Obama lays out his healthcare plan for America

If you haven’t seen the President’s speech, delivered tonight, before a joint session of Congress, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a brilliant piece of oratory.

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If you’re inclined, you can also find the full text of the speech here… And, here, as we’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about it lately, is the piece about the so-called public option.

…My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a “government takeover” of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.

So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly – by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.

Insurance executives don’t do this because they are bad people. They do it because it’s profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called “Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations.”

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I’ve already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea. They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers. It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.

It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.

For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need….

And here’s the part of the speech where he calls out the lying assholes in the Congress who have perpetuating conspiracy theories about death panels and the like. Make special note of Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC), who screams “You Lie” when the President notes that his plan will not cover illegal aliens, at the 1:28 mark.

I have some reservations. Namely, I’m concerned that talk of the public option was not introduced as a primary component of the plan, but merely as an element at work within the so-called healthcare exchange system. Still, though, it was said. And, for the time being, I am satisfied.

And I know I’ve asked you this before, but how great is it to finally have a President that comes across like an adult who actually understands what it is that he’s talking about? The fact that we as a nation chose this man to lead us gives me hope. There is, without a doubt, a vocal, frothing, anti-intellectual contingent within the Republican party, but, as I often forget, they don’t constitute a majority here in America. And their ideas do not, and will not, define us as a nation. I know there’s still a long fight in front of us, but I’m hopeful, at least for the time being, that we’ve got a fighting chance.

And how Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to stand and applaud for Obama’s closing statement, I will never understand. It just seems to me that every elected official, regardless of party, should believe that it is our calling as Americans to address big challenges, and to do so with integrity and civility. I would have thought that sentiment was shared by everyone.

Here, in case you missed it, is Obama’s closing statement:

…This has always been the history of our progress. In 1933, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that’s not what the moment calls for. That’s not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.

Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.

update: Here’s the breakdown of what, specifically, the Obama plan includes.

update: And, if you have a minute, do please write to your local Blue Dog Democrats, and encourage them to get onboard with healthcare reform. They’re the ones we really need to focus on now.

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  1. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 9, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    The whole heckler thing made me realize how similar to Bush’s Social Security reform this thing is getting. It’s like a spaghetti political showdown, but everybody switches hats.

  2. What's In a Name
    Posted September 9, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a Republican, no where close, but I was quite dismayed with the response of the Republicans towards the latter half of the speech when Obama talked about the conspiracy theories out there. Did we become the British Parliament recently?

    Yelling “You Lie” in the middle of a Presidential speech to a joint session of Congress and dozens of legislators holding up papers (show us the bill? who knows what they were saying). Really it was all rather juvenile from the Republicans. Their response (and lack thereof to several statements that any American should have applauded and agreed with) more than anything put me firmly in the health care reform and ram it through camp. Several Republicans were trying to pass off the town hall debacles as fringe elements of the GOP, if part of the GOP at all. Well all of America can now see that the nuts aren’t just at the town hall forums, they’re sitting as elected officials in DC and they’re on the red side of the aisle.

    Stick a fork in it. The Republican Party is done for after their antics tonight.

  3. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 9, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Fact check of Obama’s speech.

  4. EOS
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Obama said he was going to increase the numbers of persons receiving health care, increase the quality of care, and it won’t cost an additional dime of government spending. He’s going to pay for it all through eliminating the waste in the current government operated health care systems. He needs to show us the money. Eliminate the billions in waste first, without reducing care or the quality of that care, and then design a health care plan using those recovered funds.

    If there is that much waste in current government controlled health care (and I think there probably is), why should we allow government to expand its influence? If consumers do better with choice and competition, then let us have real choice and allow consumers to buy insurance from companies across state borders. Let consumers determine their own best health care options independent of employment and let individuals pay the same amount charged for group rates. Mandate that insurance companies charge the same rates to all individuals who choose their plans.

    If Obamacare really won’t fund abortions or illegal aliens, then put it in writing in the bill. We currently pay for medical treatment of illegal aliens. Democrats have voted down attachments to the current bill that stated both of these issues that Obama claims are a myth. Does anyone believe that we are going to start checking immigration documentation before emergency treatment is received?

