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. kc

    Look at all these people still drinking the kool aid! Sure, health care needs some reform but I'm amazed at the folks that think the gov't can do it. Let's see, they can't even run a simple program like "Clunkers". Medicare and Medicaid are a total mess. There is NO MONEY in the social security fund. We are now in debt to the tune of 1.2 trillion dollars THIS YEAR ALONE and almost 2 TRILLION over the last 2 years! Goodness people, nearly everyone of the folks trying to "reform" health care is a career politician. They don't know squat about reforming a business let alone 1/7 of the economy. I wonder what a laptop computer would cost if it they were built and sold by the government?

    September 9, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  2. B

    It is time to take off the Velvet gloves and- tell it like it -is to them!

    September 9, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  3. Brad

    Tort Reform....Tort Reform....Tort Reform!!!!!!!!!!!!! An idea that Obama will not even much for being open minded.

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

    Mr. Obama is naive. Mr. Obama is not qualified to say what will happen to my current insurance if the law requires no life time maximum and if the law requires accepting people with pre-existing conditions. The market is still the market and if companies are forced by law to give something for nothing they WILL raise our rates. Mr. Obama would rather pretend this won't happen and appeal to our fears rather than flat out say that his law will freeze rates for people who already have low cost coverage. This whole thing is a farce. It is a gigantic takeover of free America and it must be called out for what it is. There is no crisis. If Americans have to go bankrupt due to medical bills, so what... they can still keep their house. That's not a bad thing. The only bad thing about it is that the government loses the taxes when people get poorer. Obama doesn't care about people getting poorer and becoming wards of the state.. he feels good about that. This is a bunch of baloney and the Emperor has no clothes on!!

    September 9, 2009 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  5. Andrew

    Great messaging – to the point and reflective of reality.

    As to the public option I neither favor nor oppose it. I do however wonder about the underlying motives of those who loadly proclaim that it will crowd out private insurers. What utter nonsense. The Post Office has not crowded out Fed Ex or UPS. Public schools have not crowded out private schools. Not for profit hospitals have not crowded out their for profit cousins. I could go on. The public option may be necessary however it will definitely not force the failure of the private for profit health insurance market.

    September 9, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  6. Just Doesn't Get It

    Ever since the F.D.R. Economic Bill of Rights we have been needing this reform? So some sixty years have passed and Americans still don't want it, I guess that means that we are all just idiots and don't know whats good for us, right? It's all the Republicans fault, right? What the truth really is, Barry, this speech is, all but the first paragraph, faulse. When will you wisen up and start telling the American people what this plans real inner workings are, like the 8% tax on businesses that do not provide the employers with the new government option. How about the $100 a day fine imposed on businesses not putting there employees on the government option, or 2.5% tax on individuals that do not sign up for it, it's in the bill. What's the cost, the cost to me if I don't buy from you, as of Tuesday, For families, it would be $3,800, and for individuals, $950. WHATS THE COST?

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

    All government entitlements are going broke – Social Security, Medicare, Medicade, Postal Service, Welfare, Freddie Mac, Fanny Mae, etc. and you trust government with handling Healthcare for all? If it is so important and a bill is past, why isn't it scheduled to go into effect until 2013? Finally, how in the world are we going to pay for it??

    September 9, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  8. Mojito man

    When are conervatives going to get their input CNN?
    This is the same speach that has been given for a year straight. Nothing new. The American people do not want his plan because the do not trust him. Just look at the new Polls. This issue is over for the Pres. He needs to move on to how he is going to fix his defacit,,,, Some Tax cuts would be nice for those of us earning under a hundred grand.

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

    I'm sorry but I have just have to laugh here. Most of these posts are so indicative of the liberal brain washing machine that it is paifully obvious there is a fundamental lack of understanding of how business, and indeed, economics, works.
    Even life-long dems are backing away from this plan. The facts are this:
    1. an average doctor pays $100,000 a year in malpractice and related insurance fees.
    tort reform would fix this but the left ignores it because of the ambulance chasing attorney lobby which lines their pockets,
    2. If you require private insurance companies to take pre-existing conditions, and prohibit them from cancelling coverage, you will by definition greatly increase their overall risk, which necessarily will cause an increase in rates to the private sector – those of use who have and like our current coverage. This increase in premiums causes corporations to back off of the private options, throwing you instead into the public option. A minor outflow of groups from private insurers for this reason will catastrophically damage those private insurers, causing them to scale down or leave the business. What is left is the government option.
    Folks, this is how it works, not wide eyed speculation. Insurance companies are big, bad wolves, gouging customers at will with plenty of money in the bank. Manyof the healthiest insurers are policy-holder owned, not stock holder, where profits are pushed back into emergency funds.
    The only one this plan will hurt is you.

