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)

    When any man goes back on his word, ANY MAN, he is not worthy of trust nor support. Obama has lied to the American public on the subject of folks who like their insurance being able to keep it, then he as lied again today saying that is not what he said. I my opinion, he should be impeached for lying to the American public. We can no longer trust this man with our Country!

    November 5, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  2. Robert

    If he can strong-arm us into accepting ACA, why can't he strong-arm the insurance companies into letting us keep our plans??? I got a letter from Cigna cancelling my plan effective Jan 1st.

    November 5, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  3. jeff cooj

    Just got my enrollment for 2014 from my employer. My new monthly premium went up 14%. Thank you Mr President.

    November 5, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. Jack

    My G0d, you people are completely stupid. It's really sad how stupid. In hindsight, it is becoming obvious that we never should have taught you stupid people to type. The online world would have been so much better. You should be forced to write these idiot diatribes out by hand with your boogery pencils and mail them directly to a paper recycling facility.

    November 5, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  5. Me


    Hey repubs, can you please scale back on all that WHINING. .... it is so pathetic.
    Hey liberals, can you please scale back on all the brown noising, Obama doesn't care about is so pathetic!!! LMFAO

    November 5, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. Fabjan

    Always remember, content of their CHARACTER, not the color of their skin.

    November 5, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. Juan in El Paso

    Well... It was all about Hope and Change, so why would anyone be surprised?

    November 5, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  8. notademoratnomorearepublican

    We just got the news regarding our health insurance after January 1. We will be paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment every month with a $5000. deductible per person in our family. We do not wish to be without insurance, but that is definitely not within our budget. I'm thinking Medi-share????

    November 5, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. Maine liberal

    Big insurance will still determine what is paid with co-pays and no-pays`

    November 5, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. i12bphil

    What have we learned, folks? Democrats lie. Democrats only care about your vote, and beyond that, they don't care one iota. You are a statistic. A number and nothing more. Once you vote, that's all that counts. After the vote, you're nothing.

    November 5, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. Karen

    Obamacare offers affordable insurance to folks on the lowest end of the pay scale, but kills the middle to upper folks with increase of 50-100%. We offer affordable solutions to Obamacare. If you insurance rates have increased check out my website.

    November 5, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. jj

    he is a liar, bottom line. does not deserve the respect the office of president should command.

    November 5, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  13. JAFO

    I don't think you'd see more backpedaling if they ran the tour de France backwards. I honestly don't think Obama was lying. I think he said what he did out of ignorance because he's idealistic and relatively inexperienced as a federal politician. Because of that, I'm guessing that he doesn't realize he that he's going to paint himself into a corner, then listens to the advice of people far more experienced and far less honorable about how to get himself out of it. Anyone who's had experience rolling out a major project without first piloting it on a limited scale to work out the kinks (i.e., discover the unintended consequences of said project,) is a very risky proposition. What he could have done was to admit to the mistake and explain it in honest terms that the cancellation of certain health care plans was an unintended consequence of the program since they don't directly control what the insurance companies do. Instead, you get the kind of slimy backpedaling that we've come to expect from our elected officials. That behavior is born of pride and ignorance – it's as simple as that. The sad part is that they actually think they're fooling people with it.

    Insurance companies do the things they do so that they can make money. When you restrict how they can make money, no matter how noble your intentions are, they will still find a way to make money, whether it's canceling certain health care plans or simply jacking up the rates on the rest of us. My premium has almost doubled in the past two years. Our benefit provider unambiguously cited the ACA as the direct cause for the rate increases. In effect, instead of giving to the needy of my own volition and on my terms, the government is now compelling me to do so on their terms. We know empirically that any time the government puts their hands into the pot, it's fraught with waste and abuse. I used to have a sense of obligation to stay tuned and stay informed whenever our government spoke to the general public. Now feel like I need to take a shower whenever the government announces something to wash off the slime of their rhetoric. 'nuff said.

    November 5, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. williamsunset

    It's called Affordable Care Act… yeah, and that's why we're paying more.

