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. Anonymous

    The president hasn't met with the Republicans since April on Health care...why not? Don't blame the republicans on this one. The Dems don't need ONE

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  2. Rick

    Why would anyone ever want the government administering their healthcare. This is what the Democrats and Obama want. I want less government, not the way Obama is growing it. Sta;y out of healthcare.

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  3. DAN

    The Problem is that Obama has yet to answer what happens when the government yet again underestimates how much this plan is going to cost. Does Cash for Clunkers ring any bells? Im not a republican or a democrat and that doesnt matter.. Obama keeps on saying republicans are using "scare tactics" and they are all apart of a mob that is clinging to guns and religion.. I think the problem is that obama isnt answering any questions about the actual fears people have. The only thing he ever sais is that hes going to bring the price down so everyone can afford it and you can keep your own if you like it and everyone gets something for nothing..The problem with americans now a days is that everyone thinks they deserve something for nothing and obama is encouraging it. this attitude will come back to haunt us someday. With the help of this government it will be sooner rather than later...

    September 9, 2009 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  4. Pat

    1) Define for me who is included and who is excluded and that from this day forward those who are excluded will not receive any care for which they do not make FULL payment for themselves (take personal responsibility, just as our school children were instructed to learn and follow). 2) Define the 'penalty' to those who are eligible but chose to not enroll. Since we're getting rid of 'pre-ex', those who elect to opt out can later walk back into our new healthcare system by enrolling, paying a month's premium and getting their knee, back, shoulder, whatever fixed – and then drop out again. What will the penalty be that will stop people from 'cherry picking' against the new Government sponsored healthplan. 3) Define for me where the money will be kept – (do I hear 'lockbox'?) – that the Government collects from all of us to fund this program. Can money from this healthcare escrow account be used for other Government projects – pork – that they deem important enough to place an IOU in the box as they take out $50B for this and $80B for that? Isn't this what they've done with our Employee & Employer Social Security contributions of 12+% plus our 3% for Medicare? If we are to put you in charge of another $2 Trillion how can we trust you and those to follow you to do the right thing? 4) Guarantee that the new program will not treat anyone differently. We are all US citizens and all are equal. Guarantee us that we can smoke all we want, eat all we want, drink all we want, go out after work and do flips over dirt hills on our motor bikes, enjoy our recreational drugs and other addictions and not be concerned that you will call us out on our lifestyle choices and ask us to refrain from these activities or ask us to contribute more to the cost of our care or deny us the chemo treatments we will need, or the replacement liver/kidney/lung or gastric bypass operation because this Government plan should not select against us like those profit orientated Insurance companies do. We're all equal and we all share the wealth according to our needs. God bless America.

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. Emmanuel Goldstein

    Based on the lack of specifics, except for that call for everyone to shoulder some "responsibility" I don't think that the GOP should say anything. The Plan will speak for itself, and that should take care of it in due course.

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  6. justme

    How come it takes over 1000 pages of legislation to insure everyone? Especially when most of the wording is for other things. I read the pros and cons of the Japanese health care system with only 22 pages. BTY Japan offers a single payer non-profit system. Every year the quality goes down because they need to get more patients and less time with each patient to keep the cost per patient low.
    Our government leaders would do better if they presented the plan and the cost so we could make an informed decision. Much like we do when we buy insurance today. So far all we hear is rehtoric without the details. For example they want to eliminated the medicare advantage plan, but what exactly will it be replace with and how much will it cost.
    I feel like we are being scammed by our government and we should not allow it................................

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. dennis

    I hope America is ready to pay out the nose for this health care "reform".

    I also hope America is ready for the largest government run HMO on the planet because that's what this bill creates.

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  8. Rich

    Don't be mislead. The GOP have nothing to do with the failure of this bill. In fact, take a look at the 44 Dems that voted against the bill. The bill is a joke, people. Stop following this guy and start listening to what he's saying. He has no idea how to make what he wants, happen.

