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. Anonymous

    If you think the president did not know what he was doing then you are a fool. He knows exactly what he is doing and he has an agenda. His agenda is to destroy the United States. He wanted to have this entire health care crap fall apart so people are so involved with the healthcare situation and not paying attention to what else is happening. Then he can pass other plans that will cause even more damage to the US and we will have no idea until it is too late.

    November 5, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  2. BCB

    Wow, you Obama supporters amaze me. What else besides Obamacare do you need? We have the Fast and Furious which they are trying to make you forget with the Attorney General that the President won't allow our nation to see the real truth, the Bengazi attacks with plently of witnesses willing to testify that the Obama administration did nothing, which again which we are suppose to forget, the IRS scandal, the all out attack of 2nd amendment rights, and let us not forget about the bailout money and which entities received money that should not have. The is just a small portion under the current presidents watch.

    November 5, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. Elaine Ware

    In a legislation this big there will be changes and bumps. Obama should have given himself some wiggle room but he is trying to help so many people that have went bankrupt because of these medical plans and the people who cannot get insurance because of pre-existing illnesses . This country has such deep issues and it's not just President Obama. When you wish your country fails it will

    November 5, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  4. John Paul

    The Supreme Court should require Obama to show them his supossed birth certificate, and if he can't, they should remove him from office. REMOVE THE FOREIGNER!!!!!

    November 5, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. noillusion

    It's not socialism, it's not capitalism, it's CORPORATISM. I wish I was in France, where the naked ladies dance...

    November 5, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  6. Jonathan

    I know that this is not Obama's finest hour but compared to that idiot, Bush II, this is really nothing more than a bunch of conservatives taking shots at the president for lying. OMG! A president lying!? Lest you take my post as seriously flawed, biased, and without merit, lets go back a little bit. LBJ and that Gulf of Tonkin incident!? Nixon and Watergate and the bombing of Cambodia and Laos!? Reagan not arming the Contras (which was breaking the law AND he should have been impeached and booted out of office) and negotiating with terrorists!? Clinton not having sex with Lewinsky!? The idiot, GW selling the nation war in Iraq based on Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction!? Obama stated that people could keep the insurance that they hadand it turns out that he was wrong – I'll say it, that he lied. Where was all of your concern when LBJ was sending men to kill and die for a lie? Reagan blatantly broke the Boland Amendment which prohibited arming another country without congressional approval – where was your concern? Reagan also negotiated with Iran for the release of hostages. The problem with that is that the country has a policy of not negotiating with terrorists because it encourages more acts of terrorism and that's exactly what happened – Iran would release a hostage in a deal and then take more hostages to make more deals. Clinton having sex in the White House was immoral but did not break any laws. The problem there was that he lied under oath about having sex with Lewinsky. That's perjury and he paid a price for it. GW? GW deserves a special place in hell for all he did as president. Bush is responsible for 4500+ military personnel killed in Iraq for a war without reason or rational. More than that, some 100,000 innocent Iraqis (probably more like 500,000) were also killed as a result of the Iraq War. Ask yourself this – which was the more serious infraction, Obama lying about healthcare insurance or that idiot, GW starting a war?

    November 5, 2013 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  7. Namejerry ulness

    When you REALY love somone what would you do? Think than answer vWHAT WOULD I DO ? HERES A FEW KEY WORDS :;;::;::" Share,care,show,listion, direction,guided , think, feeling,I motions ,trust, TRY THE NEXT TIME BEFOR YOU ANSWER THE QUESTION & you will way ahead of most of us dumb men ? Think first & slow down & respect there thoughts then love will be there for you !!!!! Then BRING IT

    November 5, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  8. JJ

    Let me ask those of you who are in favor on the ACA this question: all of these plans have very high deductibles and the most affordable ones are either 60/40 or 70/30 coverage (the insurance company pays 60% or 70% of expenses after the deductible has been fully satisfied. The plan I looked at through my state exchange was a silver plan with a $12,000 you guys know anyone who would be able to afford that kind of out-of-pocket expense. A hypothetical situation: a person purchases insurance with an $11,000 deductible to keep premium costs down. This same person needs emergency surgery to the tune of $40,000. The insurance purchased is a silver level plan and the insurance company will cover 70% of costs after the deductible has been satisfied (70% of $29,000 = $20,300) which leaves the patient having to come up with $11,000 to satisfy the deductible and $8,700 to cover their 30% of the costs after that, for a total of $19,700. Now the person who purchased this insurance cannot possibly pay this debt – do you guys know anyone who has $20,000 in cash available to pay off medical expenses? So, the hospital bill doesn't get paid and the insured get to absorb that loss through higher medical costs and higher insurance premiums. So, what has changed from the way things work now? How is this plan going to make a difference when you potentially have millions of people who will go into sticker shock when they realize how much their health care is actually going to cost them aside from the premiums?