    It is a sad commentary that a Senator felt a need to yell “Lie” during a presidential address, but even sadder that the President would resort to telling so many lies and also to use his address to call another individual a liar. He said health care costs are going to soar in the near future, but the penalty for a corporation not providing benefits will be only 8% of payroll. The easiest choice for businesses in this economic crisis would be to limit costs to 8% and dump all their employees into the government pool. Contrary to what the President claimed yesterday, if my company drops health care benefits, I will be forced to change my insurance and my doctor. The government cannot possibly provide the promised Medicare benefits that I have paid for over my entire working career because the Ponzi scheme is about to collapse. Having failed to fulfill their previous promises, we should know better than to rely on them for necessary future care.

    The President gave it his best shot yesterday, even parading the Kennedy family to tear up on cue, but we need to move past this issue that can’t possibly get a consensus or enough votes to pass. More government/big government is not the solution – it’s the problem. Let’s enact the necessary changes that we all agree on – mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions and prohibition of dropping coverage when a person gets sick and needs it the most. Let’s stop the frivolous lawsuits today by enacting meaningful tort reform across the nation, thereby eliminating the huge expense of defensive medical care. Don’t be misled into believing that efficiency is improved by adding an additional 53 layers of government bureaucracy.

  5. Mark H.
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    Great speech, very poorly timed; it’d have done more in February than in September. Still, a president who fights can be a successful president, and now Obama seems finally, maybe, willing to fight. How naive he’s been!

    Also – small point — the speech text, and what I heard last night, have the President talking about the Social Security Act being debated and passed in Congress in 1933. It was in 1935, and those two years mattered: FDR came into office in 1933, and nothing like social security was on his first agenda. It did get there in the so called “Second New Deal,” after 1935. Maybe I heard the year wrong, and maybe the text is in error; but still, if White House officials don’t have a grasp of the basic chronology of the most successful legislative reform period ever in US history, then it’ no wonder Obama’s first nine months have put his presidency on a track to be the 2nd Jimmy Carter: Very smart man, decent human being, who was an ineffectual president, overwhelmed by the twin requirements of strategic leadership: To deal successful with immediate issues as they arise while also anticipating longer term challenges, and devising ways that dealing with the short term issues doesn’t circumscribe your ability to address longer term challenges.

    Being nice to the GOP worked for Obama in Jan-Feb-March, but it undercut his ability to get anything major thru Congress.

  6. Mark H.
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Neither the Blue Dog Democrats nor the Republicans in Congress, after about April 1, felt they really had to fear Obama’s power or the White House; so they figured they could roll the White House, and refuse to deal. Obama let saying “NO” become a path to legislative influence, and that was a strategic blunder that should get the White House Chief of Staff fired.

  7. watching laughing
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 7:59 am | Permalink


    Watching Laughing.

  8. Mike
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    He’s a brilliant guy. That’s for sure. Hopefully people on the right actually took the time to listen. He’s clearly a centrist too, which you would think they would appreciate. He was clear when he told the progressives that a public option wasn’t mandatory, if there was another mechanism whereby to provide low-cost alternatives. And, he was likewise clear to the Republicans that he was willing to talk if they had constructive input, but that he wasn’t going to participate if they just wanted to sabotage reform by spreading lies. I would have liked it if he’d called out individual representatives by name, but he’s clearly operating at a higher level than I do. I also would have called Joe Wilson up front and reamed him out.

  9. Carol
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    The whole heckler thing made me realize how similar to Bush’s Social Security reform this thing is getting. It’s like a spaghetti political showdown, but everybody switches hats.

    With all due respect, Mr. Achery, you don’t know your facts. Even under Bush, even once it became known that he lied our nation into war, Democrats never heckled a Presidential address. Not once. You can check.

  10. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    The whole heckler thing made me realize how similar to Bush’s Social Security reform this thing is getting. It’s like a spaghetti political showdown, but everybody switches hats.

    With all due respect, Mr. Achery, you don’t know your facts. Even under Bush, even once it became known that he lied our nation into war, Democrats never heckled a Presidential address. Not once. You can check.


    Evidence notwithstanding.

  11. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Here’s another.

    While we’re rewriting history for partisan reasons, I would like to remind the world that the Democratic party invented the airplane.

