CNN's Gupta on ObamaCare Dropping Millions From Health Plans: 'It Hasn't Been Explained Very Well'

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta – who was once considered for President Obama's surgeon general – gave cover to President Obama Wednesday in explaining his broken promise that Americans could keep their insurance.

"It hasn't been explained very well," Gupta said of millions who will be dropped from their health plans and who must buy insurance in the ObamaCare marketplaces. He also failed to note that Obama made his promise after the health care bill was signed into law, even though its provisions would force insurance companies to drop many health plans.

"Well, the disconnect is there was a law passed in between," Gupta said of Obama's 2009 promise and the 2010 health care law. Except on April 1, 2010 – nine days after Obama signed the ACA into law – the President said that "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 yet. It won't happen in the future."

So the President made the guarantee after his law was official, which would eventually force insurance companies to change many plans. Gupta's explanation seemed to give the President wiggle room that he only made his promise before the law was official.

Gupta listed the positives of the law (for those not being dropped from their insurance). He added that it's "overstating it" to say that the website's problems "are emblematic of a disaster unfolding."

Below is a transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on October 30 at 3:54 p.m. EDT:

[3:54]

JAKE TAPPER: But one of the big issues right now is people talking about President Obama's promise to voters in 2009 and afterwards, if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. And all of a sudden all these people are getting notices from their insurance companies canceling their plans. What's the disconnect here?

SANJAY GUPTA: Well, the disconnect is there was a law passed in between and as part of that law, the Affordable Care Act, it says people cannot be charged higher premiums because they developed an illness, they cannot have lifetime caps on how much the insurance will pay out. And there were plans that existed before the law was passed, Jake, that had those things. They could increase premiums. They did have caps. So those plans are essentially not available anymore. They're technically illegal plans. And if people had those plans, those are the plans that are no longer available and they're being told they have got to get a new plan. It hasn't been explained very well. And you're talking about 15 million people who buy insurance on their own, about half of those people are probably going to fall under this idea of getting their plans canceled because their plans don't meet criteria as they stand now.

TAPPER: And Sanjay, just staying with you for a second, obviously some of plans were what are called "mini-meds," not very comprehensive plans and they are now being forced to buy plans that are more comprehensive that the ObamaCare law mandates are more comprehensive. But not all of them fit that criteria, right?

GUPTA: No. There's different levels, different tiers of plans, first of all. But in terms of what people have to – or are being asked to buy or have to buy, mandated to buy, yeah, you're right, they don't all necessarily fit that criteria. But I think in some ways, Jake, that is the nature of insurance. Like you don't know for sure what you're going to need until you need it. And a lot of these things are group plans. So there's a lot been made, for example, of males buying coverage that covers maternity care and stuff like that. Part of a group, part of a society, part of a community, everyone's paying in to cover those things for the larger chunk of people. Otherwise it would just be pregnant women who suddenly have high premiums when they become pregnant. So that's the nature of insurance. And again, I don't think this has been explained very well to people. That's part of the disconnect.

TAPPER: And Gloria, one of the issues, I think – I asked President Obama about this in 2009, as a White House correspondent, about this, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan." And he explained what he meant by that was the government is not going to force you to get a different health care plan. Although of course the government could create a whole scenario, a whole situation where your insurance company or your business forces you. I guess it's –

BORGER: Blame it on insurance companies.

TAPPER: – live by the sales pitch, die by the sales pitch. Well – I mean that's what they're doing right now. But the idea is maybe if the promise hasn't been as stark in 2009 and afterwards, maybe they wouldn't be facing these questions today.

GLORIA BORGER: Right. And I think the wording is unfortunate. I think now the blame is going to shift. We'll see some blame-shifting going on to the insurance companies. And I think to Sanjay's point is that they had three years to explain risk pools to people, to tell young people why they need to kind of buy into this plan and young single men who are not married, why perhaps they ought to have maternity policy on their policy, so it will take care of some of their needs.

And so I think this whole notion of risk pool is something that people don't really understand and how they will be getting a better policy and in exchange for a little bit more money. Nobody's going to ask you about a pre-existing condition. So I do think the kind of – for an administration that's been pretty good at salesmanship when it comes to campaigns, I'm surprised this campaign wasn't better.

TAPPER: And Sanjay, obviously, we in the media, we don't cover the 1,000 airplanes that land on time and perfectly safely. We are paying a lot of attention right now to people who are upset about ObamaCare, people having problems with the website, people having issues with the fact that they're being kicked off their plans and being told they he have to buy new plans that are more expensive or have higher deductibles. But there are people benefitting from ObamaCare and we should take a moment to at least acknowledge that fact and talk about that.

GUPTA: I think it's a very fair point, Jake. And look, when we talked about this health care reform, I think a better description would have been insurance reform. You've talked about this, I've talked about it. But this idea that insurance reform offers protections to people who aren't joining the marketplace. So all the rest of us, people who have their insurance through their employers right now who are watching, they get some benefit in the sense that they, for example, preventive care now doesn't cost anything, that is free. You mentioned people being able to stay on their parents' plan up until age 26, that's for everybody, not just people joining the marketplace. But also this idea that insurance companies can't cap how much they'll pay out. If someone gets sick, you can get to your annual cap pretty quickly. You can get to your lifetime cap pretty quickly. That can't happen anymore. And again, those are benefits for everybody. So yeah, a lot of people are making a lot of this website. I interviewed the Secretary about this last week, we had a very candid conversation about. But the idea that it's emblematic of a disaster unfolding, I think is probably overstating it.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014