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

    What the Republicans do is immaterial here. The Dems can push this through on their own, but they can't even agree to agree on what they want. Blame who you want, but make sure you blame the right people.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  2. Pip

    I am not against Healthcare however, this bill, (I have read it) is an abomination and should never had been shown the light of day. The politicians should give it to a non-political think tank to write, then maybe we could get something decent.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  3. TR

    Sniffit::: Teddy Roosevelt was not a Dem...he was Repub...although progressive for his time....if you were to actually read something historically correct, rather than the blather on this website, you would most likely reach the conclusion that a person today who believed what Teddy believed, acted on the issues that Teddy acted on, and gave the speeches that Teddy gave then, he would be called nationalistic, right wing radical, but at the time he was considered almost too progressive for the Repub party.

    i agree with your question "why cant' we have more Presidents like him?" the answer is 52.7% of the pussified voters in this country would be afraid of him.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  4. Sapience

    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.

    This is patently false, why does he continue repeating it?

    There's no extra charge to do the work? Doctors are going to come in on their own free time and work for free? Hospitals are going to turn the lights on, and the power companies aren't going to charge them a bill? Studies show that widespread preventative care INCREASES costs, not decreases. Which only makes sense. If we decide to do a 500 dollar test for 50 million more people (25 billion dollars!), which then catches a small fraction of early stage disease, we're not going to realize a savings. Does this mean we shouldn't do it? Of course not, some things are worth spending money on. But, to say it's some sort of panacea or budget savior is wrong.

    There's a reason the middle has left the President's side. Fantasies such as the above are one of them, personal attack of those who bring up legitimate concern with such fantasies is another.

    September 9, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  5. jay

    Yes, He is not the a Teddy Roosevelt. He is the Barack Obama!

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

    "If only the GOP would play ball and at least MEET with the President to talk about this."

    Interesting, Obama hasn't invited GOP representation to discuss healthcare reform since April. Note that it's probably because the GOP would mention tort reform, but Demos need to keep that in to support their lobbyists. Gotta keep those lawyers employed!

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  7. JustAGuy

    Oops, that was 44 Democrats in opposition to the current bill with the government option, not 47. Sorry.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  8. JahDa

    Failure to pass the current health care bill will represent a huge defeat for President Obama. Right On People! Move forward to crush Obamunism!

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  9. Scott

    Sniffit I hope you are joking,Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican, Lincoln was a Republican. What the hell happened to the Republican party? There was a point in time when they where the progressives.
    Ken P, I do not recall voting against the Public Option, all I have seen is a bunch of misinformed people raging against Socialism or Facism without know what either of them are about.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  10. scared of dying!

    so now americans are going to die! Unless congress passes this thousand page bill with so many loose ends and blind curves, and it must be passed immediately!!
    Mr Obama will not clarify anything with his speech tonight, he is trying to create that sense of urgency all SALESMEN need to create....

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  11. Justin

    I was wondering where the part regarding tort reform is located? I hope Obama keeps his promise to the Trial lawyers and leaves anything regarding this issue out of his speech tonight. After all, we need to be mindful of protecting trial lawyer profits (oops, I mean patient rights to sue) over actually lowering the cost of health care.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  12. Yes We Can

    every American deserves health care.......we're not talking about cars (auto insurance)....we're not talking about house's (home owners insurance)......we're talking about people, humans, Americans......we need to stop looking at health care like welfare......when we look at this as a basic need for all Americans.....only then....will we be a better nation

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  13. Four and The Door

    This excerpt is shy on details, but it does not look anything like a Public Option. That's very good. This doesn't look like anything the far left was demanding and I'm glad to see Obama standing up to them.
    I'm anxious to see how this plays out.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  14. D. A. Reuter, Bremerton, WA

    The Republican Party wants the poor and middle class to suffer because of their refusual to comply with their duties as prescribed by Article I, Section Eight, Clause One of the Constitution of the USA. They need to be charged with negligent homicide, reckless endangerment of lives, civil and human rights violations.

    They also should be removed from office due to their contempt of the Constitution, Those of us who serve in the Armed Service and in Civil Service are expected to comply with our oath of office (the same as those who are elected or appointed to an office) or face disciplinary actions if we don't, the very same should go those in Congress.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  15. Indypendent

    The fact is, regardless if your pro/con on the healthcare debate, The DEMS do not need Republicans to pass anything. The Dems have majorities in Both the House and Senate. So, to blame the Reps is ridiculous. To cite that as your argument either means your so partisan that you just want to blame the other side , you believe all the Dem rhetoric or you don't know that the Dems have majorities in both houses which makes you uninformed.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  16. Buford

    How can you blame the Republicans if Obama has closed the door to them since April.

    September 9, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  17. phil

    Hey people realize health care does cost money and it will raise everyones taxes not just the rich because as the economy continues to sputter and they talk about raising taxes on the wealthy look around the wealthy are becoming a smaller group so less tax base. blame the republicans sure that makes sense as the democrats don't need one republican to pass this or any previous version mentioned before. get real and wake up and realize change yes socialism no!

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  18. Jack Fox

    To those in Congress, the Senate and other facets of Federal Government who have stridently said the government health care plan is so very evil
    and "un-American" let your actions follow your mouths.

    Cancel the Federal plan that covers your health problems immediately.

    Stay out of Bethesda ( where us common folk are barred)

    Pay your own health insurance bills, instead of having the public do it for you.