  12. Meta
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Polls show big jump for Obama:


  13. Carol
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I think you’re confusing commotion with heckling. These clips you’re providing prove only that people mumbled under their breath and shifted around in their seats. No one yelled across the room at the President.

  14. Steven T
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    “In the eight hours since Wilson’s outburst, his Democratic opponent, former-Marine Rob Miller, has received nearly 3,000 individual grassroots contributions raising approximately $100,000, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said.”

  15. Robert
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Brackinald Achery, Carol is right. The clips you post are weak support for your claim. In the first clip there is a little commotion when Dubya is up there BS-ing. Nobody calls him a liar, even though it’s clear what he’s saying is a lie. In that second clip all the Democrats are doing is applauding their own success in stopping the administrations attempts to privatize social security. In your mind, how is that comparable to yelling out during a president’s speech, calling him a liar? Even that loon who did it apologized immediately after the speech. Apparently it was more of that Republican Tourette’s Syndrome. I guess we should all just be thankful they weren’t all randomly screaming “socialist!” and “communist!” every few seconds.

  16. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Horseshit. A vocal commotion in the middle of a speech to show partisan disagreement is what it is no matter who does it, or what specific words they use. You guys have blue blinders on.

  17. BrianB
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    The “you lie” shout didn’t bother me much. It was such a stupid move, he was issuing public apologies practically before the speech was over and will probably end up losing his seat for being such an idiot. And insuring illegal immigrants was the talking point that he go so worked up about? I watched Karl Rove try to explain this to Bill O’Rielly and it amounted to their numbers not matching up -so they were assuming that obviously Obama was counting illegal immigrants – even O’Rielly wasn’t buying it. It was the depth of political stupidity and President Obama just crushed the comment like a fly.

    My favorite part of the speech was near the end when he repeated “I still believe” like 3 or 4 times waiting for the applause to die down for him to finish the sentance he was starting. Each time he said it, it carried more emotional weight until all the cynical posturing of Washington seemed to crumble beneath it for just a moment.

  18. Curt Waugh
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    markmaynard.com: Here is an interesting item. It’s about national politics (you know, since no other source on the internet covers it).

    BA: Bullshit, bullshit, I’m so delighted the country is going to hell. Did I mention that I giggle and sport wood when I write shit like that? I’ll be down at the old I Told You So Saloon when the sky starts falling in.

    Mark H: Blah, blah, here’s something I know about 1933. Bet you didn’t know that. Did you know that I knew that? I know some stuff about 1934, too. Wanna hear it? I’ll write it anyway.

    EOS: Yadda, yadda, yadda, the only law is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I only watch Faux News and can’t imagine anybody who doesn’t think exactly the same way I do. You know, since Bush left office and I stopped wiping my ass with the Constitution, I’ve discovered some real gems in there. Quite a read.

    Robert: Duhn-duhn-duuuhhhhnnnnn… I have evidence that BA and EOS are the same person. Sorta. They’re like the two cheeks of an Ypsitucky butt sandwich.

    Mark, you’re killing us here. Every post has the same discussion now. Let’s get back to chickens or bees or Bee or Ypsitucky or something interesting. Surely, one of our fearless leaders had a controversial typo in an e-mail or something.

    Oh, and keep up the good work.

  19. Mike want longr name
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 3:07 pm | Permalink


  20. Arthur Burgoff
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    In addition to being a practicing racist in the Strom Thurmond tradition, Joe Wilson also takes tons of money from the health care industry.

    More here:


  21. Oliva
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Surely Obama was also invoking JFK’s wonderful to-the-moon speech (9/12/1962, Rice University) there at the end. Other resonant bits too, just can’t quite place where they come from, including the rousing “still believe” part–a bit of Clinton and his line “I still believe in a place called Hope”:

    I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. (Applause.) I still believe — I still believe that we can act when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.


    We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

  22. Brackinald Achery
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    lol at Curt!

  23. Robert
    Posted September 10, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Yes, Curt, I miss OEC too.

  24. Meta
    Posted September 14, 2009 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Blogging for Michigan says don’t count on a public option:


  25. Meta
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Most doctors prefer a public option:


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