September 9th, 2009
05:46 PM ET
14 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. SJM

    "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."
    I guess ridiculous scare tactics aren't the sole province of the opponents

    September 9, 2009 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  2. Damon

    I notice that everyone is saying that if it doesn't pass it will be because of the Republicans.... and this is bad how?

    If healthcare was a right, cavemen would have been vaccinated. I'm not a Republican, they're too financially liberal for me. Too bad we're becoming more and more like Europe every day where it is widely accepted that money belongs not to the individual, but to the state. Why would anyone except a deadbeat think that is a good idea? People are motivated by gain if they are capable, envy if they are not.

    Looks like America is falling prey to one of the seven deadliest sins.

    September 9, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  3. Pam

    What a lot of rhetoric. If the President does not stop saying "I" every two minutes and playing the ego game, no one will listen to him. He has already caused our country great harm and now wants to create more debt. Who is going to pay for all this?

    Yes, we need healthcare reform badly. But we can't just whip up some inocuous plan and try to shove it through as fast as possible. I have read the House bill – it is ridiculous and I for one, will stand up against the proposed bill as it is stated now.

    I will support a healthcare reform bill that is thoughtfully and carefully constructed and one which will not further the demise of the United states of America!

    September 9, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  4. ConcernedRN

    Good for you, Mr. President!!
    We badly need healthcare reform. It's not a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, or political issue- it's an American issue. It's not welfare- we already have that. It's a basic necessity. Healthcare is not only for those that can afford it- it should be available to everyone. It's just as important as public education, public saftey, and other goverment provided paid-by-our-taxes programs that could also be called 'socialist' if someone wished to use that inflammatory statement.
    People going banckrupt, dying, or ending up on disability because of a lack of affordable healthcare hurts our economy. It's also unethical and shameful that our great nation allows this to happen. Even if you have the best insurance in the world, someone elses tragedy eventually affects YOU- in higher taxes for disability, higher costs because of bankruptcy, and the same old insurance companies literally making a killing off of those who can pay. As you pay more for insurance, the insurance companies are paying less to doctors and hospitals- so it effects YOU when there's not enough doctors in your area or when your local hospital closes. While this happens, how many health insurance companies have gone bankrupt? How many posted RECORD profits the past year or so??
    When the insurance and drug company "bubble" pops in a decade (similiar to the recent housing crisis), what do you think will happen? It will go beyond a government bailout at that point- we'll have true socialized medicine because the government will have no choice but to completely take over. That will be a horrendous occurance.
    Congress had better find some commen ground and get over childhood antics and name calling as if they are in middle school. If something isn't done, it will be one of the largest failures in our nation's history.

    September 9, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  5. MD

    Did anyone notice the one sentence that stuck out to me? "And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government."

    It will "slow" it? I thought this will stop the increase in health care costs. So not only is this plan going to increase our deficit, it will not stop the growth of health care costs. That's a huge red flag for me.

    It seems the confusion is coming from the Democrats because they are saying in the same speech that this will create stabilization for Americans, but put undue burden on those same Americans because of an increased deficit and increasing health care costs.

    September 9, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  6. William

    I am neither a Democrat or Republican, I have too much self respect to defile myself by subscribing to any of the lies both sides adhere to.

    I am for health care reform but why are we not talking about COST CONTROLS!!!!! My god this is not about the greedy insurance companies alone! We also need to address the greedy Doctors, Hospitals, BigPharma, etc etc. I had shoulder surgery that took one hour and the bills from my Doctor totaled 10K, the Hospital 14K, Anesthesiologist 1K, Misc 2K. Now my insurance paid 5.5K I paid 2K plus another 1K for deductible and the medical write off was 18.5K if I did not have insurance I would have to pay 27K! First off all in the business world what the Doctors do is called price fixing and is a violation of Sherman Anti-Trust and Robinson Patman, second if the govt controls prices there would be no need for insurance!! Do you know of anyone who makes 10K per hour besides a Doctor? I don't give me the Tort and Insurance BS that is all lies, the Doctors are just as greedy as the Insurance Companies.

    I have insurance and it is expensive. For my wife and myself it costs 12K per year out of pocket, that is 1K per month for all of you mathematically challenged, and Obama is saying we need to make insurance more affordable. I heard on CNN that would be $600 per month! Sorry but that is not affordable for 70% of the population. Also, If I decide to keep my insurance, I would still be taxed to pay for others and that is not fair, I have my own family to worry about both close and extended.

    So I say Mr. President (Unverified) you need to discuss the sickness and not the symptom and the sickness is PRICE!!!!! Everyone can till make lots of money but could easily drop the price and with that even the blood sucking invaders could pay for their trips to the emergency room for the sniffles.