    Fat chance.

    Go to it [rez

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  19. mar

    Ah, all that was missng is "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs."

    against the law to deny coverage based on pre-exhisting conditions???? This is the same as wrecking your car then buying insurance. This plan would cause private insurance to A) skyrocket in premiums B) go out of business.....but that really is his plan anyway why doesn't the coward marxist just say it?

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  20. Eh2Zed

    Scared of Change September 9th, 2009 5:57 pm ET

    The Republicans are just scared of change (republicans have put forward 3 bills and over 300 amendments, all have been refused and voted down by the left), don't really care about anybody (see note above, how can the republicans hold anything up when the left has super majorities in both houses?), pro-corporate (maybe you should look at all the corporations that Obama secretly met with and cut deals with), and they don't care if this country just keeps getting worse(who is in power making it worse? The republicans?), as long as their own rich friends got theirs (so how many of wall street bankers have been appointed by Obama, then huge bailouts were directed to their companies? 6, 7...?). The real sad thing is, is that some Democrats in the House and Senate don't get it either (so whose fault is it? the dems who control, or the repubs who are in minority power?).

    Zane September 9th, 2009 5:56 pm ET

    Every Republican will be called out. What a mess the GOP has become.(again, who is in power? it isn't the repubs throwing a wrench in, it is the conservative dems, and the town hall people who have spoken out and changed the debate, or did you forget Obama and Pelosi tried to get health care into law BEFORE the August break, you wouldn't have a debate now if not for them)

    Sniffit September 9th, 2009 5:55 pm ET

    the time for bickering is over.


    If only the GOP would play ball and at least MEET with the President to talk about this.

    To date they won't even do that! (ummm, if you watched any other channel than the propaganda channels, you would have learned that the repubs have not been invited to any discussions about health care, even yesterday when Pelosi and Reid went to the WH. The repubs WEREN'T invited)

    this needs to happen September 9th, 2009 5:54 pm ET

    so much misinformation is being leveraged to paint this as wrecking the country or socialist (add 20 million people to health care coverage, with no increase in number of doctors and nurses means WAITING LINES and RATIONED care. I should know, I live in a National Health Care system)

    show us the numbers, don't just name call (ummm, 1.6 TRILLION dollars, if all aspects of HR3200 come in, 2.2 Trillion over 10 years. Darn big number.)

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  21. Cheryl

    I love how the President accuses everyone else of scare tactics but then ends the speech with his own. *sheesh!*

    Health care bill or not, the deficit will grow with Dems in power; government run health care will only increase it exponentially. That is a fact backed up by the CBO. But the worst is, government cannot possibly run it-(well, they can run it into the ground!) You all need to read, "Basic Economics" by Thomas Sowell. He brilliantly explains why.

    Finally, there are other health care bills still stuck in committee–they should toss THIS boondoggle and look at those...

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  22. jefcostello

    This is another leftist canard.

    Where are all the Dems who sandbagged Bush trying to reform Social Security?

    Professor Obama is a gasbag and a liar. Everyone knows this will bury us in debt and destroy our economy.

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  23. bill

    Just say "NO" to big government.

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  24. Steve

    Sorry, Mr President. You can not continue to blame the Republicans forever. Clearly you still don't have a plan and are just waiting for Congress to come up with something that you can throw darts at. It is not the Republicans this time - they are in a minority and helpless. The majority of this country including many democrats and independents are the ones against the ideas you Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have come up with.

    You may want to explain to the country why obvious solutions such as tort reform and purchasing health insurance across state lines are not being considered by you and fellow democrats. If not some would well conclude that appeasing your trial lawyers donors is more important than solving the health care problem.

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  25. Misinformed

    Folks really seem to be misinformed or propaganda'd up? The GOP has NOT, I repeat, NOT been asked or allowed to speak with the President and his administration in the White House since April....yes April. Boehner made that clear in an article today. So the lack of bipartisanship is not the fault of the GOP, it's Pelosi, Reid, and the President, who inexplicably delegated this healthcare reform bill to Pelosi and team. Look, I hated Bush, I voted for Clinton, I was against going into Iraq, I think Palin is a joke, I'm an Independent, but I see what I see...I owe nothing to the left or right. Pelosi's politics have been toxic, "we won" is all she says as she drafts bills behind closed doors. And though she says she wants the GOP to reach across the aisle, all she wants is for the GOP to agree with her views, or walk.

    And Howard Dean told the truth, very honestly and clearly last week when asked why Tort/Medical Malpractice reform wasn't included in this so-called comprehensive healthcare reform bill....the Dems didn't want to go up against trial lawyers. That's sad because there's upwards to $200B in savings there. Docs pay $100-200K a year in med. malpractice insurance, and that cost makes its way to us the consumer, and goes up and up each year.....and it results in as much as 1/3rd more tests and procedures than necessary. 83% of Docs say they do unnecessary tests/proc. just to cover their behinds in the event of a lawsuit....that's serious waste! And the high cost of insurance and low reimbursement rates from insurers and medicare are keeping students from even choosing the medical field, thus a serious shortage of Doctors.

    And where's the cross-state competition in this bill? Geico, Progressive etc.. these companies are ultra-competitive with auto insurance rates, just like health insurance should be, could be....but nope, Dems won't put it in the bill. So ease up on attacking the left or right, the time for ideological junk is over....the bill should have ALL of the really good reform ideas in it, not just those of the Dems.

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
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