    November 5, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  15. Elisa Deemer

    CNN, Please stop the propaganda!!! Please start reporting from the pros and cons of the ACA Law "Obamacare".

    Mr. Turner gave all of you a platform to tell both sides of a story to ensure the globe could make good decisions. Why cant you report on the insurance companies lies and the house of representatives who"lied" about job plans, immigration plans, budgets, and even healthcare.


    Thanks to President Obama, Americans can successfully witness, report, and see the truth about the real lies due to a old broken healthcare systems that insurance companies have promoted for decades while causing Americans to become dragged down by debt. America has a president that cant be bought, who has a big heart that has put his career and family life on the line to help Americans everyday and all ungrateful Americans can do instead of trying to assist with making this world a better place for working individuals and children coming up today is call the President a liar. It was very disgraceful when the President was called a liar at his very first address in front of children and the world on national TV in 2009 and in 2013 CNN is now making this graceful behavior even worst because your reporting is so one sided. For over 50 years many presidents had tried to get fair and affordable healthcare system and never succeeded. President Obama did NOT sit on his bottom in the senate like many in congress have done for years. President Obama has wanted to make a difference so he worked in the communities, studied to get an education, became a senator and became president. How may under 55 year olds can say they have accomplish this goal? NOT MANY!!!

    Finally, Americans can sign up for affordable healthcare. No, its not perfect YET but its a start AND now so many don't have to ignore taking care of themselves, and their families because prior to ACA they could not afford the insurance or even better yet Americans who are in dead in jobs just to keep a healthcare plan that didn't cover everything wont have to take it anymore.

    I volunteer to help young children with their critically thinking and debate skills for everyday current events and through the eyes and hearts of the middle school children they are realizing that corporations, and media don't have a need for middle class families anymore. They revealed to me that they believe globalization has destroyed the morals of Americas working class and they feel that it is sad that our media has fallen so low to ensure our intellectual properties are gone. Instead of promoting success for children you are promoting hate and failure because you seem to believe that only the very wealthy matter and you don't feel the need to rub elbows with the truth any longer and you only care about ratings.

    November 5, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  16. deee510

    When will cnn report the truth about some of obama haters going on national tv lying and making up negative stories about obamacare?they were prooven to be lying and the reporters never fact checked

    November 5, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  17. williamsunset

    It's called Affordable Care Act… yeah, affordable for some but the most of us are paying more now.

    November 5, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  18. John Ashton

    Healthcare for everyone; at last we will be like the rest of civilized nations of this world, isn't that great ! Three years from now all the doubting thomases will be able to relax and realize how ignorant they were for trying to brainwash the mass of society with their alarmism foolishness about how terrible Obomacare is.

    November 5, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  19. rick

    Why with the price of gas and food going up do you allow my insurance to go up???? Now with the fact I have to pay for the rates why work???? It will be 75% of my monthly pay.

    November 5, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  20. NCIndependent

    Obama, this is like trying to finish building a plane after it has taken off. You lied to us all. No do-overs. Since you are an admirer of Abe Lincoln, remember what he said: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

    November 5, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  21. Are they up to 7 yet?

    "If you like your current insurance company you can keep it, period."

    We forgot to mention the * with all the small print.

    Sincerely, POTUS

    November 5, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  22. Ryan

    Who is this MIT guy? Most people will pay more next year including me, and I work for a large company. We have to pay for those who couldn't get insurance previously. Why do we have to make this so political? Most of us will pay a little more to help the few who are in rough shape. That could be good or bad depending on your perspective. I just wish the truth would be told.

    November 5, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    some how liar liar pants on fire just doesnt cut it

    November 5, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  24. Chris

    It is simple. Tell the truth or lie. Either we can keep our insurance or we can"t. The idea that it may be for our benefit is not really the point. We can't keep our policy's, so it is a lie. Can't everyone see that? Or are we failing as a country to read and understand anything? I am sad to say how stupid the American people are to grasp a simple statement. STUPID is not a compliment and it is not a political party. Either you get it or you don't and some of you don't.

    November 5, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. Bill

    To quote a famous congressmen...."You Lie!"

    November 5, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
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