September 9th, 2009
05:46 PM ET
13 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:


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. Cornelius

    The idea that we can embark on this huge new entitlement without raising the deficit is a bold-faced that many here are apparently ever so eager to believe.

    September 9, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  2. WeMadeAmistake

    ....and not a single reference to TORT reform in his speech. The ambulance chasers are now advertising on TV more than car dealers. These vulchers spend hundreds of millions of dollars paying Obama and the DEMarxist party. Just like the unions, they are special interest cronies of Obama. We could save $60 Billion to $200 Billion in health care costs alone if we went after these greedy plaintiff attorneys like John Edwards for example. That is more than enough to pay for those who don't have helath care. Really disgusting of Obama to once again not tell the whole truth.......especially when it amounts to pay to play corruption of Obama politics.

    September 9, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |

    NO!!! to health care!!! The government does not even have medicare on track....seniors pay for medicare...then they have to purchase a supplement!!....everyone that works contributes to medicare!!...and medicare is going bankrupt????
    THAT'S how the government runs things....

    OBAMA has never talked about fixing Medicare!!...Why not??

    How has this CHANGE effected you?? Noticed a difference in your life??
    Didn't think so!!!!

    September 9, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  4. Tom Abbett

    44 Democrats up from 28 just 12 hours ago are opposed to his Plan does Obama plan to call them out??

    Rep. Altmire,Rep. Adler, Rep. Barrow,Rep. Boren,Rep. Boucher,. Rep. Boyd,. Rep. Bright, Rep. Carney,Rep. Childers,Rep. Cleave. Rep. Cooper,. Rep. Costello,Rep. Cuellar,Rep. Dahlkamper,Rep. Davis,Rep. Driehaus,Rep. Ellsworth,Rep. Gordon,Rep. Griffith,Rep. Halvorson, Rep. Hill, Rep. Holden,Rep. Kanjorski,Rep. Kaptur, Rep. F Kratovil, Rep. Marshall, Rep. Massa,Rep. Melancon,Rep. McIntyre, Rep. Minnick, Rep. Murtha, Rep. Oberstar,Rep. Ortiz,Rep. Perriello
    Rep. Peterson, Rep. Polis,Rep. Pomeroy,Rep. Ross,Rep.Shuler,Rep. Stupak,Rep. Tanner,Rep. Taylor
    Rep. Titus

    September 9, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  5. Jamie

    Obama has not invited any Republicans to the White House to discuss health care this year and yesterday hosted just Pelosi and Reid.

    Obama only gives speeches. He has given more speeches than the number of days he has served as President.

    The time for job creation, is now. The season for action is now. The (golf) games over.

    Not surprised their is no mention of tort reform. Since Democrats receive the majority of contributions from lawyers, lawyers are left out of the health care fix AGAIN.

    Shame on you Obama.

    September 9, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  6. In the West

    Let's take BIG Profit and Big Business out of health care. Our lives and our children' s are worth more than an insurance company's bottom line!

    September 9, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  7. Spin police

    This was just a snip it, this is exactly what the Republicans want, the only difference is the Government Run Plan, which you will hear later on TV.
    You will lose you employee health plan if your employer decides its cheaper not offer it any more and to dump you into the Government plan. So when Obama says you wont lose your current insurance, he is lying...

    September 9, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  8. Matt

    This is an embarassment for the country. 10 million people have lost their jobs since Obama took office and he's worried about health insurance! With what funds shall they pay for their insurance Mr. President? Hard to focus on the future when you've lost your job, lost your house, and have trouble putting food on the table. Chaos is Obama's plan, then and only then can he re-make our country into a socialist nightmare.

    September 9, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. tiredofthelies

    What a bunch of lies from the President. What has this world come to??

    Tired of the lies, the scare tactics!!

    Mr. Obama SAYS 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.

    This is EXACTLY What WILL happen IF OBAMACARE is PASSED!!
    Wake up America!!

    September 9, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  10. The Savior's Boss

    I wonder if he's talking about misrepresenting what's in the plan like what was done when the plan was originally misrepresented to the people of this country.

    September 9, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  11. Diablo

    You want to make health care affordable but you wont look at tort reform.

    You want to make health care affordable but you wont regulate Big Pharma. (sells a $1 pill for 50 cents in France because France wont pay anymore than that, then bill Americans $1.50 for the same meds)

    You want to make health care affordable but you wont allow insurance companies to compete across state lines.

    So as far as I'm concerned you dont really want to make health insurance affordable you want the have the power over the people, to make them more reliant on the Big Government.

    LOL sorry its just way to easy for me to see through the lies

    September 9, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  12. Fiscal Responsibility

    All you republican vs democrat trolls should find another place for your political shreiking. Both parties take turns screwing the middle class working American.

    Lets do it in stages with each new stage being funded by proven savings in the previous ones. Start with standard paperwork and tort reform to reduce paperwork and oversized lawsuits and allow the medical professionals to charge less for their same services.

