September 9th, 2009
05:46 PM ET
13 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. Exasperated

    I hope the speech is persuasive and detailed. Those of you who have insurance and rant and rave about the deadbeats who don't need to stop and think what would happen if you lost your job. You might also think how you would afford it if you made $7.25 an hour. You may be on the top of the heap today but you never know what tomorrow may bring. I think we need a plan that is fair for all and one where we know exactly what we are getting into. But to decry health reform just because "you got yours" is shortsighted.

    September 9, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |

    Obama said: "Republicans don't have a (Health Care) Plan". But he'd forgotten the many Democrats siding with Republicans on this ISSUE and what keeps him from obtaining a majority in Senate or Congress! Perhaps they don't need a (Health Care) Plan. We don't need a Health Care Plan either, cos we already have good and payable Health Care: we live in Netherlands. And US Health Care Reform won't stretch OUT to reach (out to) US here! Neither would it be better than what we have already! So, Republicans in US are like US here: they don't need such Health Care Reform and they certainly don't want such "Public Otion"!!

    September 9, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  3. Tim

    Wow, he actually has a plan, funny how this was suppose to rammed through congress a month ago and only now he has a plan. Does he address how we are going to pay for this? Does he address the fact that an overwhelming majority of the American people do not support this bill......why worry about about the small stuff when Obama can just read he rhetoric off a teleprompter and avoid the facts. I miss the days when he voted "present" 188 times

    September 9, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  4. Al

    We are all suspicious of Government run endeavors. Many of us do not trust our health insurance companies. They have non doctors "managing our care" by telling our primary care physicians what they can and cannot do to care for us. I trust insurance companies less than government.

    My brother works for a small construction company with no health care. They cannot afford the cost for small employers. His wife gets breast cancer and they must file for bankruptcy. The chemo shot cost $500 per shot (needed each week). A person at Social Security tells them to get a divorce because he makes "too much" for Soc sec disability. In light of the fact that people on welfare get free healthcare, but the workiing family, tells me something is wrong with this system. Its time for national halthcare reform.

    September 9, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  5. zeb mina

    To all those who are still carping about universal healthcare and govt-run care - I haven't seen anything in the excerpt above to indicate that! Rather, the message I get is that insurance companies will not be permitted to drop you because of a per-existing condition; that there will be caps put on the premiums they can charge you; that they cannot arbitrarily deny you coverage if you fall sick. If the Obama Administration delivers on that, I'm all for it – public option or not. At the end of the day, I need my healthcare costs to drop substantially. I need to know that I can change jobs, or more to a new state without worrying about whether I'll get healthcare or not.

    September 9, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  6. Chad

    Funny how the Republicans are being blamed when the Democrats have more than enough members in the house and senate to pass whatever legislation they want.

    September 9, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  7. Wingnut

    So now the lugnuts are playing the "fear" game. If this does not pass millions will die, the country will fall, ahhhhhhh.

    The only thing missing is the race card Barry.

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  8. bobw1952

    That's it??? We can keep our present plan but he added so many new benefits and conditions that costs will soar and we will all join the Obama 'collective'. The only reform is more cost and less choice. Where is the Constitutional power for him to do this anyway???

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  9. Chuck

    Everyone who's taken a macro economics class knows that unlimited demand and limited supply leads to lower costs! Why doesn't Obama just tell the school children that?

    Spending money you don't have = saving money in the future!

    This is basic public school math folks...

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  10. Jeff E.

    This guy is the real deal. He gave the republicans every opportunity to join in a meaningful debate, and what did they do? They engaged in scare tactics, spread lies and ginned up fear. They are pathetic relics of a dying ideology of greed. You go, Mr. President. You gave these hypocrites just enough rope to hang themselves. Now, it's time to take back the reins and drive this wagon home.

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. sakibaba

    President needs to remove his focus from bipartisanship and get the legislative agenda moving. His policies were given the mandate when he was elected by overwhelming majority.
    Most of the people in this country do not have the time to participate in useless polls and be part of mobs at townhalls.
    He got the mandate and now needs to act on it. As far as bipartisan ship goes, you do not negotiate with 4 year old kids throwing tantrums. When Rush Limbaugh had wished that he wants the President to fail that was his call to the evershrinking loony right to make it happen, no matter if the nation goes down the toilet with them:such patriotic people..haa.
    As per these loonies they are the only "real americans" as they define themselves. Its time to show them the door and show who is in charge. Pass healthcare, pass immigration reform.Do some adult stuff for once.

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  12. mahesh

    Here we go again.Snake oil seller is addressing the joint session of congress.Democratic congress is so brilliant.Give tax payor money to corn growers to make corn syrup and then propose to tax us on every soda can so we drink less of it.Human body does not feel satisfied with corn sugar so people pig out anyway especially the one,s on hand outs.They can not even stop giving money to corn growers so that soda will cost more and return my tax money they are giving to the growers.These brilliant democratic politicians want us to believe them on massive give away[insurance reforn] to abusers who do not work or save,did not finish school.Stop this give away or you and your children will pay for this mother of all abuses

    September 9, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  13. Tyler Hardy

    To all who support a public option and other social programs,

    Is this speech rhetoric we have not heard before?

    I still don't understand why it is my responsibility, whether I am poor or rich, old or young, male or female, impaired or healthy, to pay for the health care coverage of another individual (or anything for that matter). Can someone please explain the difference between sanctioned theft committed by the federal and state governments on a daily basis, and non-sanctioned theft committed by individuals and crime organizations?

