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. justin

    Wow – Great job. This is going to be amazing

    September 9, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. Carole

    Great idea, Mr. President. Thing is, how can you call out someone like Sarah Palin who acts like a troll making posts on Facebook and Twitter..........not looking anyone in the face.

    Let's start with all the Republicans like Senator Pence who thanked, thanked, I mean said 'thank you' to a constituent who said the President of the USA is a Nazi. Then the Ohio Republicans whispering she believes a Birther.

    September 9, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. Mobius

    Obama won't call anybody out, lest they call HIM out on ALL his misrepresentations.

    September 9, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. casual observer

    Why is it that people are so afraid of change and resort to negativity rather than check out the facts,? This goes for politicians, wanta be politicians, old people, wanta be number one news organizations/talk shows, ralality talk shows, and then the confused town hall members at large.?

    September 9, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. Sheryl

    Get it done, please Mr. President please!!!!!

    September 9, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  6. this needs to happen

    so much misinformation is being leveraged to paint this as wrecking the country or socialist

    show us the numbers, don't just name call

    September 9, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  7. Sabrina / Alabama

    "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. "


    September 9, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  8. Ken P.

    So far nothing new. How many times will he make the same speech>? Americans have voted and said no so far to his plan for a public option. Why not drop it and find another way?

    September 9, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  9. wellthereitis

    Obviously the calling out has already begun and CNN is participating as well. What a wonderful article was written by Ed Hornick, Ed Henry and Suzanne Malveaux where quoted parties were identified as Senior White House Administration while they laid out their opposition by name. Cowards make public thy own name.

    September 9, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. Russell, NC

    Bu you are not a Teddy Roosevelt, Mr. President.

    September 9, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  11. Mark

    If healthcare reform does not pass it WILL be because of the republicans. They have said they may not support it no matter what it includes or doesn't include. How stupid is that? I'm sorry, but THAT is just wrong of the republicans to do. They are not for reform for the American people, they are for themselves. I hope the dems pass it without them and show the American people who is really fighting for them.

    September 9, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. Artie

    Gonna be a great war tonight ; a propaganda war! Gotta save that socialist Obama, right CNN?

    September 9, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. John

    You go boy! God bless you Mr. President. know that I pray for you on this specific issue every day. It is right. It is time.
    I love that you stick to the requirement and be open to the solution – as long as it meets the requirements – lower costs, expand coverage.
    They say your numbers are dipping – I say perfect timing – go right at em and get er done the hard way. Call em out, call their bluffs.
    We're with you all the way!

    September 9, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. Zane

    Every Republican will be called out. What a mess the GOP has become.

    September 9, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  15. Scared of Change

    The Republicans are just scared of change, don't really care about anybody, pro-corporate, and they don't care if this country just keeps getting worse, as long as their own rich friends got theirs. The real sad thing is, is that some Democrats in the House and Senate don't get it either.

    September 9, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  16. Daniel

    So, um, where's the public option we've been promised?

    September 9, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  17. Debby

    Well thats fine Obama so pass a bill that allows the middle class to affordably buy into your government run plan and take a little out of their pay weekly to pay for it vs. taxing people who can afford to buy from the insurance companies. Half of Americans would rather keep their provider than have total universal care so let the other half get government insurance at an affordable cost.

    September 9, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  18. kc

    great speech, hope it spurs some positive action

    September 9, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Justie

    Healthcare reform has been a hot topic for years and years. Republicans have swept it under the rug for the past eight years in hopes of it going away. If we don't do somoething now, don't expect Republicans to help us in the future. We need reform NOW!

    September 9, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  20. free

    Have the people commenting on this story read the text of any of the proposed legislation? If you haven't, you are giving the president a free pass. If you haven't read the text, no matter what you might hear the president say, you can't understand what you're supporting.

    When there is a bill for the president to sign, will you demand that you be given the opportunity to read the text before he signs? If you don't, your allowing this president to do what ever he wants. You didn't like that during the last administration. Why is it ok now?

    Why don't we hear about some of the reasonable solutions? What about being able to purchase health insurance nations wide? What about Health Care Savings Accounts, where we can build our own "insurance"? What about making people responsible for their own health care decisions, instead of leaving them up to doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, or the government? Are we really, as the administration alludes, too dumb to take care of ourselves?

    The government, regardless of who is the president, is NOT the answer. The people of this country need to stop expecting others to take care of them. Freedom is to succeede as much as it is to fail. Hard lessons make us a stronger people. Stop looking to government, and start looking at yourselves for the solutions.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  21. PARob

    Let's see...It's partisan Republicans who are keeping this from happening (and yet, the Dems have enough seats that the GOP help is entirely unneeded). Those evil Republicans are using scare tactics (and if you don't support the President, people will DIE?). We'll make insurance available by letting companies compete for that pool of new customers (but we won't lift current regulations that prevent companies from competing in an interstate market?). We're going to remove all limits from insurance payouts (and somehow bring the cost of that insurance DOWN?). And we aren't even going to discuss the possibility of tort reform (which actually COULD bring the costs of insurance down).
    OK, Mr. President. I'll listen to your assertions (again), but if you don't make more sense than this, I'll likely still oppose your proposals.
    ...I guess that makes me a mean-spirited partisan.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  22. Kat

    This is so important. Why are we all bickering over giving everyone the chance to have healthcare. I keep reading that senior citizens are the ones who are mostly against this- has anyone explained to them that Medicare is a PUBLIC program!! and they are on it!! Obviously the govt can do some things correct.

    And I really wish people would read the bill before spurring up conflict. Do people really think that we will call senior citizens into a room, and then kill them? This death panels thing is completely ridiculous!
    Great job Mr. President! Call those people out that keep ruining a great thing!

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  23. kc

    What about tort reform? It's one of the biggest reasons costs are so high. Oh yea, The lawyers are democrats.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  24. schroeder

    Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican first, than formed a 3rd party called the Bull Moose party. I think you have hom confused with cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the worst presidents this republic has ever had.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  25. Felipe, Seattle

    All these years and no reform. All that discussion and nothing has changed in all the past administrations. Why? The American people have not had anyone propose something that they felt comfortable with in all these years. Now, Mr. Obama sings "Here I come to save the day! Mighty Obama is on his way." Yeah, right. Why doesn't he answer the CBO projection on what his proposal will cost us?

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
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