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. SFTech

    According to two of the plans that I read you are required to join the Government plan if you change jobs.


    Only 1 in 5 people have stayed with a company longer that 5 years which means 80% will HAVE TO BE on the government plan within 5 years.

    You can call me out you've recieved the invitation.

    September 9, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  2. Healthcare needed

    Mr. President – I respect you and salute you, sir!. Your speech (English) is still professorial. The average American does not understand this. The naysayers have lined up the masses who may not have read or understood that the lack of Healthcare reform WILL be a long term issue for the country and that is the people. I need you to succeed, more than I wanted you to be elected and more than ever, you also need to educate your party and candidates well. Please make us proud once again, make Oprah proud since she always believed in you. I voted for you becuase I believe that she is right and that she is for the common people as much as you are. God bless you and God bless America!

    September 9, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  3. ggb

    Ok Obama, the ball is in your court. Can you be truthful (?) and can you back your statements with facts, not guesses. Being a very eloquent speaker, I doubt it and I doubt the american citizens will be able to read between the lines. We need reform but lets start fixing what we have and not build the problems into your plan. It truly is not about the "haves and have nots" nor corporate american greed, it is about salvaging this country and what our founding fathers believed. I bleieve they fought against big government!

    September 9, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  4. Steven

    Don't be brainwashed. Many of you had fallen for fancy teleprompter words during the election, shame you will fall for it again tonight.

    September 9, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  5. roc

    The economy is held together with bubblegum and duct tape, and our legislators are slobbering and stumbling over each other to hurry and emulate health care systems in countries with even more debt than the US (as a percentage of GDP). Are we a nation of fools?

    Health insurance is a value-added benefit from working, not a mandated right under the Constitution.. In fact under the 10th Amendment it’s up to the People or the individual States.NOT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

    Porkulus, endless bailouts, ACORN’s payback, backroom deals with pharmacutical companies, cap and trade, cash for clunkers, socialized medicine, all the communist and anti-American close friends and associations, on and on the madness continues!

    Don”t even get me started on our Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius showing us how to cough.


    September 9, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  6. DizzzyDean

    So this plan is so good Congress is knocking the door down to switch plans. And tort reform is included? And it will only cost 1 trillion dollars? What can go wrong?

    September 9, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  7. Liberal Guilt

    Wow, another emergency, People will go bankrupt or die how or how about go bankrupt then die businesses will fail. What did the last emergency cost us? Hmmm how about 780 billion dollars. How about the predicted 7 trillion dollar deficit in 10 years that was revised to 9 trillion a few months later. Where is the money coming from? I used to read these comments and it would aggravate me but now I realize there is nothing I can write that change the far left. That is why you post here right. You say that you are trying to help people but somewhere down the line it has become about you. Do you care about freedom? Do you care about your children paying off your debt for all your GREAT IDEAS?

    September 9, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  8. Mike

    Great speaker with great words. I hope whoever wrote the speech is telling the truth this time

    September 9, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  9. gEk

    Gee, blame the Republicans, right. BHO has not met with or included any Republicans for months. Beside the Dems have the votes, they do not need the Republicans. What are the Dems afraid of?

    BTW, this is not about "health care", it's about health insurance.
    Insurance as protections from financial doom if faced with big health/illness issue.

    In my close to 60 years living in the greatest country ever I've never faced the fear that I now have with this president and his far left wing group seek to destroy our way of life, our security, our wonderful country.

    September 9, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  10. Gandalf61

    I can understand the issue of compassion for those who may struggle with health insurance issues, but Mr. Obama's solution betrays both his duplicity in his claims and his ignorance of economics.

    He says that you cannot be denied insurance for 1) pre-existing conditions and that they will 2) limit the fees you can be charged by insurance companies, and 3) they cannot place "arbitrary"caps. He has no clue of what it takes to run a business.

    If insurance companies have to take anyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions, it will blow the actuarial tables apart and gut their ability to fun – whether you like it or not, that is how they run – on profit, driven by having more healthy than unhealthy people on the rolls. Only the government can operate at a loss.

    Limit the fees, they will go under. You reduce thier income while increasing operating costs (pre-existing conditions), and they will go under.

    The alleged "arbitrary caps" are not arbitrary. They are the product of the number of customers who have policies, how much it costs to insure them, and how much they can afford to pay out and keep running, and not go under.

    Also, the "goverment option" will have no limits as to how much they can undercut the private insurance industry – all the Obama industry has to do is print more money, and the can low-ball the insurance companies in a blink. This will cause millions to go over to government insurance, as it is cheaper...funded by deficit spending..

