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."

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.

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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. outlawgodsucks

    This guys lies about Keeping your Doctor in his initial speech and then he lies again about his lies! You cant make this stuff up! The POTUS used to be mostly an honorable position but now it has no credibility thanks to this useless man in the White house!

    November 5, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  2. i12bphil

    OMG! You people are so MEAN! Don't you understand that when Pres Obama fartz it makes butterflies and rainbows? If Obama were to get asthma the whole country couldn't breathe! He's the bestest president since Papa Smurf!! Because of him, my house is covered in gumdrops and all my neighbors are made of gingerbread! The trees are peppermint and marshamallow and the clouds are fluffy cotton candy!!!!!.....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  3. lapezeus

    "The ACA will work fine, you wingnuts blah blah blah Bush"

    That's me paraphrasing a comment I just read. How moronic can people be? It's unbelievable.

    I realize that facts don't matter to liberals, but I am going to try anyway.

    The military comprises less than 1% of the population. The gov't can't even administer their healthcare properly, yet we are all to believe that they CAN properly administer healthcare for 100% of the population?

    Hmmm.. Yeah, that makes sense. So tell me again how you are so much more educated than and intellectually superior to everyone else, libs.

    Thousands of e commerce websites, which sell more than 5 products, exist on the web today and they work FINE. The gov't can't even build a single website that literally sells a handful of products – for hundreds of millions of dollars, and with 3 years lead time – yet they CAN properly run healthcare for 200 million people?


    You people are deluded. You may not like conservative social ideology, and that's fine, it's your prerogative. But your distaste for all things conservative has truly driven you so far down the rabbit hole that your brain is not functioning past the task of controlling your internal organs as to keep you alive and breathing. It's utterly unbelievable. I am so shocked at the utter stupidity I see on this thread that I have to pinch myself ever so often to make sure this isn't some awful dream.

    November 5, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. baise-toi

    what a disgrace of a president

    November 5, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  5. Tiffany Young

    CNN and the other "bias" media had thousands of opportunities to tell the truth before OBAMA was elected. Now, we are stuck. When they roll out with businesses the following year, I can't imagine!? Will CNN continue to keep it quiet!

    November 5, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  6. Cheryl Mills

    jeff cooj

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

    That's actually really good, comparatively. Mine went up 59%. I had to drop it, because that makes 180% over the last two years, and I can't afford to have 25% of pay deducted for insurance.

    November 5, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. Matt

    There was a time I used to support this bumbling buffoon Barack. Please just go away.

    November 5, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  8. poopiefacetomatonose

    i feel like this isnt going to end well just a gut feeling

    November 5, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. Sean Johnson

    I dont see this so much as a lie as it is the insurance companies doing what they have always done – work the American public. The reason these plans are being cancelled is because the insurance companies are canceling them to comply with AHCA. The plans were never going to be able to be the same. But the insurance companies are supposed to be giving the customers it send these letters to all the options to save money and get BETTER coverage. Therefore – you cant keep what the insurance companies wont let you keep. THEY are canceling the policies. I am also reading that a lot of them in – questionable – parts of the country are using dirty tricks to scare people into signing up for coverage that benefits the insurance companies and not being forthright about all the options and subsidies you can get through the government. The press- all of it! – is fueling this "crises" as Obama going back on a promise, Obama changing the rules after the fact, the website "debacle" (which is just so par for the course with huge sites like this.

    So, here's how it will go down. The insurance companies who are playing their games will be outed and will pay the price. The website will be up and running and people will be excited at how much more they will get under this new law. Millions will be saving a lot of money and getting better health care. Texas, Alabama and all the other obtuse states who have fought this law on political grounds will start to lose money when people start to use the national exchanges....

    It makes for a good headline now, but every large rollout government programs have gone through the exact same growing pains. Even Romneycare. I, for one, am totally excited to get new, better, less expensive insurance!! I will wait till I hear the website is up and running smoothly and then I will go on and – shop! My insurace wont run out before the end of the year and I am hearing of tweaks to the deadlines for filing. It's gonna be o.k. people! This is a good thing to be happening, The AHCA.

    November 5, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  10. Matt

    These plans are terrible. Everything will be out of pocket for me unless I want to get a small loan to pay the deductible. Sorry an ear infection? Gonna have to deal with it....daddy doesn't have $3,000 to take you to the ER.

    November 5, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  11. SomeoneSomewhere


    "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."

    Shall we review the 935 Bold face lies of George Bush Sr., or the inumerable ones told by George Bush Jr?
    Iran/Contra alone stands for several hundred. Where was all the impeachment whining then?

    November 5, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. NorCalMojo

    It started off as universal coverage, then disappeared into 6 months of closed door sessions with special interest groups and insurance industry lobbyists...

