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. Steve

    Time for the daily Obama pep talk – yawn.

    Aren't people tired of hearing the same old thing yet?

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Emmanuel Goldstein

    soooooo, what happened to the promise that we won't pay more or the deficit will increase? Now, its, everyone has to shoulder the burden.

    And why do I suspect that I will be shouldering not only my burden, but the burdens of a lot of you posting for reform?

    Call it what you want–I call it redistribution of my hard-earned savings. There's a word for that sort of political system, and more slackers are warming up to it by the day.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. dustin

    if the president wasn't tone-deaf he'd realize that most of america doesn't want his and the dem's big gov't solution to healthcare. his speech is only going to further divide the already-entrenched camps who are polarized one way or the other. the president hasn't reached out to republicans for more than five months–way to transcend the bi-partisan divide b.o. if you really cared about a solution, you'd address tort reform, force cross-state availability of plans, and bolster portability. we don't need a 1000+ page socialist manifesto to do this. i'm looking forward to the crash and burn of this effort. keep talking, b.o–the more you do the more the support wanes and your popularity sinks.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  4. frothy

    where's the tort reform? obama/pelosicare isn't about HC reform, folks. All you obamanites have NO credibility here.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  5. Jeff

    The Republicans have made two modification to Medicare. They introduced Medicare Advantage and the Perscription Drug benefit program.

    These two programs are the most detremental programs to medicare. They are nothing more than ways to generate huge profits for private industry at tax payer expense. Worse, they seem to be calculated to make Medicare go bankrupt.

    The conservatives (Republicans were the liberals and Dems were the conservatives prior to the Great Depression) have been against meaningful reform in the history of this country, from Social Security to workplace safety laws, to Civil Rights to Medicare.

    The Republicans want to get rid of Medicare, and they certainly don't want any new health care reforms. They aren't being constructive and they won't ever be, so Obama need to stop calling for bi-partisan support and just GET THIS DONE!!!!!

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

    THIS IS NOT A republican vs democrat issue.
    THE EXTREME LEFT just like the EXTREME RIGHT are wrong.
    This is about America.
    DO NOT let them pidgeon hole you into party affiliation.
    This is a socialistic agenda brought to you by a lying cheating politician. He is a strong advocate of socialism and is anti the US CONSTITUTION.
    The country is a free capitalistic society.
    We value our freedoms and our own decisions.
    DO NOT let congress republican and democrat take more of our tax dollars and spending.
    They are not the experts and they are just a bunch of spenders.
    We were born Free and we should fight for a free country.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  7. marym

    What a liar. CNN, you do a great job of NOT calling this liar of a president out. He can spin all he wants, but the fact of the matter is that the GOP has presented far better ideas of how to QUICKLY solve the problems we have. They're called Tort Reform, Opening the nation to all insurance companies (how many know they're limited to states only), tax credits, and health savings accounts, to name a few. ALL have been shot down or ignored by this President and this Democrat controlled Congress.

    HIS plan mandates the IRS to control our lives and take our money to pay for this supposed free health care... It will never be free because they'll be grabbing the fees and fines straight from our bank accounts and we will be helpless to stop this. It mandates gov't bureaucrats to decide what is 'acceptable' coverage and treatment, NOT the doctors. They will be fined and jailed if they don't do as they're told.

    And rationing will come to be a way of life. The elderly and the truly sick will be tossed under the bus so illegals can get their pills and shots.

    Read the bill, people. Words are cheap, but the devil is in the details. And this monstrosity of a bill will intrude into every aspect of our lives, just like nanny nosy liberals have always wanted to do. Freedom? Hah, forget it.

    September 9, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  8. Lynn

    Crap! He's going to be on again tonight. I'm sick of listening to him. Every thing is an emergency. I'm tired of it. spending money we don't have. With everyone losing their jobs because of him, who's going to be left to pay for this, I guess he wants to make us a third world country. That's what you get when you elect someone that hates their country.

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  9. thekaj

    "Americans have voted and said no so far to his plan for a public option. Why not drop it and find another way?"
    Uh, last I checked, the last time Americans voted, they voted FOR the guy promoting the public option plan. A bunch of people screaming at town hall meetings, comparing Obama to Hitler does not a "vote" make.

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  10. mike

    Beautiful speech. Won't matter a bit, because no one is watching. He should've given this speech months ago, before the debate was sidetracked.

