Obama: For 98% Pledge Was Either True or They Wouldn’t Care It Was False

November 14, 2013 - 5:01 PM

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama speaking at his Nov. 14, 2013, press conference at the White House. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama said at a White House press conference today that he expected that 98 percent of Americans would either discover that his pledge that they could keep their health care plan under Obamacare was true or they would not care that it was false--because would get a better plan.

“My expectation was that for 98 percent of the American people either it genuinely wouldn't change at all or they'd be pleasantly surprised with the options in the marketplace and that the grandfather clause would cover the rest,” said Obama.

That leaves 2 percent of the people, by the president’s calculation, for whom the pledge was false, period.

Obama also said that when he said people could keep their health-care plan if they liked it he was thinking, among others, of people in the government’s Medicaid and Medicare programs.

“So when I said you can keep your health care, I'm, you know, I'm looking at folks who've got employer based health care,” he said. “I'm looking at folks who've got Medicare and Medicaid. And that accounts for the vast majority of Americans.”

Obamacare, of course, also requires employers to change the health-care plans they provide to their workers so that they include newly mandated benefits--such as for free sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients.

During the national debate over Obamacare, Obama repeatedly made his now-notorious pledge that people could keep their health-care plans if they liked them. However, he offered a particularly definitive and unambiguous version of the pledge during a speech he delivered in Portland, Maine, on April Fool’s Day, 2010—a week after he signed the Affordable Care Act.

“So now that this bill is finally law, and all the folks who've been playing politics will finally have to confront the reality of what this reform is, they're also going to have to confront the reality of what it isn't,” Obama said in that April 1, 2010 speech.

“They'll have to finally acknowledge that this isn't a government takeover of our health-care system,” he said. “They'll see that if Americans like their doctor, they will keep their doctor. And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn't happened ye. It won't happen in the future.”

It won’t happen in the future,” Obama said the week after he signed Obamacare into law.

In that speech--as he promised Americans that under Obamacare “no one” could ever make them change their health-care plan--Obama said nothing about this pledge applying only to plans that were “grandfathered." He did not say he was thinking of people on Medicaid or Medicare.

He said: “It won’t happen in the future.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Major Garrett of CBS News asked Obama: “Did you decide, sir, that the simple declaration was something the American people could handle, but this nuanced answer you just gave now was something they couldn't handle and you didn't trust the American people with the fuller truth?

“No,” said Obama. “I think, as I said earlier, Major, my expectation was that for 98 percent of the American people either it genuinely wouldn't change at all or they'd be pleasantly surprised with the options in the marketplace and that the grandfather clause would cover the rest. That proved not to be the case. And that's on me. And the American people--those who got cancellation notices--do deserve and have received an apology from me.”

In responding to an earlier question from Garret, Obama said his “working assumption” was that “the majority” of the “5 percent of the population” in the individual markets would not be forced to change their plans. He also said that it was not his “intention not to deliver” on his promise.

“With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan you can keep it, I think and I've said in interviews that there is no doubt that the way I put that forward, unequivocally, ended up not being accurate,” said Obama. “It was not because of my intention not to deliver on that commitment and that promise. We put a grandfather clause into the law, but it was insufficient.”

“Keep in my mind that the individual market accounts for 5 percent of the population,” said Obama. “So when I said you can keep your health care, I'm, you know, I'm looking at folks who've got employer based health care. I'm looking at folks who've got Medicare and Medicaid. And that accounts for the vast majority of Americans.

“And then for people who don't have any health insurance at all, obviously, that didn't apply,” said Obama. “My commitment to them was, you're going to be able to get affordable health care for the first time.

“You have an individual market that accounts for about 5 percent of the population, and our working assumption was, my working assumption was that the majority of those folks would find better policies at lower costs or the same costs in the marketplaces, and that the universe of folks who potentially would not find a better deal in the marketplaces the grandfather clause would work sufficiently for them.

“And it didn't,” said Obama. “And again, that's on us, which is why we're, that's on me, and that's why I'm trying to fix it. And as I said earlier, I guess, last week, and I will repeat, that's something I deeply regret, because it's scary getting a cancellation notice.”

“It's important that we're honest and straightforward in terms, when we come up with a problem with these reforms and these laws, that we address them,” said Obama.