September 9th, 2009
05:46 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama: 'If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out'

The White House has released excerpts of President Obama's address to Congress tonight:

EXCERPTS OF THE PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS TO A JOINT SESSION OF CONGRESS TONIGHT:

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.

Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.

***

During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.

We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups and even drug companies – many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:

It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge – not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans – and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.

***

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

That's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan – more security and stability.

Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.

***

This is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight – Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed – the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.

##


Filed under: Health care • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (344 Responses)
  1. Dave

    "Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition." This will result in higher costs to the insurance industry.

    "They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime." This will result in higher costs to the insurance industry.

    "We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses". This will result in higher costs to the insurance industry.

    "And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care". This will result in higher costs to the insurance industry.

    So, after raising the cost of medical insurance across the board, we then hear the promise that insurance is going to *cost less*.

    Would some rational economist please drop in on the President and explain ECON 101 concepts? Please?

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  2. walt

    When the Clintons tried for health care, the AMA and Big Pharm shot them down quickly and harshly. How come that isn't the case with Obama's plan??? Could it be because those two groups (who already OWN Washington) would stand to make MORE money if his plan goes into effect? 60% of bankruptcies are in some way due to medical costs (whether people are insured or not, most of us are 1 major medical cost away from bankruptcy and unless Obama tells the AMA and Big Pharm to LOWER their prices, then he should expect the status quo).

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  3. b.landin

    The quote below from a comment made above fails to note that the President has "refused " to meet with Republicans on the issue since April of this year. It also fails to note that the Republicans have been totally excluded from all healthcare meetings by both Pelosi and Reid. So who's failing to communicate/negotiate – it's the democrats in spades!

    Quote from above: "If only the GOP would play ball and at least MEET with the President to talk about this. To date they won't even do that!"

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  4. whatever

    If Obama's door is always open, why did he not hear the millions of American's saying they don't want gov't run health care? Hmmmm

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Steve

    Nobody knows the specifics of the plan of which he speaks. Without health care in its current proposed format, businesses will not go bankrupt nor will the economy be adversely affected. Lack of health care impacts without the coverage or have been dropped due to illness, etc. The plan needs drastic tort reform, allowance for obtaining insurance across state boundaries which will then provide competition in the market place thereby reducing costs. A public plan is fine provided it is only an option. The plan as hatched in the House is socialist in nature and has proven ineffective for both cost and access. Additionally, their plan is more about more government control and it is fixing the problem.

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  6. Gary

    Glad so many of you out there are willing to give up your freedoms and most of your paychecks to help others pay for insurance. If you don't see that this is a way for government to have a hand into every man, woman, and childs life then you really do not see the big picture.

    I agree that there are millions of people out there that can not afford insurance and that should be addressed, but there are plenty of options with the current system to do that. Such as make insurance policies portable (meaning to allow you to get insurance across state lines), to cap malpractice lawsuits, and futher expand viable HSA programs.

    There is more then enough money from the stimulas package that could be use to cover the uninsured for the next couple of years..

    Over 85% of americans are happy with their insurance and the healthcare that they receive. Why do you need to tear down a system that the majority of people are happy with just to appease the few, and on top of that ask those individuals and families to pay for it.

    I agree that politicians should work more together, however I believe this is a case where both sides have drawn their lines and are not willing to see the other sides..

    But as along as there is a possibly of giving up our rights and freedoms just to have a government option I would say as Americans that we need to keep looking for another option. No to a Government run public option, that is the begining of Socialism (which would be the down fall of America as the great nation that it is!)

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  7. Eric Robinson

    As someone who lost their job as a result of Democratic government policies, regulations and taxes, when I hear Obama talk about what he's "going to do FOR the American people", I want to throw something at the freakin' television. "Lies"?

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  8. Johnny Mack

    "If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices...... And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we've given ourselves.

    Isn't this what we have today? So why do we need a joint session of Congress?

    Americans will prevail and the socialist agenda will fail just as it always fails.

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  9. Patrick

    Is HealthCare Exchange new name for Public Option? no mention of Government run Insurance. Is it in or out?

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  10. Amy

    Great speech!
    Obama is too much president for this country.

