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. Paul in Minnesota

    Our national leaders, both parties, have failed to clarify the difference between health care and health insurance. Without this clarification, we cannot begin to reconfigure their moving parts. It's a real shame and I truly hope we don't pay too high a price for this obfuscated national debate.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  2. Carlo

    Ummm, just pass it, you control the both Houses on Congress and the executive branch so no Veto.

    Why not just pass it?

    Because even Democrats know its junk and their constitutents, you know, the People, don't want it.

    The phrase is Public Servant, not Servant Public.

    September 9, 2009 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  3. BuddyDallas

    Repplicans have put forth their suggestion but Dems don't wnat to here it. Putting in regualtions for the Trial lawyers that go after doctors and making it available to get coverage in any state will birng down the cost Tremendously. GOP has said that but of couse you Libs won't here that if you watch CNN, MSNBC, or any other leftist media wagon. Your libs are going to ruin this country, Its a fact and History proves it to us. Please prove to me that I'm wrong without blaming Bush.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  4. Dell

    I usually just read comments and move on, however these comments here have no substance blaming republicans when there are not enough of them to stop this. Blaming anyone when not too many have even read any proposals is just silly. A question for all of those wanting this so bad. Name one thing other than defense that this government has done without bankrupting it? I do not need to read the bill to know it will fail. Just as the other programs have failed. It probably will not be in our lifetime, but then most of you do not care. Much as our grand parents did not care about social security. Now we have the problem to face. Are we going to pass this massive problem on to our grand children?

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  5. Frank S

    Sounds like a scam. No cost figures. It will further bankrupt the country. "But who cares!" Not enough doctors, long waits, bad efficiency, and bad medicine just like the VA. Be aware the gov't option is bad. Where's tort reform? Since TR no gov't plan, what's the rush. BTW who are the advisors , and who wrote the plan he's proposing and show us the plan and it might a good idea if he stopped badmouthing doctors, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies etc. The president is uneducated on this subject. He's a chigago community organizer and continues to use his schemes that he used in chicago. Wake up we're getting scammed.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  6. Truth-Bomb Thrower

    There are things that could result from the democrats' government take-over of healthcare that are not EXPLICITLY written into the plan for political reason. And yes, EUTHANASIA and DEATH PANELS could very well be results later on down the road when funding gets tighter and tighter. Anytime the government gets involved in ANYTHING, people become only numbers and things get screwed up. Senior citizens and those planning on becoming senior citizens, BEWARE!!

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  7. Emmanuel Goldstein

    As the old saying goes. . .

    Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  8. JD

    This isn't about Republicans... it's about Democrats not supporting a bill in a Democrat dominated Congress. Republicans have been put to such a minor role in this which makes it ridiculous to assume that success or failure of this healthcare bill hinges on them. I think it's time that someone read the writing on the wall or some of these Democrats are going to get themselves voted out of office – on their own account.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  9. Raymond Jenkins

    “And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way.”

    Response: It says a lot about just how little the American People want the Federal Government in charge of our healthcare and incidentally 1/7 of our GDP. If a child asks for a bottle of pills, should I give it to her just because she keeps asking for it over and over??

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  10. ezlimitz

    I never realized how many people want the US to crumble...turn into a gov't owned state vs. representatives that vote the conscience of the constituency.

    We all want some type of reform but to tell everyone that they can keep what they have when the black print on the white page of the bill says different is hard to choke down.

    As far as the speech goes it's the same rhetoric that has been proven to be misleading on The right wing pundits are going to quote script and verse of the legislation that contradicts everything Obama says.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  11. Robert

    As usual...a speech full of pretty words and ridiculous straw men – and all of it shamlessly dishonest. Countless examples – but I only have time for one:

    "...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."

    It might be true that he won't require it, but he'll certainly create artificial economic incentives to do it – which produces the exact same result. If you believe his crap you're just not that smart, and you deserve to get exactly what you wish for.

    Liar. Silver-tongued liar perhaps, but those are the worst kind.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  12. Maryland Democrat

    Sniffit – Teddy Roosevelt was actually a Republican (though he was considered a progressive Republican.)

    For those looking for numbers , note these are excerpts of the speech, not the entire thing. Wait and hear before seeing what's missing.

    I do note he did not, in the excerpts at least, mention a public option. Could this mean that he is willing to compromise, on that issue? Ah ...

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  13. Denver

    So......How does this lower costs? Or national debt?

    It is easy to lower costs by lowering quality. That is my biggest fear.

    Don't let politics blind you. The common sense solutions do not depend on Dems or GOP.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  14. Greg

    What a lovely Crap Sandviche Teleprompter will be delivering tonight. I can't wait. Oh yea that's right I'll be too busy to watch a roomful of idiots who care so little about me.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  15. tony

    As mentioned below, the Dems control the White House, both sides of Congress, and have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, but they are blaming the GOP for their inability to pass this monstrosity? Same old, same old. If this country was so much in need of a liberal makeover, then maybe the Dems wouldn't be walking around on a leash thanks to the Blue Dogs...