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  11. John

    It's about time that we start moving the country forward on this issue!
    Having health care is a right, not an option. For all the posple who are aginst universal healthcare, "What ideas have they presented?" It's amazing that the United States is supposed to be the "Greatest Country on the Earth, " yet we still move in opposite directions when it comes to real change. Way to go Mr President! We are with you all the way. Lets get this done!

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  12. I.J. in MD

    WOW !!! A president who actually cares about the people he represents. I haven't heard of that in a while.

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  13. tonym

    i get that some dems are skeptical of republican actions and motives. what i don't get is how they so blindly never question their own representatives. i guess ignorance is bliss.

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  14. Stella

    We need the REFORM now and we need PUBLIC OPTION!!

    Republicans want only to go against Obama and his presidency – people

    who support them are BRAIN WASHED, ignorant and selfish – never,

    never the Republicans did care for people – CNN + media, please make

    the case against them. DEMOCRATS should go ahead and vote for the plan.

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  15. JustAGuy

    Obama doesn't have the votes. Recent roll call has 47 Democrats have gone on record in opposition to the current bill containing the government option. 57 liberal Democrats will oppose any bill without government option.

    This portends a no-win situation for Obama. His whole presidency is hanging on this issue. All I can say is!

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  16. Get Over It

    You people are silly. It is a Democrat controlled House and Senate. Republicans are not the problem with this bill or with reform. If you cannot pass this yourselves because politicians choose to listen to the will of their constituents in order to remain in office, then it is not the fault of the minority Republicans.

    Get over it already; or to put it in a parlance you seem to embrace: "move on."

    September 9, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  17. Brenda

    Please go on with the person who you think is giving out misinformation face to face. not in a speech, not on tv alone, so both can have a say and then the truth will come out, the bills words being the truth, not the talk. Both bring the bill and show eachother the written words. Im sick of talk and speaches, lets have some real action here. READ THE BILL MR PRESIDENT TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  18. richardb

    Wonderful! Now Dems with super majority in the Senate, pass it without a single GOP vote. You don't need them with your 59-40 Dems to GOP majority.
    Now House Dems, with at least a 70 vote majority, pass the darn thing with a public option or even single payer! You've got the votes without a single GOP vote!!!!

    Why all this whining about the GOP? They don't control a thing, this is 100% an issue the Dems can manage all by themselves. The voters know that.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  19. Seth

    How will any of these changes actually decrease the cost of healthcare? There seems to be no call for tort reform and no allowance for individuals to buy health from different states. Of course President Obama can say that the plan will not require anyone to loose their coverage, but this will be the ultimate consequence of the plan. According to the bill itself, an individual would not be allowed to change coverage once this bill is passed. If you change jobs, you will have to go on the "public option". People that support this garbage need to rethink their decision making process. Government run health care plans have ALWAYS failed.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  20. Lisa

    Let the man do his job and the rest of the politicians can shut up and wait their turn for a chance in office. I am not an Obama supporter, I am an AMERICAN SUPORTER, and as the President of the United States, the man has a right to spin the wheel of change just like every other President has. You don't like it, apply for residency somewhere else. Run with it, Obama, run with it and bring on CHANGE!

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  21. Fldoctor

    To Sniffit:

    FYI, the president nas not invited a Republican to talk with him since APRIL. You are so misinformed that you are dangerous!!! You should have some modicum of truthful information before you hit the key board.

    Go to:

    Boehner: GOP leaders haven't met Obama for health talks since April
    By Molly K. Hooper – 09/09/09 11:09 AM ET

    The ball is in President Obama's court to reach out to Republicans if he wants a bipartisan bill on healthcare reform, House GOP Leader John Boehner (Ohio) said Monday morning.

    Boehner told reporters that the president has not invited House GOP leaders to the White House for meetings on healthcare reform since the end of April.

    Earlier this year, GOP leaders sent a letter to the president in May stating that they would like to work with the administration to find "common ground" on healthcare reform.

    But the administration responded with a tersely worded letter indicating that they had healthcare reform under control.

    Hopefully you will read this. Reform is sorely needed , but this bill is not the answer. I an a Fldoctor who would not vote for this bill if i had the opportunity.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  22. Cin

    Everyone who is so vehemently opposed to a public health care option, please picture this in your mind and then try to feel it like you are the one who is dealing with these scenarios:

    You are in college on Scholarship, it isn't enough to cover living expenses so you work part time. You don't qualify for health insurance because of your status and your family can't cover you for whatever reason. You get cancer.