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  9. 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 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  10. David R. George

    Looks like President Obama is giving it his best shot. We're with you, Mr. President. The dissenters are in the minority. Too bad Bill Moyers wasn't able to be with you to repeat his views on the subject. He would be a welcome ally.

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  11. barret

    It's funny how quick you are to applaud the empty words and promises of a man who has built his whole presidency on rhetoric. How will our nation's deficit go up if we don't pass healthcare? What he's proposing will cause our nation's deficit to go up! Don't turn a blind eye to what the facts point to. It's time to wake up and face the truth, we have a man that likes the idea of trying to play president when he hasn't a clue on how to be a president. For all of you who think this would some how benefit you, you need to understand that you will pay dearly for supporting something that can't possibly be sustained. I hope CNN has the willingness to post a perspective that you will never see them air on TV.

    September 9, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  12. Jack

    There is only one problem with Obama's plan to take over the health care system, were broke... Socialized health care has never been anything but a total disaster in other countries, but Obama and congress are so great and smart that they have come up with the perfect solution to the problem in only a couple of months. I look forward to seeing Obama voted out of office, along with most of congress. By the way, I hate Obama, not because he is an African-American, but because he is a socialist leftist who is hellbent on socializing America. America did not become the greatest country in the world because it had a huge government which controlled most of the economy, rather it became great because there was little government.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  13. shawn

    I am all for Obama's Public Option, but it needs to be paid for and I don't see it in the Presidents very optimistic proposal

    1. Ending the current exclusion from taxable income of employer payments for health insurance would increase income tax revenue by more than $1 trillion over the next five years and nearly $3 trillion over the next decade. Eliminating this subsidy would also lead to a restructuring of private health insurance that would give patients the incentive to seek more cost-effective care and thereby bring down the overall cost of health care. This will allow employees to choose a lower level insurance policy and pocket the difference into their paycheck.

    2. Medicare Overhaul
    Since Medicare is the largest contributor to the explosive growth in government spending, a good way to start shrinking government outlays would be by restructuring Medicare to shift more of its costs to supplementary private insurance, perhaps on an income-related basis. If this is not done we will be in the same predicament-Huge budget deficits.

    3. Social Security Overhaul- although a different subject- needs to be set back gradually until the age of 70 and dispersed according to income needs.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  14. Bill

    Well wouldnt it be wonderful if each person could buy there own insurance to suit their needs, but who is going to pay for all these government programs when the jobs go away and nobody is working.Will the government borrow from China and print money until we cant afford the price of foods. People wake up ,nothing is free,u pay a price in ur freedoms and ur country as a nation.Our forefathers made this country great, americans fought to keep it and now we just surrender in name of welfare. Why hasnt social security been fixed, its the biggest ponzi scheme in the world,some people go to prison for that. Medicare is not free,u have to pay parts of that from wages and also when u use.Wake u America,read the fine print.You were blind to vote this man in office and now u will be fooled once again.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  15. Ryan

    I work for mysefl and like my health plan, based on this I MUST change my plan. Once again few details, what is the coverage, what about HSA's, how much is it going to cost. Who is going to pay for it.
    This man doesn;t get it. we need less goverment involvement. He is working to take away all our rights and he won't stop until he has complete control. Wake up america, it's not about reform, it's about the distrucction of our nation.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  16. Brian

    Health reform without tort reform. Brilliant. How do you expect to control spiraling costs without addressing that? If you seriously want health reform, start there. Without tort reform, you are just a joke. Get over yourself, Obama.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  17. Pat

    This approach to regulate the health insurance industry will not increase availability or quality. It will force companies out of the marketplace or increase premiums. Managed care is the problem and it was touted as health "reform" 40 years ago. The only way to correct the system is to get the government out of the way. Let us have tax deductible individual care, lower or suspend the income tax and allow competition to return to the market. We save for retirement why not save for potential health problems? This is a tyrannical approach to a social problem created by government legislation. Obama is the wolf and healthcare is the hen house.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  18. Dr. Dean