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  16. steven harnack

    I don't see how anyone can argue against that but you just wait. some one will come out with"what he really means" , and it won't even resemble what he said, and they will argue about THAT until the cows come home.

    September 9, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  17. Raymond Jenkins

    “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.”

    Response: Imagine the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the small business man and middle class taxpayer by a government that chooses to spend money irresponsibly and then waste it!

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. Stu

    Uh, Sniffit, Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican.

    While we do need some healthcare reform, we don't need another bloated, fraud-ridden, inefficient government-run fiasco like Social Security and Medicaire which are shining examples of why there should be no such thing. Employer-provided clinics for routine healthcare, major tort law reform to end punitive lawsuit awards, ending practices wherein pharmaceutical reps give spiffs or gifts to doctors who prescribe their brands, ending referral fees doctors pay to each other, etc.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  19. The Truth

    Can someone calmly and rationally (and without name-calling and hyperbole) explain to me why there exists a widespread sense that each of us, as individuals, is incapable of — or should not be obliged to — providing for our own health care needs in the same way that we provide for our own grocery needs, our own household-furniture needs, our own automobile-insurance needs, and many other of our needs?

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  20. jeff Clemetson

    This is all I've ever wanted to hear from our President. Thank you Obama.

    Six years ago I was uninsured after loosing my job as a beat reporter during the economic downturn that followed 911. During that time I began to go numb and loose coordination in the left half of my body. I was scared, to say the least.

    I went to doctors that didn't give me the time of day because I was uninsured, even though I paid them with cash for my visits. I was misdiagnosed by a neurologist who told me I had "inoperable brain cancer" and who said I had maybe a year to live. I cried and to this day I can still feel that feeling in my stomach just thinking about it.

    Luckily for me, my father had friends who worked at Stanford hospital and I saw a neurosurgeon who performed a biopsy. It was later determined that I had a rare form of MS, called CS and that I would recover to normal and would probably never have another episode. The cost of these treatments – the biopsy, the MRIs, the hospital stay and followups with a neurologist – cost me over $30,000.

    Since that time I have returned to work as a freelance writer for Websites writing SEO optimization articles. I still have no health insurance because I could not find one that would cover MRIs or other neurological conditions that might arise in the future because I have a pre-existing condition. I want to have insurance and am willing to pay for it, but I refuse to give any of my hard-earned money to buy something that doesn't cover me for what I need it for the most

    There has been a lot of debate about public options and a lot of absolute BS about socialized medicine. For me, I believe that a public option is the best solution. However, if this option cannot pass, I believe that this plan Obama sets out is the best solution FOR NOW. If I can get coverage today with my pre-existing condition and I cannot be dropped and I can buy into a health insurance policy that rivals the rates of large corporations, I will be happy.

    I hope this bill passes. It would be a shame for Democratic leaders to kill a bill that lowers cost and covers more people just because it doesn't have a government controlled public option. It would be even more shameful for Republican leaders to kill this bill just because of the lobbying money given to them by insurance companies.


    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  21. Steve

    From the excerpts, the speech sounds like classic Obama misrepresentation. If change in health insurance is so important now, why does this plan go into effect only in 2013? Drug companies support the Obama plan because they will reap huge paybacks as drug prices can rise uncontrolled by Obama in the public option. If you believe that the Obama plan will lower health insurance costs without rationing, you are very naive. Short of severe rationing, which already goes on Britain and Canada, we will have to raise taxes significantly to pay for this plan. Even with rationing we may have to - there is no free lunch.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  22. Wendy, Albuquerque

    For too many years it has been the truth that insurance companies, like no other reputable business, have been able to line their pockets by denying the very services they claim to offer. It is unjust, it is immoral and it is antithetical to the very same ethic of hard work that Republicans claim to support. They have no more legs to stand on.

    The time for change is now, the President to do it is here. Go Obama!

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  23. asdf

    Wow...don't blame Republicans. Last count has 44 Moderated Dems against the bill. GIGO

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  24. Larry

    You Dems are missing the point.

    I am a Republican, and I wish everyone had health insurance, I really do. I wish mine was less costly. We just don't think the Gov't should run it... that's all. (Think DMV / Post Office / Massive Debt)

    FACT: Obama has not invited any Republicans to the WH to speak about health care since May.

    You wacko lefties keep spewing hate and calling us racists and all sorts of vile crap. Then you claim we are the ones who hate people. Reread your posts you hipocrites.

    Nancy Pelosi is not mainstream, she is extreme. She is the Rush Limbaugh of the Democrats. If you actually believe this woman is a good representative of middle America, then my guess is you live in the Penthouse Downtown and have dogs you call your kids. You certainly don't live in my neighborhood.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  25. Joey

    As was said in an earlier article.
    Yes let this thing pass. By the end of obama's term, those of you yelling for healthcare reform will be begging for private insurance again.

    So let's let this lesson begin. I pity you people.
    Gov't Healthcare will in fact drive up health care cost. Those of us with private health care will lose it and be sucked into the system.

    There is a gov't run health care, it is called ACCESS.

    This administration dropped the ball on Cash For Clunkers, how do you expect them to run a healthcare reform??? Think about it people.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
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