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. GlueckAuf

    The fatal Obama personality flaw, long suspected by those who've opposed him from the start, is now glaringly on display. He cannot admit failure, nor acknowledge his own fallibility. In less than a month, President Obama has gone from the inspiring, boundless confidence and audaciousness that got him elected twice, to annoyed hubris, to today's utter self-delusion regarding the power of his oratorical persuasiveness. He lied. And now he lies about having lied. And no one's buying it, as evidenced by his now 39%-and-falling approval rating.

    November 5, 2013 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  2. Pat A

    it used to be, when politicians did this, it was called a lie. sad how the lame stream media won't call it what it was...

    November 5, 2013 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  3. Let's get one thing straight...

    No one person in this world is perfect. And neither is Barrack Obama though he has my full support.

    Everyone has bent the truth a little on one or more occasions in their life. For any of us to deny it is sheer folly. No one would believe you. We grow up 'testing out' lying in order to get out of trouble. Eventually many of us mature enough to know that honesty really is the best policy.

    This article changes nothing. I would rather have a guy in office who deals in honesty 98% of the time, and who knows when it's the right time to bend the truth ever so slightly for the greater good. For true equality and justice for everyone.

    Had we voted for McCain, Palin, Romney and Ryan we'd have bowed down to those who lie, distort, deceive and strive to divide the people against one another 99.99% of the time. Yee-haw! Mavericks! You betcha, 47%, and corporations are people too! Thanks, but no thanks.

    It's going to be a long time before a Republican candidate earns my trust again. And from what I can gather they don't care one lick about that, so it could be a very long time.

    November 5, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  4. Suemac in WA

    This is for Eliza Deemer who said the following:

    "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."

    I only wish I knew the name of the school where you volunteer to brainwash young minds with your twisted, incoherent, ill informed clap trap so I could send them your post and get you kicked to the curb where you belong. How DARE you pollute these kids' minds with no regard for presenting unprejudiced information on such important topics? You are, in your way, no better than the Nazi propaganda machine that converted an entire nation to mindset fraught with lies.

    You are dangerous. You should be stopped.

    November 5, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  5. V

    “Since mankind's dawn, a handful of oppressors have accepted the responsibility over our lives that we should have accepted for ourselves. By doing so, they took our power. By doing nothing, we gave it away. We've seen where their way leads, through camps and wars, towards the slaughterhouse.”

    November 5, 2013 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  6. Evelyn Foreman

    I have worked for the largest managed care insurance company in America. I was shocked when subscribers called about unpaid medial bills to find many had no idea that their employer had paid for substandard policies which would not pay for basic healthcare until they or their family members needed the coverage. It sounds as if The Affordable Care Act will better meet the needs of the under insured. Obama needs to admit his inability to know this in his messaging so those effected can hear this and move on. I do not believe Obama was lying. Everyone needs to READ their medical insurance coverage. Far too many do not until it is too late.

    November 5, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  7. Jr

    Simply put, you cannot add 30 million to the free health care roles and not have the prices explode. This whole law was sold under false pretense. Of course, CNN did not fact check the information until after the presidential election. It is a shame, this law has effected many members of my family.

    November 5, 2013 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  8. Danlien

    We will see how well the A.C.A works. I just found out I have two hernias today. Dr. said it was from laughing at Congress too hard.

    November 5, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  9. Luposian

    We used to be on AHCCCS. But then we made just a little too much money to stay on it, so we were all dropped. My wife and son's pre-existing conditions made it impossible to get on anything else... so we went to Christian Healthcare Ministries.

    I grumbled about how we had to pay $450/mo (it will never go up, but it may come down!) for all three of us, to be Gold, but then my wife recently nearly died from her gastric by-pass "going south" (kinked) and turning gangrene. Well, $300,000+ in bills was reduced to about $132,000 and CHM covered $125,000 of them. Had we been on Brother's Keeper (which covers $1 million dollars (though I have recently been told by CHM reps that it is now UNLIMITED!), we'd have only had to pay for the Ambulance trips, (which they don't cover, except under a few specific cases), and NOTHING more!

    Yes, at Gold, you have to pay the first $500 (deductible), but they cover everything beyond that. I can't recommend them enough and will tell everyone I can, to go with them...

    However, you must be a regular church-attending Christian, living by biblically moral standards, to be on the program.