    Insurance companies make no more profit than any other business, when compared side by side. He is a fool when it comes to how the economy functions, and if his plan goes through the way he desires it, he will devastate the 16% of our economy and we will not be able to roll back the clock once that happens and we will rue the day...

    September 9, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  11. Speechless

    This is so ridiculous. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing standing between democrats and this bill except other democrats. The only thing republicans can stop is a Constitutional amendment. Anyone who believes this nonsense rhetoric about the right stopping the bill is uneducated about civics and how the house and senate work.

    If this thing had any merit it would be done by now. Obama is smart enough to know that has a majority across the board, let's hope he not so arrogant that he thinks he has Regan's mandate. He only won by a few points, not a landslide. The representatives know that...

    September 9, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  12. g

    This is the same speech we have heard before / the problem is the devil is in the details / sure you can keep your coverage but if any one wants coverage that does not have it only the gov plan is allowed (read the bill ) eventually w the fines taxes and everry thing else the ins companies will die off when they do only the gov will be left / but funded how ??? 50% tax ratesand fines / how else will they cut cost / doctors wages and pharmasutical taxes until they are at a low level and then what / sure give everbody health care / obesity is a problem / fine the smokers eaters drinkers then what ...

    September 9, 2009 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  13. Annie

    YOU may want your health care to resemble Saturday night at the hospital. YOU may want to pay increased taxes to cover everyone equally in your neighborhood. YOU may not care if equipment for your illness slowly degrades, or breaks and isn't available at your hospital anymore. YOU may like an independent panel telling you that your wait for your pain diagnosis is 3-5 months. Not me, not now, not ever. Go to a third world country to live if you like lines and poor quality and "do you have enough money" for more tests...under the table, of course.

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  14. Sphynx

    Oh, I just can't wait to get free health care. Paid for by the billions and billions of rich people in this country. Oh, to stand in line for hours to see the physician of the bureaucrats' choice. Oh, to get rationed medicine and limited options on treatment! ! I can't wait!!

    Oh, I know that BO says I can keep my plan of choice. Problem is, I want free health care. My employer wants me to get free health care so they won't have to pay for it. What employer would, when free's available?

    And, you know? I'm thinking about quitting my job, anyway, because then I can get food stamps and unemployment. When that runs out I can go on the dole. I can pretend I'm depressed and get an SSI check!

    Cause the rich people will pay for it all with their taxes. They have too much money anyway. They can keep making money and giving it all to the government. After all, wouldn't you???

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  15. James

    Although I appreciate our country's need for a reformed health care, I don't appreciate that people seem to think that Republicans want that reform to fail at all costs simply because they want to line their own pockets (and perhaps the pockets of their friends). As a future physician, this debate concerns me greatly – not necessarily because I'm afraid that my pay check will get cut, but because I am a part of the population that will be asked to do the work that is being planned. In large measure we have been silent, or unheard, and yet without us, none of this matters at all. So, what do we see when we look at health care? We see the costs – it costs, at a minimum, $80,000 dollars to put a doctor through medical school, assuming that someone is paying the other $80,000 or more for room and board. It costs almost $5,000 for a heart valve – not including the team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, etc. to put it in and the equipment (which all must be disposable, creating gobs of trash) that they must use. Dialysis costs around $30,000 per year (more than my medical school tuition). What we learn is that "modern medicine" costs a lot of money. As a society, we cannot all have the quality of health care that is offered to the present day elite – we simply cannot afford it. I sympathize with those who want that. I wish it were possible, but unless the United States is sitting on a diamond mine, it simply isn't. I respect (some of) those who are hesitant about the proposed bills. True, there are those who would fear monger simply because they fear change, or fear taking a hit to their pocketbook, but there are also those who logically argue that this is not financially feasible, or that it is not a government's job to dictate health care (and I consider this a fair philosophical perspective). And, perhaps most important in this whole debate, is that what is being asked is that people (yes, physicians are people), perform a service for their fellow man. Although I have heard on a great many occasions that physicians should provide health care for free, I have never heard that farmers should provide food for free, though we all need food, or that construction workers should build homes for free, though we all need shelter. And consider the effect of a hugely increased patient population newly armed with insurance and racing to the doors of an already strained physician population. Huge numbers of general physicians are already cutting their patient loads, or quitting altogether. What will happen to these people if they have insurance but no one to go to? Will we, the next generation of physicians, be required to work long hours? Will we be required to forfeit time with our families and friends to provide this service? Ultimately, those who are hesitant – at least some of them – have good, rational thoughts on the subject. Let us not focus on those who would simply yell and scream bloody murder to scare us, but rather on those who would engage us in rational debate and move us to more enlightened conclusions than we may have seen without them. That, after all, is why we chose to be a republic.