    I agree that all working and legal middle class Americans should get releif on their insurance costs, co-payments, funding donuts, etc.

    I also agree that all legal Americans who are not insured should get basic coverage insurance assistance. We are all tightening our belts in this recession / depression so take premiums from their welfare, unemployment, or whatever so they can be covered as well. Perhaps they can work on special stimulus jobs to earn their health care rather than sit there and cash their G'ment handouts.

    I like the preventative care aspect. Lower premiums if you are in good shape. Discounts for quiting smoking, loosing weight, eating a healthy diet (say a 100% tax on all non healthy foods)? How about standard heart monitors in all the gyms so people can get a discount based on proven aerobic activity?

    I do have a couple of questions though.
    1)What do we do when the rest of the world plays "Roger Moore Sicko" and shows up at our medical facilities looking for a handout (like all those cojoined twins that always seem to happen while "visiting relatives" in the USA). Do welfare folk want extra taken from their funding to cover all those non American folk. Or will the consider that extra expense a burden?
    2)There is no medical plan nor the FED and it's printing presses that can give every insured person a liver transplant or replacing knees on folk knocking on deaths door or special diabetic surgury for all the obese Americans. This is probably where failin pailin gets the death panels because like it or not somewhere there will have to be a line in the sand.

    Should we all have coverage? yes
    Should we all work to earn it? yes
    Should we all have equal opportunity? yes
    Should we get it without some effort? no
    Should more effort get more coverage? yes
    Should we tax the heck out of folk making over $1M? probably
    Should we pry the bonus from the dead fingers of Wall Street? would make a profitable reality show to boot

    There are hard choices and lots of "fine print" we are not getting answers to. A good start would be to start with that transparency we all sent you to Washington to deliver and show us the fine print, allow for the debate based on those facts, as you promised us when you wanted our votes last November.

    September 9, 2009 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  13. Hank

    I'm sure he'll put forth a great acting job. But will it contain any details and substance? All summer, this President, who up until now hasn't put forth a concrete plan of his own he can be held accountable for, and his party, have deliberately refused to provide details of their other plans, except for exception of HR3200, and have not been responsive in answering questions about that plan from us. At the same time they have dishonestly denied the existence of any proposals that the other party has prepared for negotiation. An example is the plan Rep. Paul Ryan has had ready for some time.

    September 9, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  14. MarkW

    Change for the sake of change is what has put the country in the shape its in. Those who seek control first drive fear and "hope" the people put their head in their hands and tremble. This is the "hope" Obama speaks of.

    Dispensing with the politicians' sophistry; let's take care of the truly uninsured legal residents, who cannot afford insurance. Not illegals, or those who choose not to buy even catastrophic insurance . One other thing; if you think you will get more and better care and pay less, then you deserve this plan you fantasize about.The problem is there are more people on the wagon than pulling it. So everyone has to pony up more in taxes. Those of you who were dropped from the tax rolls by Bush–yes Bush–you have to go back on. If we take care of our uninsured needy fellow legal residents–then we all chip in and everyone pays more or some income tax–everyone. Now that is change we all should believe in. People – If you are for it- Put your money where your mouth is.

    September 9, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  15. Mike

    "I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. ... If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out."

    And will you have us arrested and shot next? Because that's what it will take before we lay down our liberty before you and your party. You cannot persuade us to accept your latest step toward soft fascism just by yelling at us.

    September 9, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  16. Patriccio

    Question for all of the apoplectic Dems here: You have fillibuster-proof majorities. Why on Earth couldn't you pass health care reform before? You have all the tools to do so. Seems to me that in not passingtot earlier, your party lacks consensus. It's the moderate Dems that are holding you up because they dont want a government option. Indeed, Obama will pass a limited amount of health reform but it won't include the govt option and it sure won't include single payer. Thus, it will look nothing like what the Dems promised.

    September 9, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  17. Bob

    So he is going to make more health care available for everyone at a reduced cost? How, has he found some new medical technology that will make everything cheaper? This whole thing was dead when he decided to let congress write it, instead of of using HIS plan. Remember HIS plan, the one he talked about on the campaign trail? Where is that one? Not once did I hear him say "I'll let congress write the plan!" Perhaps he should introduce an intelligent plan, requiring everyone to have coverage, and reducing the laws and requirements for insurers. Make preexisting conditions OK as long as you have always maintained coverage.
    If you think the insurers make too much money stop whining and buy their stock so you can share the profts! And besides, eliminating insurance company profit motive would at most reduce costs by 2-3%. That isnt going to get us anywhere. And claiming we can save by reducing fraud and waste, that is laughable. It is the governments own programs that made this possible!

    September 9, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  18. Love da Dems

    Where's the tort reform Mr. Prez? Why won't you address the real reason med care in the US is so expensive? Wouldn't want to upset all dem lawyers that own the Dem party now would we? No real reform can omit tort reform. Unless, of course, lining the Dems pockets with legal fees is the real reason we Dems exist, ain't it Mr. Prez?

    September 9, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
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