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. Tyran

    We voted for change. Why would we just sit and do nothing when it comes to reforming Healthcare? We DO want change right? It was not gonna be easy America. Or let's just trust Republicans and die, just like Iraq.

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  2. Speed

    More rhetoric. Listen to the people! They are opposed to this plan. There are only 12 million uninsured and NONE refused healthcare!! Wake up people.

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  3. Stephee

    I took the time in reading this, must say I am moved by it.
    All I hope and pray is this health care reform give us (Americans) more of what we need most, without digging in our pockets until we go broke. All the stories about being fined $3000 for not having health insurance is ridiculous. I hope it won't be true, and do hope we receive affordable coverage (which include medicines we need most). I can't afford to pay $60 for an inhaler to prevent me from having an asthma attack, or $100,000 for needed surgery. Not everyone is rich in this country, and we work hard every day and night to stay alive and live well. I pray and hope this reform will be the answer to our problems.

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  4. Scott

    Yes, the President is quoting one of the GREATEST Presidents ever, however, check your facts; Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican not Democrat. FDR was the Democrat...

    Sniffit September 9th, 2009 5:48 pm ET

    It's always a great idea to cite one of the best Democrats ever, Teddy Roosevelt. Why can't we have more Presidents like him?

    September 9, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. Healthcare insider

    This entire debate is out of line. The health care system is not broken, we have the best care in the world here in America. I can tell you without hesitation that patients do not travel from around the world to Canada, England, France or other countries with government run and managed health care. But they do come from those countries to the US for treatment.

    Yes, there need to be some adjustment to costs, however the largest factor is that Medicare (government health care management in action) pays below cost for many procedures and at a break even level only for others and yes a few are on a cost plus basis but the mix is such that it is impossible for providers to break even on Medicare patients. They loose big time. This in turn forces them to charge crazy high rates for those who are private (direct or insurance). Plus the bureaucracy and regulation required with Medicare adds tremendous overhead costs that again need to be offset by non government payers.

    We have seen the governments model and it is the problem, not the solution. Take government out of the picture and put all the $$ that support medicare into private insurers, reduction the regulation, and other overhead costs associated with medicare and you will find that costs an drop across the board.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  6. Deb

    Obama and the DemocRATic congress have refused to consider any of the proposals by the Republicans, so CLAM UP. There is only on consistent thing that needs to be fixed–insurance for those who cannot afford it. I already help my son pay his premiums for him and his wife, so I understand that specific issue. Let's fix that and that only!

    If you love Medicare and Medicaid (going broke), then you will love government health care. If you like the way the VA hospitals are run (rats and roaches in the wards), then you will love government health care. If you love having your private life exposed to hundreds of government workers, then you will love government health care.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Voted for him, sorry now

    CBO says it will cost a trillion, not reduce costs. Every time Obama says it is deficit neutral his nose grows (maybe his ears). Yes, lets reform the health care system but lets start with tort reform, portablility of insurance, addressing issue with medicare. I agree, that we need to improve the system but he has already pre-determined the outcome and alot of Americans don't like his prescription. You can not blame this on the republicans as democrats have the majorities to push anything through they want. It is the center leaning democrats that realize this is a bad bill in its current form. Step back, come together and develop a good plan not written by the far left wing of the democratic party. That will be passed in a bipartisan way.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  8. Phil

    More government simply means less freedom and less personal responsibility. You who are reading this, do YOU really NEED the government to care for you? Has that never struck you as being weak?

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  9. TiberiusDecimus

    Controlling health care has been a dream of the progressives for generations. It allows them to link so many of their goals together. Eugenics, euthanasia, control of the people by controlling who gets what. This speech is carefully crafted to avoid hot buttons. The problem is, people are actually READING the insanity that our government proposes for the first time in generations. This will force the marketplace into insolvency and right into the hands of a federal system. We cannot afford this. Get the machinations of politics out of the system, allow people to buy what they need, remove the legislative handcuffs which currently force insurance to be more expensive than it needs to be. Put this in perspective, if you are poor.. under 18.. you are covered, over 65, you are covered, disabled? covered. That's with the government plans today.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  10. MTR

    Step 1: Attempt health care reform
    Step 2: Realize that most people don't like it
    Step 3: Make it seem like a huge crisis and try again

    He's using some dire language here. Its hard to create a crisis of this situation when the vast majority of Americans are happy with their health insurance. Its also hard for Americans to swallow government run health care when they will be REQUIRED to carry health insurance even if it is not wanted...

    Here government, here's a little more of my freedom for you to take away.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  11. linda

    finally! Call them all out for the nonsense that has been spewed out this summer! God bless the President!

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  12. Vance

    "...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 a lie!!! Most people have insurance through their employers. So if an employer chooses to switch the employees must follow. No employer is "required" to switch to the government plan, but employess would be required to switch if the decision is made for them by their employers. Result: Many Americans who are happy with their current coverage would be required to switch to the government plan against their wishes.

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  13. Raymond Jenkins

    "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."

    Response: Then pass a law making it illegal to deny insurance due to pre-existing conditions. Don’t wreck the best healthcare system and the worlds best economy in the process!

