LIES that has been told leading up to the implementation of ObamaCare.

    November 5, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. quillerm

    If Obama said ' We are Forcing Millions of Americans off of their current Insurance Plans and FORCING them to take plans that Government Officials will decide what you need as minimum coverage. The New Government Plans will cost over 100% more for Middle Class Americans and have double or triple deductibles. How many of you idiots want our new Obama Care? The answer would have been H _ LL NO!

    November 5, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. quillerm

    CNN has taken a major hit in viewers for helping Obama deceive Americans about ACA. Hope they learned their lesson?

    November 5, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. BE

    The ACA covers certain can make sure you are covered in spite of "pre-existing conditions," it can have some control/oversight over what services insurers must provide under their coverage, it can do some things to limit the gigantic rate hikes that insurers try to impose and have been imposing every year for over the past 10 years...BUT it CANNOT control many other things regarding how the INSURANCE COMPANY chooses to run their business. It cannot prevent the company from hiking rates at all. It CANNOT prevent companies from cancelling certain plans all together. This is because the INSURANCE INDUSTRY is a FOR-PROFIT business. Many countries with the best and least expensive healthcare systems are that way because THE GOVERNMENT RUNS THE INSURANCE...the insurance is NOT a for-profit industry and the result is better and cheaper care than what we have here. Obama is not to blame for decisions that our for-profit insurance companies make that are beyond the scope of the ACA. The ACA is imperfect, sure...but it cannot control every aspect of the insurance business b/c insurance is FOR-PROFIT in the USA, period. Until that changes, this is the way it is.

    November 5, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. Failure is not an option

    Lie to us once, shame on you

    Lie to us twice, shame on us.

    Thank you for the millions of you who voted this guy back for 4 more years.

    Only thing he said that is true, "elections do have consequences! "

    2014 & 2016, " Take Back America " has begun.

    Out with the progressive liberials.

    Vote Conservative.

    November 5, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    There are SO MANY TYPOS in this article! What's up CNN?! It makes it hard to believe what you're reporting is true when you don't seem to know the difference betweent "their" and "there". Take the time to get it right before you post online- it's worth the double-check!

    November 5, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  15. Jim Jimmerson

    He's done absolutely nothing but lie, he lied to get elected, lied to get re-elected. He's a crook, liar and a horrible leader

    November 5, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. Yesandno

    I would vote for this Great Man again. I have seen people get bankrupt for having BS insurance from these companies who is only in it to make as much money as they can. People complain about better coverage and better price, WTH.

    November 5, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  17. romany

    the ones really going to loose out in all this are once again the middle classes, ordinary hard working americans who make just a little too much for subsidies and dont get coverage at work or the self employed, always seem to end up the whipping boys

    November 5, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  18. Getoverit

    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 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. Marianne Warren

    Thankfully, I never believed in him, never made excuses for him, never defended him, never voted for him, never felt star struck by him, nor enamored, no fantasies, no erotic dreams, never campaigned for him, never donated to him, never stuffed an envelope for him, never pinned my hopes and dreams on him, didn't wager my children's future on him, never did I only watch biased media news sources for him, never justified the use of the race card for him, never bought into the hysteria of global warming, class warfare, or the war on women for him, and I never played the victim role for him. So don't look at me, my hands are clean.

    November 5, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  20. Fed up Citizen

    You mean he lied again? No way!

    November 5, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  21. irock

    People let`s not loose sight of the fact that the ACA is as of now at it`s lowest cost, It is scheduled to double then triple in cost. If you are disatisfied now you are really going to be tripping in 2015.
    This is one thing he did not lie about.

    November 5, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  22. McBob79

    No surprise... this isn't the first time he's done such a thing. It is the first time the media has to report it because it's so blatant. The dude thinks he can say and do whatever he wants and then lie about it or blame others to get away with it. #liar

    November 5, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  23. styx

    I voted for Obama but I'm getting really tired of his stupidity and lies.

    November 5, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. CryBabies

    @ReadingisFundamental...OK, I'll give you that BUT.. Did YOU know that when the bill was passed and 2) Why did President Obama not bring that info out in his saleable talking points? I don't know the answer to the first question...only your honesty will be appreciated there. Regarding the second question, he was not truthful to us because the bill would not have passed had he given us full exposure. That is deceitful and wrong coming from our elected leader. What has gone before does not matter. Its what we are dealing with now. No rational argument can defend his can spin it inside out but its still a lie.

    November 5, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. OU812?

    I had such high hopes for Obama when I first voted for him. Ok, not a great first term but I attributed that to cleaning up the mess left by Bush & Cheney. But this second term I am starting to regret my vote. What has Obama done? Ok, don't call it a "lie" but now that he sees the backlash over his statements he is trying to "reword" it. Come on, Americans are not stupid. Scrap the crummy law and next time I think I'll vote Independent. They all lie anyway.

    November 5, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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