    Is it ok for me to come to your house and steal $5 from your wallet and say, "Well, I have a health condition, and it is your responsibility to help me pay for it." ? The fact that most citizens of the United States cannot see social programs and redistribution for what they are, theft, is a reference for how accustom to allowing other people to solve individuals problems we have become. I'm sick too, sick of supporting you. Help me cure my illness.

    Tyler Hardy

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  14. Cas

    I am reading these comments and I know not whether to laugh or cry. The republicans asked to meet with the President and were told no-that the WH had it under control. Obama constantly rejects any feedback or ideas from the minority party. He told them to shut up and get out of the way-

    If it does not pass it's the REPUBLICANS fault? Do you not understand that they do not need even ONE GOP vote to pass this? Do you not understand that the DEMS are the majority and can't pass this because their constituents don't want them to!

    Imagine a politician who listens to the people who put them in office. It's amazing!

    It saddens me to see so many people who so willingly believe the lies they are fed by Obama and the media. It's laughable-and sad.

    -and no, we are not all with him on this.

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  15. Daniel

    Sure looks like the same old speech rhetoric as before. No mention of how to pay for it once again which most likely means that the American Taxpayer will shoulder the burden of this in a time when the economy is faltering and inflation is around the corner.

    Why on earth would I want to spend my paycheck to pay for somebody else to get health insurance who probably doesn't work, lives off the government and wakes up at noon everyday? What contribution are they making to our society?

    If I have to support illegal immigrants, and those who can't afford health insurance, then let's add some additional mandates to the plan such as semi-annual drug testing and community service projects.

    People should have to earn their health care coverage rather than expect the government to provide it for them.

    Where is the tort reform? Where is the mention of allowing insurance companies to compete for business across state lines just as a mortgage company can do?

    I still have many questions and am for health care reform, but not for the plan you're proposing.

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  16. Erik

    Those who keep referring to the extremist mantra of "socialist" such as Artie are free not to use the "socialist" public roads, "socialist" public national parks, "socialist" public libraries, etc. which we have access to. Let's not forget about the "socialist" fire departments and law enforcement personnel.

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  17. derek

    "creating a new insurance exchange"...Is the government going to run one of the companies in the exchange? There goes the free market if Barry does the head fake and people swallow this. What I see is his numbers going down along with his grand ideas of health care reform. Talk radio and the internet will show the flaws in this plan, while the old media doesn't cover the issues and hopes people don't catch on. To late for that. More and more people are becoming aware!

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  18. Jeffrey

    If health care reform was so critical, that is to say we have to act now as the President puts it, why was this package held off until just before Congressional holiday? I presume the response would be that more pressing problems were involved. If people are dying and the country is on the verge of bankruptcy from this issue what could be more pressing? Would passing a bill that puts emphasis on greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2020 be more important than someone's life? How did shutting down Guantanamo Bay become more important than saving small businesses from shutting down from the overwhelming burdens of health insurance costs? The problem with "NOW!" is that you tend to lose focus on the importance of change. Change for change's sake is short sighted and dangerous. Change is good if you vet not only the potential benefits but also the costs. This national plan sounds pleasing but is short sighted. Fannie and Freddie, Amtrak, the Post Office should be all the examples we need to know the government is ill equipped to be involved in free market economics. This plan is bad. Good change to health insurance could help everyone, just come up with a better change than what is proposed and don’t try to force a plan because now is the key time. (and by the way, Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican)

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  19. Todd P.

    This repeated attempt to shove the "Government option" down the throats of Americans is POLITICAL SUICIDE for the DEMOCRATS! President Obama is either incredibly tone-deaf to the citizen's wishes or just plain dumb. The only people clamoring for the "govt. option" are welfare bums and illegal aliens. Most of the people that don't have insurance have NO PROBLEM paying for cellphones, texting packages, EXTRA cable packages, nail salons, or Starbucks! Healthcare reform, Cap and Trade, etc. are nothing more than Saul Alinsky inspired ways to REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH from workers to non-workers.........

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  20. NotFooled

    Quote: Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

    Talk about misrepresenting. Mr President, are you saying you will no longer penalize businesses who want to keep their current plan? Show

    September 9, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  21. nickybudda

    "...[N]othing 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." Yes, but what happens if my employer drops my plan and opts for the public option? I lose my coverage, I lost my doctor. Stop with the sophistry and tell the truth about what will happen under this plan.

    September 9, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  22. Matt Seymore


    "It's always a great idea to cite one of the best Democrats ever, Teddy Roosevelt."

    Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican. And you vote. And get to share an opinion on healthcare. Scary.

    You had one part right. We do need more Presidents like him.

    September 9, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  23. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    It's actually very simple: if Obama wants working Americans to pay the medical bills of total strangers, he's not going to get it. If he wants to saddle us with trillion-dollar debts, he's not going to get it. If he wants to subject people to the insane bureaucracy of government-run health care, he's not going to get it.

    September 9, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  24. Paul

    A botched job of it, Mr. President.

    September 9, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  25. Bruce

    What plan? Which one? Show us YOUR plan. Barry, so we can see if what you say about it is true.
    We are tired of your lies and vague generalities regarding our health care system, and we are not scared by your rhetoric.
    Why rush us into another mistake, like you did with your so-called economic stimulus?

    September 9, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
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