    November 5, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  9. Not-So-Affordable Health Care Act

    I am being racially discriminated against. Why else would the Obamacare application ask the race of myself and my children?

    November 5, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  10. SushiHammer

    If Obama was a Republican, the liberal media, such as CNN would already be screaming, "Impeach him."

    November 5, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. LowJoe

    @Elisa (Sheeple) Deemer. You should trim the wool covering your eyes...

    November 5, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  12. izzer

    Okay, here are the pros and cons of ObamaCare. Pro: 1) People who could not get insurance because of their current health problems, get coverage. Con: 1) The sick people are getting Medicaid–not "insurance". Medicaid is paid for by the taxpayer. That's YOU. Some are already eyeing raiding Medicare to get the money they will need for this train wreck. That's your granny. She's old frail and someone is going to make her pay more. Pro: 2) All insurance will be comprehensive. Con: 2) You will be FORCED to get insurance you don't need, like lactation services for a 58 year old man! Pro: 3) If young people don't mind paying a premium of about $300 or more a month and a horrible deductible of say $4,000, the cost of the sick people could be spread around to everyone but the sick people and you'll feel good about yourself. Con: 3)a) Young people aren't going to pay $3,600 a year and basically still pay for their medical bills because of that deductible! And that deductible resets every year. That's right, you will just keep paying premiums AND your own medical bills unless a tornado picks you up and you survive within an inch of your life. After you pay the first $4K in bills, THEN your insurance will start picking up the tab. Doesn't everyone have $4K just sitting around? Con: 3)b) If young people don't enroll, and really, who would, if they don't enroll, everyone's premium and/or deductible will go up again. And again, and again. OR your taxes will have to go up. Not just the rich, everyone. Forget getting that house. Forget travelling. Forget college without massive loans. Forget your future.

    The worse is yet to come. This is why Obama gave those waivers to small and big businesses. He didn't want the news agencies to pick up the millions and millions more who will lose THOSE policies, because those policies have to follow the same rule. If your insurance is EXACTLY like it was in 2010, you can keep the policy. But insurance is a business and rates and deductible fluctuate. I doubt anyone's policy is totally unchanged. So millions more of us, oh maybe 50 million more, will soon be in this same spot. And then there are the old people who pay for Medicare Advantage. Those policies changed since 2010 too and how many little old ladies will have to lose their coverage or choose between heat and insurance or food and insurance.

    What Obama really wanted all along is a giant social entitlement program where you are taxed–whether it is a rise in income tax or a large premium–to make the US a socialist country. And everyone was in his sights, the sick, the young, busiensses, old people. He doesn't care about you! All you youngsters, you tout European countries that have social medicine and how marvelous it is, but look at their income tax rates. You can look forward to seeing half your paycheck disappear in taxes. Period.

    Laugh all you want at all the old white men (including Paul Ryan) who said over and over again, that this would not work, that it would destroy YOUR future. You see, they weren't trying to fix their future, it was YOURS.

    November 5, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  13. karl from az

    Congratulations AmeriKA, YOU got what YOU deserve! All you need to know are these 5 things about ObamaCare: Poverty, rationing, decreased access, fewer doctors & potential bankruptcy!
    Or, to put it simply: You’re ‘screwed’!

    November 5, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  14. Colo001

    When are you people going to place blame where it belongs? The President and the left crammed this down our throats. Obama , Pelosi and Reid Lied and you are trying to blame the insurance companies?????
    They knew about this 3 years ago. They have dismantled the insurance industry and your still trying to blame anyone but Obama????? You people that voted for him are getting what you deserve and the rest of us are getting the shaft, Maybe you should turn off American Idol and start paying attention to what's happening in this country.
    Shame on you all

    November 5, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  15. James

    Liar and chief at it again...