    September 9, 2009 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  7. justme

    Washington is a big lie and Obama is certainly carrying on the tradition in the most eloquent manner.
    At its start, in 1966, Medicare cost $3 billion. The House Ways and Means Committee, along with President Johnson, estimated that Medicare would cost an inflation-adjusted $12 billion by 1990. In 1990, Medicare topped $107 billion. That's nine times Congress' prediction. Today's Medicare tab comes to $420 billion with no signs of leveling off. How much confidence can we have in any cost estimates by the White House or Congress?
    Another part of the Medicare lie is found in Section 1801 of the 1965 Medicare Act that reads: "Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize any federal officer or employee to exercise any supervision or control over the practice of medicine, or the manner in which medical services are provided, or over the selection, tenure, or compensation of any officer, or employee, or any institution, agency or person providing health care services." Ask your doctor or hospital whether this is true.

    September 9, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  8. walt

    We have the best health 'care' in the world. It's our health care 'system' that is causing Americans to go broke. That 'system' is the AMA and Big Pharm – you don't honestly think they'll let some little president make them earn less money do you???

    September 9, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  9. Ed

    I suggest they name it "Democrats Health Care" so they will be forevermore saddled with it, itf it passes.

    September 9, 2009 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  10. David

    So according to this speech, there will be new requirements and mandates placed on private insurers by law, but he same law will prevent them from charging what it actually costs to cover the additional requirements. Now just how is that supposed to work in the real world?

    So the insurance companies will all exit the business, and the second phase of the plan is that well then, government must step in to fix the problem (that government created int he first place) by taking over running health insurance.

    This is the part he DOESN'T say, but if you read between the lines, this is what he's been after all along, of course, and we'll have the same disaster and mess that Canada and England have and that Medicare patients have and health care will work just as well as the Post Office. Swell. Just swell!

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

    What a fraud this Obama guy is! He keeps saying that there will be no increase in the national deficit for this and that it will not change those with existing coverage that it somehow will make everything better that there will be no rationing of health care, etc. I just don't see it......I don't see how this is possible. More people with coverage does not lower costs for other providers nor does it guarantee those who continue to offer health care coverage would continue to do so if there is a "public option". This is the first step towards total government control of the health care industry, with control of this what is to stop them from taking over other sectors of our economy (oops too late I forgot we already have taken over banks and car companies which is also money out of our pockets).

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

    Sounds like he is finally admitting defeat and realizing what the rest of us have been fighting him for. Reform healthcare fix it... do NOT run it as a Government entity.

    Of course everyone will say "wow look t how great he is"

    September 9, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  13. Dave

    His party controls the house and senate. It is the democrats that are keeping this from being passed. They know it would be political suicide to pass a bill that the majority of their constituents don't want.

    September 9, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  14. Dave

    None of these policies are all that controversial. The town hall protesters weren't angry about banning rescission. They were angry about a complete government takeover of health care. As for the public option, even some Democrats claim that it is a backdoor takeover plan (one which they approve of).

    September 9, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  15. Jane

    The Democrats have already lost this battle. A majority of Independents and many Democrats who voted for Mr. Obama are now opposed to this massive spending and nationalization plan proposed by the president. Whatever legislation is eventually set forth will not be a bipartisan effort, since nearly all Republicans are opposed to the free-for-all reckless spending spree and mandatory health insurance taxes needed to pay for the $1.4 trillion or more nationalized health scheme. It's pure insanity to increase the national debt which has already soared under this administration and a disgrace that our so-called leaders in Washington don't recognize that their constituents are now largely opposed to increasing the national debt and increasing our taxes. Enough! This is not change we can believe in, but it's clearly change we must oppose. The value of the US Dollars has already declined because of the deficits. For Americans who live and travel abroad, this means that the buying power of the US currency will surely continue its inevitable downward spiral. The members of Congress in the House and Senate are largely to blame for this,. The more liberal members love to increase our taxes and spend our hard-earned money. Shockingly overlooked is that we simply cannot truly afford this most massive spending gimmick in our nation's history, and it should be rejected.

    September 9, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  16. Just Say Nobama

    Why on earth should this thing pass? Everything the government touches doesn't turn to gold, it turns to crap. Social Security is on a collision course with insolvency, the Post Office is barely viable, Medicare is broke, face it... if the government gets involved in running something, it is guaranteed to fail. And you want to depend on them for your healthcare? No thank you, I'd rather live. Now if only I could do that in a world without partisan agents who only represent their campaign donors serving as our government.

    September 9, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  17. Judy Anderson

    What exactly is a new insurance exchange? Who is running this marketplace? As a self employed individual I joined my local chamber of commerce to receive coverage under a group plan. This marketplace already exists for small business owners and it is not run by the government. I have an idea, why not allow individuals who are not part of a small business to go through the Chamber of Commerce to get their coverage as part of a group. In RI you can go to the state run DMV to renew your drivers license, or you can go to AAA to do it. Let's consider using some resources we already have instead of creating a new government run marketplace.