    September 9, 2009 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  14. Andrew

    Please take my property on pain of imprisonment so you can force others to perform services in a way you desire, Mr. President! I pray every day that my labor will go to the aid of others without my consent. I earnestly desire the Federal government to make policy regarding how doctors are to do their jobs, and if those doctors refuse to follow the best practices decided upon by a committee, I hope they are fined or denied payment for their services. I hope everyone considering going to medical school realizes that they'll have to put up with a monstrous bureaucracy that can't even do decent job with a car trade in, and they see the difficulty of managing transactions regarding complex and individualized medical services. I hope expensive procedures will be limited since they are not cost effective. It is my dearest wish that government mandated price fixing destroy the supply in either quantity or quality, but I'm certain that like most price fixing, it will do both. I have a deep desire to see another government run business doing trade in what is normally the private sector, as Fannie Mae and Amtrak are what I wish for the future of medical care. Most of all, I want to make sure that 20 percent of the nation has health insurance, even if it is poorly run and no one would choose to select it if they had another option, and it is important enough to do so that I'm willing to see the other 80 percent put into the same boat against their will.

    September 9, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  15. David

    I never like it when people speak in absolutes. 1. I went to self employment three months ago. I had to buy my own insurance. It certainly did not cost three times more than my employer provided coverage. It didn't even cost double. It's better coverage to boot! 2. We already have a health insurance exchange, it's called the internet. That's where we went. We shopped plans and rates. We picked what we wanted and needed. No problems. 3. This doesn't seem like reform. It seems like an agenda that's being crammed down my throat. The government isn't listening. Let's take steps, not jump off a cliff and see if our government fabricated parachute works! How about starting with regulations banning focus on exclusions and tort reform. Those two would open up the market and reduce war chests for the inevitable malpractice suit. Let's reform, but let's do it right.

    September 9, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  16. Steve

    Why is the White House releasing major parts of Obama's healthcare speech just hours before he dictates it, and why is it considered news? What is the point? This is all stupid.

    I understand why the media likes to talk ABOUT major events before they happen, but this is just retarded.

    Pretty soon the news will be brought to us from the future via TIME MACHINE! THANK GOD WE DON'T HAVE TO WAIT FOR IT TO ACTUALLY HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!

    September 9, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  17. Bryan

    There is so much misrepresentation, omissions and outright mistatements in this debate - but they aren't coming from the right. Anyone that believes this program will save money and won't cost BIG is not being sensable. Anyone that believes there's a reason this "gift" doesn't include tort reforms to control trial lawyers is short-sighted.

    We need to first work within the existing system: control torts, allow interstate portability of policies, and control excess requirements - some 3,000 of which have been levied upon insurance companies since the 1980s by irresponsible legislators.

    September 9, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  18. Robert

    Yes we need health care reform, but we don't need one that will bankrupt our country even more and leave the cost to our children. Already other countries want to move away from the dollar and this just adds more strain to it. That is what a good percentage of the responsible dissenters to the reform are saying, Democrat or Republican. Not all change is good and responsible and this is far from responsible. Name me one area that the federal government runs efficiently and responsibly. If you are honest you can't and I work for the government. I can point to so many useless people within my office that do nothing but cost the tax payers for their position. We have elected a Jr. Senator from a small state that has never run anything and now does not know what he is doing. Most of you believe in him because he speaks well, is good looking and you want the government to take care of you no matter what the cost to our children.

    September 9, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  19. CUTTER

    If this bill "must be passed now" why will it not take effect until 2013?
    (1 year after next presidential election.

    Totally in character

    September 9, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  20. tazio

    Hey Sniffit:
    The PRESIDENT has REFUSED to meet with the Republicans since April:
    Let's see:
    No TORT reform.
    No debate (a Republican Bill is blocked in committee by Nancy Pelosi
    The Republican plan is 43 pages, not over 1,000 as is HR 3200.
    The fact is Obama is a FRAUD!

    September 9, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |

    I wish the President would listen to the people I am happy with my health coverage and my wife is also happy with our health care I also must point out that I am a black republican who voted for Mcain and my wife who is also black voted for Obama she's a democrat so the issue as some might have you believe is not black and white or democrat and republican it's the government involving itself in my families medical affairs not to mention the money that it's going to cost fix medicare and medicaid it's there for the people who can't afford health care leave my insurance alone.

    September 9, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  22. truthsayer

    The media doesnt want this President to CNN they put up negative sign posts when Obama makes the road to reform as clear as day....Talk, talk and more talk coupled with negativity and a host of right wing talking points is all the media wants to offer.

    September 9, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  23. jay

    "nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have. requires? no, but when your employer stops offering health insurance because its more profitable to let the government do it, then you will have no choice in keeping your current plan. a defacto lie by the the POTUS!

    September 9, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  24. Lars Toolson

    Does anyone else see the complete HYPOCRISY in this...?

    – "Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics."

    – "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."

    More will die if we don't agree with your plan??? That's not a scare tactic?

    Where is the honest debate? Where are the alternative ideas? Which bill is he talking about that will NOT cause the deficit to grow?He is so unbelievably full of himself that he can't even see when he contradicts himself.

    September 9, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  25. Gerry

    ... and all of this will be free! It won't cost you anything! We'll simply print more money to pay for it.

    September 9, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
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