    November 5, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  13. Larry

    From the interview with architect of ACA Mr. Gruber it turns out that there would be losers in health care reform, i.e. percentage of people who will pay more for insurance but get less. Even if this percent is small on the scale of entire country, it is unacceptable. What is the purpose of such reform? Who needs such crap? Instead of destroying corruptive health care model, which makes this country exceptional in spending much more money per capita than any other industrialized nation with the lowest outcome (read comparative statistics with Western Europe) and creating universal and really affordable system with emphasis on prevention Obama just makes a big noise around his signature health care "achievement", providing panic and mess in insurance industry which still remains as parasite on the body of American people.

    November 5, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  14. Ryan in Texas

    When they yelled out "you lie" I considered it disrespectful.
    Not any longer.
    When Reagan said he couldn't remember – the media didn't accept that as an answer.
    Obama seems not to know anything going on around him.
    Like a Chicago gangster. "I didn't see nuthin."

    November 5, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  15. Adam M.

    It's truly amazing. The progressive left actually feels they should have the power to decide our healthcare fate. Regardless of the unintended consequences, I am simply stunned by their arrogance. These jerks are essentially saying "just take your medicine, we know best".

    November 5, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. Terry

    "Most of the people who will have to pay more will get better insurance than what they had before."

    But I didn't need better insurance than I had before. And I do need to keep the money I have to spend to get this new insurance that I don't need.

    November 5, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  17. Paul White

    You Liberal Statists have voted away the individual freedom and choice for the entire country and your children and grandchildren. You also have signed your own death warrant. You don't think all of the other promises including the non existence of efficacy panels (AKA "death panels) that will decide what treatment you are eligible for will also be broken? Who then are you going to appeal to? No one. I'm glad I am a producer and EARNED enough in life to take care of me and my family. The rest of you Liberals can wait in line with the Welfare folks and get substandard care.

    November 5, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  18. 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 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  19. rosethornne

    The ACA includes the Republican requirement that private enterprise participate, rather than the single payer system the Democrats preferred.

    Because private enterprise, a.k.a. the free market, is involved, the government cannot dictate everything that is offered for sale. They can specify minimum provisions and such, but it is up to insurance companies to set rates and define – even cancel – the plans they offer for coverage.

    Perhaps if the Republicans had an idea of any kind, or a suggestion for improvement, or even anything more constructive than trying over and over to obliterate the program, some improvements could have been made in the years since the law was passed.

    November 5, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  20. Adam M.

    "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."

    Sorry Elisa Deemer, but you no longer get to blame the Republicans. Your guy has been in office for 5 years and rammed this law down our collective throats. The Dems have also controlled the Senate for 6 years. There was very little debate or compromise that went into this law. Public support was based on a repeated lie, that those that like their health insurance can keep it – period. The chickens are coming home to roost over Obamacare, and your side owns it.

    November 5, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. Seth Hill

    I'm a Liberal who supports Pres. Obama. But I'm very disappointed in this health-care debacle. The trouble is, the govt. lays down some rules, private for-profit insurance companies then see how they can get around the rules and make even more profit. Single-payer government health insurance, paid out of taxes, would be much better for everyone. Rich people could still buy their own "platinum" plans, the rest of us could get good health care. It works for the rest of the advanced world. (I'll add one additional suggestion: everyone should pay some taxes; poor people should pay a little, rich people a little more; if we all get benefits from the greatest nation on earth, we should all pay.)

    November 5, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  22. bob

    Changing a promise = Lying, Oblamea is a Liar and no liberal defection tactic is going to change 100 of promises he made. Everyone is going to suffer because of his deceptions.

    November 5, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  23. Dave Houston

    In the video shown here, it is sad to see The President of the United States of America spinning this issue his way by telling us a new lie to cover up a past lie that he made as a candidate and repeatedly used to sell this legislation.

    The US Citizens have said it over and over again. Have Congress and our President under the same Healthcare plan as everyone else and don't exempt the Unions and special interests. Only then will we have a fair ground to get America out of this mess that was created by Obamacare.

    The current administration both Democrats and Republicans are out of touch. This is simply ridiculous and as tax paying, law abiding citizens, we deserve better from our Government. Until we bring in smart business people and eliminate these complex laws in place, we may never get out of this.

    November 5, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. Just

    A narcissist will continue to lie as it suits.

    November 5, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  25. Greg C.

    Anyone that thinks Obama was "idealistic" and not telling us lies, has their head in the ozone. He knew exactly what was going to transpire. That's why Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid kept this all hush-hush and why there was absolutely no transparency despite the campaign lies told to Americans...that's why anyone with half a brain can think back to Nancy's comments about "you will all learn what's in the ACA bill once it passes"...sadly, it's taken us this long to finally learn how theme schemed and lied to mask the manner they intended to force people off of their own plans, giving Americans no option but to either be on the gov't plan or pay a penalty. That, in my book, deserves impeachment and anyone tied to this legislation passage should be forced out of office.

    November 5, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
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