    What are you going to do? Even if you do manage to get a full time job that offers coverage, you are not going to qualify because you got diagnosed with cancer. Or lets say you were covered by your parents but you had to quit school because you were too ill to deal with the day to day stresses of keeping your grades up in order to keep your scholarship...
    Well you are over 18, guess what just happened to your healthcare coverage from your parents now that you are not in school? It's gone and even if you can get a job that offers insurance you can't get covered for the cancer because its a pre-existing condition.

    How about being covered by medicade when they discover while doing another proceedure for something else that you have what appears to be a growth off of your pancreas. They determine that they need to wait a few months to see if it's appearance changes since they will need to do a biopsy if it does. You're the mother of 4 chldren under the age of 8 and during the course of things you have developed diabetes. At this point it is looking more and more like you could have pancreatic cancer. The day befor the doctor told you to schedule an appointment for a mri you get a letter stating that your coverage has been terminated and you cannot reactivate it. Then you end up moving accross state lines because your spouse has finally found a job (health coverage not included among the benefits)... You seek the public option in that state, only to be told that they will not sign you up because you are only 20% below the poverty level and even if you could get coverage they will not pay for any tests regarding the spot the Dr saw because it is a pre-existing condition...

    The only option you have is to ignore it and hope it is nothing. This happened to me. I was lucky it was nothing, but what if it hadn't been. I would have either died, orphaning my children because nobody would run the test, or I could borrow and bankrupt my family or my husband's family, just to get the test, because w/out insurance at the time an mri (which is the only way to effectively evaluate something like this w/out going invasive) ran $10,000 and that doesn't include the dr visits or the cost of the guy reading the film.

    how would you feel knowing your only option is to die because your fellow Americans bought into the greed of the insurance company execs? How would you feel if you were having to watch your child or spouse or parent die because of lack of coverage?

    Yes, Palin is right. Death Panels are real. They make these choices daily and the determining factor has nothing to do with productivity or age. You can be 97 and if you can pay for coverage or out of pocket you can get a liver transplant. If however you are working 3 part time jobs to keep your family afloat and you need a test or treatment, unless it is an immediate life-threatening issue: you are going to die that day w/out treatment, you get to die. End of story and it doesn't matter one whit that you are 25 What matters is if you have the money to pay or the money to pay insurance so they can pay.

    If you truly care about this country and your neighbors and relatives then urge your representative to pass meaningful reform that includes a public option.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  23. Jazz

    Those of us who support healthcare reform need to be loud and persistent about what we want. Rather than engaging naysayers and wasting precious energy, let us engage our elected representatives and remind them about why we voted them into office. Cigna dropped my son when he turned 23, for no apparent reason other than it's their rule. The private insurance offerings I reviewed would pay for doctor visits but not for labs or procedures. No catastrophic coverage. As a family, we want him to have insurance that will be there for him for whatever may ail him. The Congress needs to pass healthcare reform that will cover all of us, and not force ER doctors to treat illnesses or conditions that are better dealt with in a primary physician's office, and at a much cheaper price. Yes to healthcare reform and yes to a Public Option that will force private insurers to be competitive.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  24. rplat

    Obama has been playing word games ever since he began pushing this socialist healthcare manifesto. He's right, it is time for him to stop playing games and throw this left wing healthcare aberration into the garbage heap of useless and dangerous legislation.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  25. ryan

    "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. "

    Who's using the scare tactics Mr. President? Who says we have to do "nothing"? I think most people can agree our healthcare system needs work. But what you've seen this summer is that many don't want the change you're trying to bring. If there is any kind of public option it will be bungled by the Fed like so many other programs: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Not to mention that such programs are outside the constitutional mandate of the Federal Government and should be handled by each state as they see fit (but who cares about that wrinkled old piece of parchment anyway, right?). Even a very mild public option is undoubtedly a backdoor to eventually get to a single-payer system which Obama has previously admitted on VIDEO is his ultimate goal. When there is a low-cost public option, employers will be incentivized to drop healthcare from their benefits package and let their employees join the public system. Make no mistake, a public system will not be required to operate in the black, and will bleed red ink for miles as we continue to sink taxpayer money into it. This unfair competitive advantage will put insurance companies into a death spiral, eventually leaving only the very rich with any kind of "choice". Obama knows that if he can get a foot in a door now, eventually his single-payer dream will be realized. The tide of big government needs to be turned NOW. When we grow Government, we lose freedoms. We are Americans, we can pull together and overcome anything as long as our freedoms are intact. Government is NOT the answer!

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
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