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. duke

    This is not a good plan. We are lowering each american person to the least common denominator .eg because you have insurance and I don't then we should tax your benifit so I can have mine too or worse yet have employers force you on to a worthless goverment plan (and they will) to put more money on their bottom line. Don't think for a moment that if the goverment throws a plan out there for EVERYONE that your employer willl continue to pay their part of your health coverage. Not when they can force you into Mr. Obama's socailzed medicine show. I think this is worst than the old time cart vendor selling "snake oil" Call me out Mr. President

    September 9, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  2. mezzzy

    People, people - PAY ATTENTION! Just WHAT plan is the President talking about? Because everything he says in this speech is NOT in the bills being currently considered.

    If this is what the President wants, he needs to write his OWN BILL and have it sponsored and introduced by his own designee. The problem is he's left this to that Troll Nancy Pelosi and her minions to pull the odious bill out of their drawers that they've been working on for years that does NOTHING that the President is promising.

    READ THE BILL! What the President says and what is being considered in the Congress are simply TWO DIFFERENT ANIMALS!

    September 9, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  3. PC

    What a joke Obama is–he thinks anyone who opposes him on any issue is just "playing games." He's a cry baby affirmative action president who has never done a thing in his life–he's been constantly promoted with dirty politics or affirmative action. Someone please list all the outstanding policy and law that he's generated. ZERO, NONE, ZILCH. He didn't even write anything while at Harvard. And someone please ask him to look into the camera like a human being–that tennis match side-to-side head movement when he is reading the teleprompter is a humiliating embarrassment . He actually sounds semi-retarded without a prepared speech written for him and then carefully teleprompted–heaven forbid he would have to string together more than three words in a row all by his lonesome.

    September 9, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  4. rob

    Peoples in America must be dumb. It's his own party that is against this plan. Not the Republicans. Why should the American government take control of my health insurance when they can't even run a government. Did he tell us how we will pay for this? NO! Second if peoples actually go out and do their research the correct number of uninsured is 14 millions. Not 40 millions. In the 40 millions we included peoples who are illegal in this country. This president and his party is trying to take anywhere everything our founding father created. Our founding father fought a war to give us our freedoms. Now those freedoms are being taken away from us by a president and his party.

    September 9, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  5. JohnVG

    Finger Wagging. I hope he does more than that. Maybe he could propose his own bill? Maybe he could say how he intends to pay for it?

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

    Misrepresent whats in WHAT plan? Your plan Obama? Where exactly is that plan? The Pelosi plan? The Baucus plan? Show us your "plan", let us have time to read it and have a civil debate on it, then let the votes be cast.

    September 9, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  7. Scott

    "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."

    Mor will die – the politics of fear. Going for broke on this one!

    September 9, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  8. NotMyLiberty

    Health care reform will fail because... The Majority of Americans – DONT WANT IT! Get it through your thick skulls, the American people are not going to give government control of their health so that they can control what everyone can and cant do, what we can and cant eat now that they flip the bill for us. Sorry robots, it isn't going to happen! Says who? Well, most of the United States of America as you can find on any poll of your choice.

    September 9, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  9. Greg

    Nice speech but the devil is in the details.

    1) If you lose your job you can already get insurance under COBRA.
    2) Insurance pools already exist and are available from numerous small business associations, professional and trade groups, fraternal organizations etc.
    3) Why no mention of tort reform. That makes up at least 10% of medical costs.
    4) Who and how is it going to be paid for?

    This speech is what semanticists call high order abstraction, sounds good but very light on meaningful content.

    September 9, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  10. Timmeh

    This guy would make a hell of a car salesman. But I still wouldn't buy from him. He's creating another crisis in order to sell another bloated crisis solving bill that will cost us trillions. Only around 12 million people are truly without health insurance. Do something to help them. Don't destroy the system for the minority. Obama's not about listening, as he says. He knows that he wants to begin the socialization of the US and this is the foot in the door. DON'T BUY IT!

    September 9, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  11. michaelam

    Ken P-–"How many times will he make the same speech>? Americans have voted and said no so far to his plan for a public option. Why not drop it and find another way?"

    What? I think you are one confused citizen. Yes, Americans voted and we voted for President Obama and the platform he ran on, health care reform. Unless we had some special election that I was not aware of, We, the People voted for change! And.......we voted for healthcare reform with or without the support of the G(nO) P.