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  16. Cas

    -oh, and I am all for health care reform. But not one like the one being shoved through congress.

    Give us tort reform.

    No? Of course not- trial lawyers are a special interest group that Obama is indebted to.

    The Dems have screwed this up. Obama promised that the discussions on this would be seen on C-Span-instead he took it behind closed doors. His credibility is shot-he has proven to be dishonest.

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  17. rodrigo

    "Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow."

    Jeez, if only we could convince Obama and friends to do NOTHING, our children might actually be able to afford a massive public care plan in the future. We sure can't afford it now, we're broker than broke.

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  18. mysterio

    Thus far he's spent countless dollars on 'fix-the-economy-quick' schemes that haven't done anything. One fact remains is that this plan isn't planned. It isn't paid for, there's no real structure to how it will work and this guy isn't fit to be president. They are doing a terrible job in congrees and the senate as well, they should stop praising the celebrity-in-chief and be realistic about what to do and how to do it.

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  19. Robert

    So basically, this is just the same old BS that Obama has been spewing for the last several weeks. Attacking his opponents and running a scare campaign that if we don't act TODAY the entire system is going to collapse tomorrow. There is a name for this: it's called Chicken Little. The man owns all houses of government and still can't lead.

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  20. Brent

    Propaganda. If health care reform is SO URGENT then why does the current bull put off any change until 2013?? Convenient that its right after the next presidential election. This is total bull, there is nothing in here to expand coverage and reduce costs, not to mention that we cannot afford any of it in our current financial debacle on capital hill. Anyone who believes this president and those pushing this bill are ignorant and have the wool pulled over their eyes. Wake up people, this is all about special interests and power, nothing more, stop believing the bologna they are spewing. Oh and talk about fear mongering – even our president is guilty of it!

    September 9, 2009 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    Where are these liberal commentors coming from? How much is the White House paying you?

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  22. Lew S

    For goodness sakes, Richard Nixon proposed national health care in 1971. Today Nixon would be considered in the left wing of the Democratic Party. Both parties ignore history.

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  23. barry

    I have never read such garbage in my life!!! Either the words of our tyrant-in-chief or from many of the posters here.

    Obama is using the most despicable scare tactic rhetoric to defend a complete and utter lie. He makes up lies and attributes them to the opposition.... it's the Democratic politics of threat all over again... on steroids.

    We now know that the White House has completely frozen the Republican leadership out of health care reform talks – refusing to even talk with them since April. He talks about the need for bi-partisanship – as usual to Demoncraps this means accept our position without any discussion or input and you're being bi-partisan.

    The time has come for us to consider taking the steps that our forefathers did – I'm not advocating violence, just questioning WHEN we need to consider it. Is it when we have a President and Congress who are willing to bypass parliamentary procedures, invoke unheard of powers (44 CZARS who are exercising cabinet level powers and responsibilities without congressional oversight or confirmations), and whose motivations APPEAR to be to bankrupt our nation. (Don't LOOK but it's already been done – they just keep printing more cash to pay off the interest)

    Anyone who actually believes that we can pay to insure 10-40 million Americans and save money – I have some great financial products you might want to "invest" in.

    Do you people actually BUY his lie that the $2 trillion of total annual spending on health care (which pays the salaries of tens of millions of Americans) is going to bankrupt us, but that the $10 trillion Obama has already committed us to is going to HELP the economics of our nation?

    What a bunch of idiots – you've elected a President who has a 4th grade understanding of economics and who is a greater narcissist than Bill Clinton.

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  24. Ga'tor

    1st: the Obama administration has refused to talk to the Republicans regarding their ideas for healthcare. (tort reform, Health savings account, allowing ALL insurance companies to compete in ALL states. etc.)
    2nd: The democrats can't even get a suffcient majority of their own party to support this bill.
    3rd: Why are people pointing at the GOP and claiming it's their fault this bill is in trouble. The Dems have a majority, they should use it. Oh wait, see #2.

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  25. Gerry

    Why can't we take 3 to 6 months and get this right. We have not reformed health care in 10 of years but now we have to have it now. Now is no good if it dosen't work. The democrats have been in charge of congress for nearly 3 years and haven't done anything to fix it. So I think everyone in congress is responsible for this failure.

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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