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  11. Elizabeth

    I cannot understand how individuals cannot grasp that the government is not great at running a profit or nonprofit business.....Medicare is bankrupt, the cash for clunkers??.....the list goes on and on...now we are trusting our politicians to develop a medical plan for all of us? Most politicians are life time and have not worked in the "real" world so they do not have a clue what the "American people" need. The truth is that most individuals who cannot afford health insurance do not go without medical care....welfare recipients....they cannot afford medical insurance by choices. My college daughter and her friends are very high on this plan as they do not want to pay for medical insurance but rather take a vacation.....in my opinion several Americans without health insurance is due to choices not to prioritize. Mr. President the middle class needs to quit paying for bad choices and rather rewarded for all the hard work and for the taxes they pay to contribute to your wonderful medical insurance plan....by the way which is for your lifetime and free!

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  12. sirandrew

    The pro Obama,pro socialized medicine forces are out .and pouring platitudes about the taking over by the government its heath care structure.Look to the Countries that have socialized medicine and see how they ration out prescriptions ,hospital care ,surgery doctors visits .
    During the wars,WW2,Korea and Vietnam, they had a procedure called triage. The ones that have the best chance of recovery are treated first and it goes down the line and if you were lucky and the surgeons have treated every one else and still were alive they would work on you .
    This is Obama's plan.
    It must be a plan that would reduce people getting social security and medicare

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  13. Seth

    Out of a one thousand page bill, you would think that the President would talk about at least one specific item. What are the details, how will adding national health care not increase the national debt? No one, not the American people, not Congress, should get behind a program that has not been clearly and specifically spelled out. The ivory tower ideas are nice, but they never work as expected and ultimately cost tens of billions of dollars to either fix or maintain.

    September 9, 2009 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  14. ScaredOfBankruptcy

    Someone spoke about being scared of "change". Change for the sake of change does not lead to better circumstances:

    -Can someone tell me how Healthcare will be better under this bill?
    -How are we, who are already in a $12,000,000,000,000 debt and a $1,600,000,000 Deficit this year alone going to pay for it?
    – How come the Lawyers don't have to give any on this bill (i.e. Tort reform)
    – Once you take away the incentive to be a doctor (make money) who are you going to force to get into medicine?
    – Where are you going to get the extra docs to take care of the extra 47,000,000 patients and NOT have any lines.

    Are you going to build more hospitals. Remember Katrina, we had the facility but no one take care of it....expect the same.

    September 9, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  15. frustrated democrat

    I am a believer!! Go President Obama.YES WE CAN!!

    September 9, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  16. DYTIGAF

    TO Sniffit.

    The Republicans did send a letter to the White House asking to meet with them, they were sent a, "Terse" reply that the WH had it all handled and their assistance was NOT needed.

    Seems as though this Bi-Partisan stuff goes one way. and it will soon be up ours!

    September 9, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  17. Shawn - GA

    Who is going to call out the admin when they misrepresent what's in the plan? i.e. "you can keep your current insurance if you like it"

    That is the problem, if anyone calls them out on it they are attacked and called names.

    September 9, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  18. Steve

    what about tort reform?

    What about increasing competition (i.e being able to buy insurance across state lines?

    What about tax breaks for insurance premiums

    September 9, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  19. neoavatara

    This is up to the Democrats, pure and simple. Republicans are irrelevant. If they can't pass it, it will be on their heads.

    September 9, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  20. Will

    It's not the GOP blocking reform Mr President. It's the American people, you know, the people you work for. They don't want National Health Insurance

    September 9, 2009 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  21. Bob

    The GOP didnt ask for help, or permission for that matter, when bush was in office. Why not continue that trend to push health care reform through? There is no question that we as a country will go bankrupt if this super profitable industry keeps on with buisness as usual.

    Get it done Mr President...........Thats what i hired you for!!!!!

    September 9, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  22. karl

    another speech, another backing down... throw some facts in there maybe? how many speeches does he have to give before obama realizes that people against healthcare arent going to be swayed by empty rhetoric

    September 9, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  23. Carol Priest

    Good for you WOLF you are finaly asking the hard questions. Too bad you are getting the same double talk..Saw you today with David X.

    September 9, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  24. Leslie Jo

    Nothing new here. Same old recycled B.S. Has he read the bill yet? Apparently not. You can tell us the sky is falling all you want. We're not falling for this scam.

    September 9, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  25. HonestMistake

    This sounds like the cost of my private policy just went up.

    September 9, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
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