    September 9, 2009 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  10. Rex George

    NO PUBLIC OPTION!!!!!!!!!!

    We should give a hand-up, but never a hand-out.

    For goodness sake, has welfare worked?? Millions of people stay where they are, get their check, refuse to change, and continue to be a drain on other hard-working Americans. This is not the way to change.

    America, do not stand for this!! Reject the public option or pay later.

    September 9, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  11. Mack

    The GOP won't meet with Obama and the Dems on this? Who fed you that line of bull – oh, wait, let me guess. The GOP has been trying for months, and have even put together suggested bills and options for the Dems and Obama to look at and consider. But Obama won't even meet with them, and the rest of the Dems meet on Health Care reform behind closed doors. But guess what – It's the DEMS themselves killing the bill themselves. Half say they won't vote for it with a Public option, and half say they won't vote for it without the public option... So the Dems, who could pass their piece of caca all by themselves, with a majority vote, well they can't 'cause they won't even play nice with each other. LMAF

    September 9, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  12. jeff

    hey casual observer –

    People are afraid because they are going to get screwed with a huge bill. ie a tax for the middle class

    September 9, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  13. Larry

    You gotta love this guy

    As real as it gets in American politics

    Thank you President Obama ... Thank You!!!

    September 9, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Kudos to dems for driving the issue. GOP hasn't. But the solution is wrong and misplaced. All of it. He says healthcare costs 3x more for individuals than businesses, but refuses individual care to be deductible like businesses receive. This makes no sense. He says he wants competition, but won't let people buy insurance across state lines. And what reason in the world can there be foer tort reform not being a central and strong element of these bill? Good reason anyone? Medicare is insolvent, yet he wants to save money in it not to save medicare, but to fund a new entitlement that dwarfs it in scope and size. And in the end there is the fog of gov't entitlements...their ultimate growth...the unforseen problems, cost overruns...goes on and on. The massive debt...printing money, selling our soul to China to fund this debcle. Think 20 years down the road. If this almost any of its present forms, it will be a disaster. Why doesn't someone craft a bill based on John Mackay's op ed? THAT makes sense and would accomplish much of what we need to happen. We could call it the Whole Health Bill. If this passes...we get what we deserve.

    September 9, 2009 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  15. Murtala Bagana

    Great speech, the Time is Now!!!! He not only talk about the reform of our health care but also the need to reform our "Mind set"

    September 9, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  16. NotOnMyDime

    And while we're at it everyone deserves cable TV, and a car, and a house that they can own, and a pet pony. Where in the world is personal responsibility in all this? I'm a currently "uninsured" American...... why BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO. I'm not asking my neighbor to pay for it, I'm not asking my mother to pay for it and I'd sure as heck never ask my children and grandchildren to pay for it.

    Personal responsibility is what Obama preached to our school children yet when it comes to healthcare it's only the government that gets to determine MY PRIORITIES!

    September 9, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  17. Steve M

    Talk is cheap. Unfortunately, this is more or less the same thing he said to get elected. I would like to hear him say that we are going to scrap the first plan entirely and start over with his plan, but I didn't hear that. Maybe I will in the full speech. I didn't hear how he was going to pay for the "new plan". Maybe I will tonight. I didn't hear how he was going to dump the union involvement in the writing of the old plan, without the voice of any of those who don't trust or want a "union" plan. Maybe I will tonight.
    No, I stand by my first statement. Talks cheap.

    September 9, 2009 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  18. Jon

    When the goobernet can actually run ANY of its branches, divisions, etc in a fiscally reponsible manner AND both houses sign their families up for the same plan we are being offered, I might be willing to sign on.

