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. Rudy NYC

    longfisch wrote:

    Posted February 22, 2010

    President Obama released a new health care plan today, which CBO admits cannot be scored due to lack of sufficient details. House Republicans have had a health care plan for months. It was scored by CBO in November. Yet, Democrats refuse to consider it as a viable option.

    You don't have to like the proposed Republican Healthcare law from 2009, but my guess is you didn't even know it existed since you stated this in our comment above, now you do.
    Do you even know what the Republican Plan actually was? Wire knows about the Republican Plan. I've been posting about it for weeks and weeks now.

    It was an unfunded, massive giveawy of Medicare, so big that they don't even want to talk about it anymore. Not since the "cut spending" crowd took over the party, the Reublicans have stopped talking about their "Health Care Reform Plan"

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  2. michael

    These retardlican anarchist, secessionist, bigots, who never wanted this president to succeed, and voted against, stalled, filibustered or tabled everything he tried to do that would benefit this country! Thank God the stimulus, banking regulations and Obamacare was passed before these tesnuts took over! President Obama has not received any help from retardlicans, GOP (garbage of America), its his executive orders which bypassed congress and the stimulus program that turned this economy around! This started happening way before the sequester which was President Obama's idea! Now the GOP (garbage of America) is taking credite for its deficit saving with the medias help! If, the GOP would work with this president to make Obamacare a better program instead of trying to crash and burn it, America would benefit! Of course the news media would have non of that, because it craves and lives on controversy!

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  3. mookie1972

    JohnNY, that may work well in NY, but the guy in Iowa now has few choices and the premium for choices he has just went through the roof. Way to look at it through someone else's eyes. Those farmers are now screwed.

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. ObjectiveGuy

    Liar, liar, pants on fire! Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and the whole crooked bunch should be thrown in jail for life. How dare they intentionally mislead the American people for their own selfish purposes. Everyone knows that Obamacare and "immigration reform" are merely ploys by the Democratic party to buy more voters. Sorry, but my tax dollars are not intended to pay for programs to insure Democrat voters for life. Every part of this is WRONG!!!

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. Emilio Sforza

    If you think the individual mandate is bad wait until the employer mandate kicks in..were already seeing radical adjustments to our insurance due to ACA, I predict by this time next year employees will be steaming mad.

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. Slexs

    Remember when Nancy Pelosi said :
    "We have to pass it, to find out what’s in it”
    "That's the definition of a stool sample".

    That pretty well sums it up.

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  7. george

    He sold those that actually believed socialized health care was good for this county, even those such as England who say it is not affordable and lowers your health care, a book of lies to get this bill passed. Anyone else tired of democrats blaming insurance companies for canceling your plans? I think insurance companies should bear their share of the problem, but obama's law forced them to do this because if they do not meet his requirements the policy is not enforced anyway.

    November 5, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. Mario

    The President should look into his own 'special' insurance for mental health coverage.

    I believe the medical insurance reimbursement code for Pathologic liar disorder is 297.9 ( Pseudologia Fantastica )

    It is a disorder where patient (Obama) can't differentiate lying from reality.

    Sad case and not yet diagnosed, but we are all suffering the consequences.

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  9. ab608

    Come On CNN.. it's about time your news organization got it's facts stright. There is no such thing as Obamacare.... which is nothing more then a republican attack slogan. Call it what it is... THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT already... and be a TRUTHFUL, non-bias news organization for a change.

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. SteveM

    I was paying $550 for a family plan with a $6K deductible that was recently cancelled. The nearest like plan I could find on the exchange was for $970 with a $5K deductible, so I now I can pay $5K more annually so I can reduce my deductible by $1K. Who says government isn't efficient?!

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  11. John Rosen

    It all depends what the definition of "You can keep your policy if you like it" means. I believe that Clinton said similar words to the above when he was President.

    Furthermore, Obama now states, " I did not have anything to do with those cancellations". Yep, the smooth talker will try to worm his way out.

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  12. JOhn

    Totally disheartening...a liar- I say impeach him!!

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. sisterchef

    That makes sense...if everything stays the same, it can stay the same. If any part of it changes, all of it may have to change. The plans changed. After the fact. Why aren't we asking why the plans changed?

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  14. Dan

    Totally BS. This travesty has shown what kind character our president has (or lacks). Complete embarrassment.

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  15. ogona

    And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested.― George Orwell, 1984

    November 5, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  16. OrmondGeorge


    If you want to be gracious, you could say that everyone makes mistakes
    STOP your whining you partisan BABIES

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  17. lobo

    He is a total fool. He blunders daily it seems. He is so sad.

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. PJH

    And what was the Republican plan gaian to ensure that most people are covered, that pre-exisitng conditions don't fofeit coverage, that there are no caps on treatment costs, etc.. etc.. etc.. Oops, sorry I forgot, they don't have one. That's because they are bought and paid for by the big insurance companies and this hurts their profits. Obamacare may not be perfect but at least someone is trying to drag the U.S. health care system into the 20th century

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  19. Steve

    obama is a pathological liar... that became easily apparent from the very beginning when he openly claimed and still claims to be black... yet his mother is white. .. which is an obvious lie to those paying even the slightest attention.

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  20. Stephen

    Lots of hate on here about Mr Soetoro. Not like as if you weren't pre-warned. You voted for him, now, live with the consequences.

    Besides, SNL depicted it exactly right. No matter what obama is, says, or does he gets a pass.

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  21. s~

    Why do we put with LIARS?

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  22. Terry

    I am so happy I didn't vote for this clown. However, a bunch of clowns voted him in and I'd like to thank all of them for doing that.

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  23. Keith ..... in Oregon

    You can spin the details or parse words all you want. There is no denying that our president is a pathological liar. In another time he would be selling snake oil and most of the citizens would be buying.

    November 5, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  24. Agnostickids

    So for all the outcry amongst the conservatives – my favorite being, "Obama has lost all my faith"…as if they ever liked Obama in the first place – I ask you to create a better health plan.

    NOBODY in America, except for the 1%, can say they have good health insurance. President Obama is trying to change this, so that everyone can have a chance to be healthier.

    Conservatives have NO plan, except to feed the insurance companies, keeping them rich, powerful and untouchable, while we common people suffer.

    Why do you people EVEN SUPPORT conservatives? Are you that daft???

    November 5, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  25. Libdumb

    I heard what he said and it was nothing more than lies just like any common dictator. Thank God for the 2nd amendment.

    November 5, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
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