    That could be a deal-breaker for a lot of people, unfortunately. Good luck with ObamaCare, if that's the case! 😀

    November 5, 2013 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  10. Cowcharge

    "You lie!"-Joe Wilson

    November 5, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  11. Blue Penguin

    Why do you do this Mr. President? Why do you keep altering your signature? You are a liar. Your are probably even worse than Clinton. If Mccain had won five years ago, this would not had happened. Over 50% of the country thinks your a liar and would be remembered down in history that your a liar.

    November 5, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  12. PharmGrl

    Obamacare is all about Democrats' goal of easily manipulated 19 million Hapoy Subsidy Voters and 16 million Happy New Medicaid voters funded by phasing out the biggest tax deduction on IRS books, $250 billion per year for Employer Health Premiums.
    Obama's real definition of rich for tax hike purposes is $47,100 single, $94,200 family. Anyone who makes more than that and gets dumped into exchanges will get a tax hike, basically fund the subsidy for the Happy Subsidy Democrat next door.

    November 5, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  13. Blue Penguin

    You are turning our once beautiful land into a wasteland of lost hope and lies. Just stop trying and resign!

    November 5, 2013 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  14. Maxim Fedyay

    Obama lied many time,

    - He told, Obamacare will cost the same or even cheaper! like $50-$100 or something like this, but now, it is not right. My family is paying $95 for single person of family. However, with obamacare, it will raise up to $180 for one person.
    - The same with his words *If you like your plan (insurance), you can keep it.* It is another lie from him.

    How many times he lied to us?


    November 6, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  15. D. Vader

    "I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."

    November 6, 2013 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  16. RD

    Never mind that I lied to you. We have an even better plan. I only lied to 5% of the population. I didn't lie to everyone. If it's a broken promise, I didn't want to break an even bigger promise. blah blah blah. Give me a break you little man.

    November 6, 2013 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  17. Pete

    Sorry about lying to you. I really have a better plan that you can keep this time. I only lied to 5% of you. I didn't lie to everyone. I broke a promise but I didn't want to break an even bigger promise. Wow

    November 6, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  18. sd ca

    gratitude for life is the answer.
    equitable solutions elicit gratitude.
    depolarized policy and constructs reveal equitable solutions.
    you're all crazy
    in a good way

    November 6, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  19. Pete

    Honk if your paying for my healthcare

    November 6, 2013 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  20. Hutch4America

    Too bad Obama's parents didn't teach him that a failed promise or a "revised" promise is a broken promise. We all saw Obama say that "if we like our healthcare plan and our doctor, we can keep them, period." Now millions of Americans are finding themselves without coverage and without enough money to pay for higher premiums and deductibles (even if they get a government tax-payer-funded subsidy. Since Obama revised his promise, how about we revise his legislation to the "Unaffordable Care Act" - where you can't keep your plan, doctor, money, or freedom." Sad that many people will believe anything...and they can't see this as a classic socialist/communist case of utter deception and stealing from hard-working folks. The poor in America have always had decent healthcare through safety net hospitals, community clinics and medical professionals who volunteer their services. Now everyone's healthcare and coverage will be negatively affected because this plan is unsustainable and operated by a government that is ethically and fiscally bankrupt, and it's going to affect employer plans too...we've only seen the tip of the iceberg. Wish all you socialist/communist liberals would spend a year in China or Cuba or Russia or Canada or England or Iran or... and see why people want OUT of those systems. Well you won't have to make the trip as long as Dems are making our decisions for us since we are capable of earning wealth but not capable of managing our affairs. Where are all those liberals now who used to tell government to keep its hands off our bodies? You ain't seen nothin' yet...Obama and big government want "just a little bit more" control over our freedom and money. Where's our Patrick Henry!?

    November 6, 2013 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  21. BDR

    Obama for a third term...yeah!

    November 6, 2013 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  22. Denim57

    It's a sad day when America is reverting back to very same oppressive politics that brought about the revolution that led to this great nation. I don't want government to dictate my insurance coverage and I don't want to be taxed to pay for coverage for those who don't want to work. The poor have always had decent healthcare in this nation through clinics and safety net hospitals; now the healthcare and insurance policies of all the working classes will be negatively affected so Obama and the Communist Progressives can reward and recruit followers. The rest of us are being asked to keep working hard but let government spend our money and manage our affairs. We need a Patrick Henry!

    November 6, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  23. Chuck


    November 6, 2013 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  24. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    "I" have a NEW LIE
    to fix the OLD LIE
    TRUST "ME"

    November 6, 2013 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  25. sifto

    CNN will lose me and millions of others if you do not stop covering up Obama's tried to promote him and failed–he is thumbing his nose at all of you MSM types along with American people...give it up...

    November 6, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
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