    Get tough, President Obama!

    September 9, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  12. rw

    The speech is socialism at its best. It is not name calling, it is simply
    "government run healthcare". Just be honest that you simply want the gov't to run the banks, the auto companies and now the healthcare system.

    September 9, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  13. Wolfgang

    Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican.

    September 9, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  14. NY Mom

    I am sick of Republicans being vilified as standing in the way of great change. The Republicans have put plans forward – fiscally responsible plans – but they have received zero media coverage. Hmmm, wonder why. Thank God for the the Republicans and blue dogs who have slowed this process down so the public can educate themselves. My husband is a small business owner and we are two of the millions opposed to a government option. Doesn't it bother any of you that the government is taking over every aspect of the private sector? That we are already TRILLIONS of dollars in debt? There seems to be zero fiscal responsibility in this administration.

    September 9, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  15. drock69

    Wow. There is nothing worse than beating a dead horse. Especialy when he has nothing to back up what he is dealing out.. This is the the same old speech that he has giving us for the last 6 months and all the lies he was teeling then are still in it.... hahah... Face It, His Plan Is Dead. Americans Do not want the government involved in thier lives anymore than it is already...

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  16. Tom

    Where is tort reform?

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  17. working american

    Hmmm. through that entire speech I heard so much about how we will now dictate what an insurance company will have to do. Where is the caps on lawsuits? How about restrictions on what medical visits cost considering most if not all medical procedures are astronomical. The medical reform is a three ring circus requiring reform all all fronts thats why this whole bill is a half ass attempt at what is really needed. Why dont we just government run the hospitals and have government medical locations run by our funded military that can't be sued and can collect its funds through insurance. The federal government has already become one big black hole for hard working american money this bill will simply add to an already ridiculous tax burden and introduce more laws that reduce our freedoms.

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  18. Same old speech

    Mr. Obama: If there's no ROBUST PUBLIC OPTION, don't expect my vote again in 2012. You can count on THAT. Use reconciliation if necessary. Veto anything less if necessary.

    Any legislation you sign MUST include a federally funded public option available immediately to ANYONE who wants it, even those who currently have insurance through their employer, with prices set like Medicare rates instead of "negotiation," and the premiums should be DRAMATICALLY LESS than what is currently charged on the private market, because we CANNOT AFFORD the current premium prices on the private market.

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  19. Ragnar

    No one has a right to something produced by someone else's labor. Period. If you don't believe that than you don't believe in the fundamental principal of our freedom (private property) or in our constitution, which is supposed to protect it. In fact, this principle should be the end of the discussion for about 85% of this current administration's policy proposals - including universal healthcare.

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  20. safesax

    Obama and all you obamaheads are so misguided. you think that all of this will just magically be paid for or some rich guy will pay for it. you dont care if undocumented visitors to this country will get free health care or that people who dont work ,never work and never will work to pay into this system(scam) will get a free ride . Of course we need AFFORDABLE insurance , but to get that we need tort reform (look it up). The only people making any money are the lawyers and bureaucrats. Wait...............aren't they the ones making the laws.

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  21. bobb

    How is it possible that it's the Republican's fault if this doesn't pass when the Democrats control both houses?

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  22. Greg

    The healthcare system is at functional capacity today. Adding 50m people to the ranks of the insured will absolutely result in changes in the way everyone accesses the system - expect long lead times for appointments and critical procedures. If you have insurance now, there will certainly be changes. People who don't recognize this are ignoring basic math. Reform should be incremental. Coverage for the unisured should come in parallel with resources to address the problem - both money and providers.


    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  23. BillV

    The government not reforming healthcare will increase the deficit? Don't think so...

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  24. Charly

    Last I checked, weren't the Dems in charge of the House & Senate? How would failure to pass a bill be the fault of the Republicans? People need to wake up – Obama has nothing new to offer tonight....just desperation.

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  25. J.C. - Independent & Insured

    Obama is no Teddy Roosevelt. He is President Barack Hussein Obama. He is already making history as we speak. But I do hope he will speak about why we cannot afford discriminating against the Public Option in the Exchange. No matter what plans are available in the Exchange, without the Public Option, health care costs will continue to rise and bankrupt our economy.

    September 9, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
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