    November 5, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  16. bill

    He lied then he just lied to us one more time.. He just can not tell the truth.... OMG !!!!!

    November 5, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  17. cuisinemanager

    Obama is not capable of refining or altering his promise. Millions can not keep their health care plans, period. If you like your doctor, you can not keep your doctor, period.How do you alter the truth, how do you alter a bold face lie. The TRUTH is you cannot, you can apologize for lying, you can be honest and say that if I did not lie I would not have been reelected...........period!

    November 5, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  18. maveric43

    This administration doesn’t get it.

    The American people are NOT looking for SUBSIDIZED health insurance premiums…..They are looking for AFFORDABLE health insurance premiums.

    Subsidized premiums take tax dollars that can be used for other purposes and use those dollars to pay for unreasonably high health insurance policies. This benefits the insurance companies

    Patient Protection AND AFFORDABLE care act.

    November 5, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  19. vinster76

    The better part of humanity wants to attribute the POTUS's comments to altruistic idealism..........the better part.......the part that wants to believe he is a real man..........I think the truth is more sinister.......I think he is a malevolent liar who lied to foist this horrific monstrosity on the American people.............Just remember when he spoke with Joe the Plumber who asked candidate Obama why he wanted to penalize the successful, money-making people of the United States. If you remember, Obama's reply was caught on camera when he said, "we just wanna spread the weath around" prophetic this statement is........He, and he alone, determines where YOUR money goes, to whom, whether you like it or not.......This is the monstrosity of Barack Obama

    November 5, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  20. Thomas Nichols

    If you like your plan, you can keep your plan, as long as it doesn't have anything to do with healthcare.

    November 5, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  21. MarcTheDuck

    Next... "Obama changes taking full responsibility for getting it working..."

    Change You Can Believe In!

    November 5, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  22. Big Muskie

    I am very disappointed in Mr. Obama. I am canceled and anything I'm looking at will cost more. As far as I am concerned, he can go smoke a fish turd.

    November 5, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  23. srcactus

    Obama was elected President not my Czar of insurance, automobile, condom, breakfast food and bicycle selection. Frankly his experience is no better than a snot nosed kid at choosing what is right for my family and me. But that is NOT the point, the point is he is a serial liar putting our well being at risk in a very danger world and has destroyed hie ability to be believed.

    November 5, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  24. Pat


    The ACA covers certain can make sure you are covered in spite of "pre-existing conditions," I beg to differ. I have read the ACA. After page 30 it goes from rahrah to what is coming. Now, as for pre-exisitng it clearly states that a person with a pre-existing condition will not be denied BUT, the case file for that person will be submitted to the Secretary to be reviewed by a panel. The panel will present the Secretary with one of three recommendations for this person. 1. Continue to receive care at current levels. 2. The level of care will be reduced. 3. There will be no more care provided. Another in there is Cosmetic surgery. If a person elects to have cosmetic surgery for reasons other than to repair deformity from accident or illness the person must pay out of pocket PLUS a 5% tax. IF the patient refuses or cannot pay the 5% tax the tax will be collected from the physician who performed the surgery. Take a good read of the ACA and start counting the taxes that Obama said were not taxes. They are listed in there as taxes. I lost count after 22 new taxes. Go read it. It is over 20,000 pages now and will make great reading while on the toilet.

    November 5, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  25. sam

    Why is everyone so surprised that middle class and above premiums went up? The money to pay for the lower class subsidies and multiple pre-existing conditions had to come from somewhere. The more people who opt out and pay the penalty the more those premiums will continue to rise. Some more of that fine print that was missed when Obama pitched ACA to the country, there is nothing preventing those premiums from rising. Insurance companies just have to choose their words carefully when they do so. Health insurance will become just like welfare. Why should I get a job when I can live off the taxpayers? There is no incentive to get people to work vice sitting at home. With the taxpayers eating the higher insurance premiums, what incentive is there for those receiving maximum subsidies to live a more healthy lifestyle? The answer is there are none. You folks are more than willing to pay for me to be on oxygen while I smoke 2 packs a day. Just like me seeing a nephrologist while I drink 7 days a week. Seriously, why should I do anything remotely responsible if you folks are willing to pay every bill I've got?

    November 5, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
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