    Currrently, the US Government can not run any program it has in a fiscally effective or efficient manner. Why would anyone believe that they can get involved in more health care and do it effectivley?

    September 9, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  19. tom

    Any bill that gets to the point of being voted upon: 1) should be discussed and debated, point-by-point, 2) should be free of all the "riders' or "add-ons" that allow congressmen to add pork-barrel spending to legislation they KNOW must be signed.

    September 9, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  20. tired

    How can this possibly be blamed on the GOP? The Dems have the votes to pass this without any support from the GOP. You all are just believing the propaganda that both parties spew on a regular basis.

    Think Logically instead of cheering words. It's the Democrats who are keeping this bill from passing. I say again, they don't need a single GOP vote to pass this bill. They can do it on there own, except for the fact that they can't even convince their own party members that this bill is a good idea.

    Stop blaming the other side, when your side is the one to blame........

    September 9, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  21. Obama is a liar

    You've got to be kidding me. If his socialized medicine is so great, why is congress and his supporters getting exempt from being required to go on the public option?

    Is he going to talk about the fact that Medicare and Medicaid are bankrupt? And that doctors are dropping the plans because they don't even cover the costs of seeing patients? Add the fact that Social Security is bankrupt as well, and that the government can't even run a cash for clunkers program and he wants to enslave the American health care to the government.

    Is he going to speak about the health boards who decide what is treated, which will give the guidelines (i.e. rules) for the types of treatments and whom is allowed to receive them?

    Is going to talk about the infringement on the personal liberties of the 16 to 18 million who do not have health care because of it, but now they are going to be forced into buying something they don't want? Is he going to talk about the additional taxes put on the American people to pay for the free loaders? Never mind the 2.8% that is being stolen from us to pay for Medicare. Is he gong to talk about how the payroll taxes are going to punish businesses and suppress wages?

    Is he going to talk about the take over of our freedoms and liberty by the federal government, doing something that would be reserved for the states by the 10th amendment?

    Our forefathers declared independence from the King of England for less abuses.

    September 9, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  22. Jimmy

    You have to be kidding, this must be a republican bashing blog. The Rebubs have offered to work with the Dems and were shot down numerous times. Try diversifying where you get your news from, the WH told them they had it under control and refused to meet. Both sides surely have issues, they are all politicians...and why do we need rush this. Why not start slowly and do it right. Heck many Dems are not for this.

    September 9, 2009 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  23. Are you Kidding Me

    So, What is new? The Same Speech that he has been dishing out for a year. Americans have told him they dont want his plan, yet he still tries to force it down our throat.... This guy neds to know when to say uncle, Cause amercans are not going to give in.

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

    I don't think there is a person alive that DOES NOT believe we need health care reform. However, why should those of us who are insured, and who actually pay income taxes (not ust retail), NOT question the viability of a bill being shoved through as quick as the stimulus, by politicians who admit to not reading the bill, on a matter as huge as health care? How do you explain the intelligence of creating a new health care system and ignore that Medicaid, Social Security, and the VA are bankrupt? While republicans are no saints, the days of creating programs like welfare for the poor that only oppress them further in the name of "equality" is not only false advertising but has continued to be THE big lie that the poor continuously fall for. STOP standing on the side of the road pointing at the problem across the street and stand in the median to see both sides of the road. When you do, you will see politicians who create more pitfalls for personal power than fixes for our children's future.

    September 9, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  25. Keith Emery

    How are we going to provide care for 50 million more people without costs going up? There aren't enough "rich" to pay for it. Where are the doctors going to come from?

    Savings? Why can't we just find the savings now, without a reform bill?

    What about torte reform? Oh, I remember. Torte lawyers are democrats. Not going to gore their ox are we? So we'll just impune the insurance companies and the health care professionals.

    Why can't we eliminate barriers to interstate commerce so people could truly have choice in their plans? Why don't democrats address these issues?

    Why don't democrats just pass whatever they want. They won as they never tire of reminding us. So go ahead. Just do it. Show America what you can do. If it is so great, isn't this a perfect opportunity to bury Republicans once and for all?

    Oh, and one last question. When you have "fixed" our health care system, will you make it your own as well?

    I thought not.

    September 9, 2009 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
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