    September 9, 2009 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  18. Brad

    Nothing in this plan REQUIRES your private insurance to change. What it doesn't say....when we make it impossible for your insurance to compete they will drop you or when your employer figures out that it is cheaper for them to force you to buy your own plan and pay the small percentage of payroll to the government they will stop offering health care and let you buy it yourself. Eventually employer health plans will slowly disappear. I am tired of this Presidents vague promises and downright misleading statements.

    September 9, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  19. Bill

    Obama has changed his language enormously.

    He now says "nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have."

    He used to say 'if you like your plan you can keep it".

    This is a huge difference, acknowledging that the effects of his plan may cause an employer to change his/her program for their employees.

    Obama's language before was a lie...he knew the net effect would be the employee could change/would likely change their plan in response.

    Now he's being legalistic.

    What a blunder he's in.

    September 9, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  20. Dave

    I am a Republican and strongly feel we need medical care overhaul. I think you will find that in a number of GOP, however surely we all feel that the proposals should be debated (not with anger, but discussion). How much will it cost? what will change? will seniors be impacted? If it cost more, can we afford it. These are just some items that need clear discussion and understanding.

    I do not oppose it -I agree with it--I think--but what is it? Do you know yet?

    September 9, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  21. sergei gurov

    Any proposed health care reform that ignores tort reform is abjectly powerless to accomplish real and lasting change.

    Ultimately, though, this debate has not really been about health care reform, but about satisfying special interests and increasing government control. From an economic perspective, the proposals we have seen (for the few who actually read these documents) are untenable.

    September 9, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  22. Brian

    Some of these comments are mind blowing. Republicans can't stop a single thing, so saying that the republicans are blocking this is just plain stupid. Second, someone said the Republicans won't even talk to the president about health reform. They tried but the president hasn't invited them to talk about it since April saying he has it covered. Third, if you want to change the system, why not do something simple to reduce costs, like limit malpractice damages in lawsuits? When doctors have to buy insurance at 100,000 bucks a year before they even open there doors incase they get sued or when they have to preform all the tests that you don't need just to cover them from lawsuits, you add to health care right there. Why don't the dems change that? Because Big Attorney is in their pocket and who would want to upset the trial lawyers. Forth, how come everyone who was against the patriot act because the government may see what book you check out in the library don't mind the fact that the government will know everything that is in your medical chart? If the government pays for it, has to be public record. Otherwise people will ask where the money goes.

    To say republicans are afraid of change is correct. Who wants to see the government in complete control of everything. Listen to the presidents speech to the kids yesterday, take some personal responsiblity, work hard, and do things for yourselves.

    September 9, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. Meno

    Forcing reformed healthcare that has a lot of hiddens in it rationalizing that health care is the reason our country is at the brink of economic demise, is unfair and a lie! The reason our country is at the brink of economic collapse is because of subprime mortgage lending to many individuals, including illegal aliens. This started with the Carter administration and includes participation by Obama himself. At least Dubya tried to put a stop to subprime lending several times. Supposed "free thinking" liberals like to ignore the truth and tell everyone that they're "drinking the koolaid."

    September 9, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  24. Patricia

    The rhetoric sounds great. Now, lets get a single bill that actually says something concrete, not 1,000 plus pages of vague gobbledegook like this last one. Make it available online. Give the legislators and the public 30 days to read and digest it, then keep it open for public comment for another 30 days. Review the public comments, adjust the bill as and if necessary. Do not provide American taxpayer paid insurance to illegal aliens. Do not require privately insured individuals to be subject to the Comparative Effectiveness Research guidelines, which, by the way, DID recommend priority to those aged 15-40, with emphasis on minority populations...not the kind of guidelines that should exist in the United States of America! (Unlike most Congressmen, I read the bill and the work of the Comparative Effectiveness Research Council funded by $1.1 Billion in Stimulus Funds.) Then, again, allow the Legislators and the public time to read the final bill before calling for a vote!

    September 9, 2009 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |

    Obama doesn't want to include the 25Million US-illegals in the Health Care (Reform) Plan, so who are going to do the dirty low income jobs those 25Million illegals will (have to) leave behind? Does Obama get an idea of HOW MUCH WORK those 25Million illegals do, represent? Who will do ALL THAT HARD and DIRTY WORK, for low incomes that were meant to allow the illegals to survive in US, not live good healthy lives in US. The Afro Americans walking around like Zombies with the Ghetto Blasters on their broad trained, but still too lazy, shoulders? It's not likely they had such jobs in mind when they said they like to HAVE EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES, LIKE Obama had. They meant they too like becoming High Income Afro Americans like Obama and through such Positive Discrimination Plan that gave Obama the Opportunity they did not get! So they are not going to pick up the bags in the streets like the illegals did. Who's going to do that, Obama?! Cos that work too needs to be done! By who?! It won't be an easy job to exclude illegals from A NEW HEALTH CARE PLAN IN US: that creates more problems in US!

    September 9, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
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