    Leftist sycophants beat up on health insurance companies (who collectively have a lower profit margin than Michael Moore), yet the Baucus plan (Senator Max Baucus – D Montana) was created by Wellpoint one of the largest health insurers. I'll bet a trillion dollars that if this health care fiasco passes two things will happen: Wellpoint's profits will increase dramatically; and Obama's name will go down in infamyas the president that destroyed not only health care, but the entire U.S. economy. If you think it can't happen, you aren't paying attention.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  19. Joy

    Finally, Mr. President, you're calling those selfish Republicans out. Good job. You can do this without them, and do it for us. That would be a concept the Republicans seem to have forgotten.

    September 9, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  20. Cato

    People just don't seem to the uninsured going to the emergency rooms for basic are already paying a TAX to care for them....just one that goes on the bottom line of the INSURANCE COMPANIES!

    Paying that money for universal healthcare, would LOWER the cost over the next decade....and keep everyone HEALTHIER!

    September 9, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  21. Terri S.

    I am offended by the scare tactics put forth in this speech. More will die? Families going bankrupt? Businesses closing? Fear mongering at its best, or worst it can possibly be. I am ashamed of you Mr. Obama.

    September 9, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  22. Brian

    Political rhetoric aside, how is it the USA is essentially alone with its current medical system, while the rest of the world has "seen the light" and gone with systems akin to that which President Obama is promoting? There are many very bright people in other countries who recognize the benefits and value of their systems, so America certainly can't claim intellectual superiority.

    Perhaps the opposition is really coming from the special interest groups (e.g. insurance companies) who have been making fortunes from the status quo and don't wish to see competition for the health care $$. Duh...

    September 9, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  23. nickybudda

    I missed the reference to tort reform. If we are going to rein in the doctors' pay, let's do the same for the lawyers. Mr. President, if you want to reduce costs, don't sociailize the medical system, stop the frivolous lawsuits that result in needless procedures and skyrocketing costs. I know it will affect your campaign coffers because the trial lawyers might stop giving you millions, but it's right for the country. Teddy Roosevelt would want it.

    September 9, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  24. TonyR

    Apparently Justie doesn't realize that both Republicans and Democrats have been in control of the government since Teddy Roosevelt. Be that as it may, a simple plan, but how will it be implemented?? Should be interesting to see. How will the costs for the insurance be borne by the insurance companies without help from the government? As I recall poor people are classified as poor people because they have no money. So where will the money come from to purchase the reasonably priced insurance. Obama makes it sound like this is geared towards the people who want to get insurance but cannot afford it because of the cost. This includes some middle class peopl and the poor. Most of the poor get their money from government hand outs. So the government will be paying for insurance for the unfortunate souls who don't have the money. I wonder where the government gets it's money. The taxpayer?? Naw – recent events tell us that they just print what they need. As I recall from my economics class that results in inflation reducing the value of money, resulting in more people not being able to afford heath insurance with the government paying out more money to these additional people etc ad nauseum. Seems to me the government should butt out.

    September 9, 2009 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  25. Surfrider

    Here's an idea..!!! How about letting all the insurance companies compete in every state, thus lowering the premium costs to us and our employers, and actually creating REAL jobs in those states, instead of the "saved" jobs from the spendulus..???

    Address the problem...we don't need healthcare reform...we need reform of the legislation that doesn't allow insurance companies to compete for your business...

    I want everyone to have it, just the way I for it, earn it, pay for it...You can call me unamerican all day long for that, but there is nothing more American than the way I do it..

    How can a President tell us all about how hard he has worked to get where he is, then turn around and try to hand out freebies to those who aren't willing to do as he did..?? If you cannot see the hypocrasy in that, then you are blind...

    September 9, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
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