President Obama's Presser On The Public Option

[media id=8773] (13 minutes; h/t David) During today's presser, President Obama was asked several times about his support for the public option. He r

5 years ago by David
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(13 minutes; h/t David)

During today's presser, President Obama was asked several times about his support for the public option. He rebuffed the health care industry's talking point that a public plan would put them out of business.

Q: Won't that drive private insurers out of business?

THE PRESIDENT: Why would it drive private insurers out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality healthcare, if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government -- which they say can't run anything -- suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.

President Obama is still being vague about his overall support for the public option, but then gives ample information about how strong it would be. It's like he's holding out hope that a deal will be struck in Congress without pressure from him to demand the public option out right. But that's not going to work in the end. As we've seen, senators with small populations and health care monopolies are hijacking the debate and denouncing a public option. And it's coming from members of his own party. Republicans and the Health Care Industrial Complex only want to muddy up the waters with talking points while they kill off all attempts at real competition and a real health care system that helps the American people finally get quality, affordable health care instead of enabling CEOs to purchase new villas and vacation homes while the rest of America suffers.

The President: Now, if it turns out that the public plan, for example, is able to reduce administrative costs significantly, then you know what? I'd like insurance companies to take note and say, hey, if the public plan can do that, why can't we? And that's good for everybody in the system. And I don't think there should be any objection to that.

Full transcript below the fold via The LA Times.

Now, the public plan I think is a important tool to discipline insurance companies. What we've said is, under our proposal, let's have a system the same way that federal employees do, same way that members of Congress do, where -- we call it an "exchange," or you can call it a "marketplace" -- where essentially you've got a whole bunch of different plans.

If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won't have to do a thing. You keep your plan. You keep your doctor. If your employer is providing you good health insurance, terrific, we're not going to mess with it.

But if you're a small-business person, if the insurance that's being offered is something you can't afford, if you want to shop for a better price, then you can go to this exchange, this marketplace, and you can look: OK, this is how much this plan costs, this is how much that plan costs, this is what the coverage is like, this is what fits for my family. As one of those options, for us to be able to say, here's a public option that's not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price -- as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.

Q Won't that drive private insurers out of business?

THE PRESIDENT: Why would it drive private insurers out of business? If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality healthcare, if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government -- which they say can't run anything -- suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical.

Now, I think that there's going to be some healthy debates in Congress about the shape that this takes. I think there can be some legitimate concerns on the part of private insurers that if any public plan is simply being subsidized by taxpayers endlessly, that over time they can't compete with the government just printing money.

So there are going to be some I think legitimate debates to be had about how this private plan takes shape. But just conceptually, the notion that all these insurance companies who say they're giving consumers the best possible deal, that they can't compete against a public plan as one option, with consumers making the decision what's the best deal. That defies logic, which is why I think you've seen in the polling data overwhelming support for a public plan. All right?

THE PRESIDENT: I answered the question, Chuck, which is that we don't yet know how this is going to play out. Jake Tapper.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Before I ask my question, I'm wondering if you could actually answer David's. Is the public plan non-negotiable?

THE PRESIDENT: That's your question. (Laughter.)

Q Well, you didn't answer --

THE PRESIDENT: You think you're going to -- are you the ombudsman for the White House press corps? (Laughter.) What's your -- is that your question? (Laughter.)

Q Then I have a two-part question. (Laughter.) Is the public plan non-negotiable? And while I appreciate your Spock-like language about the logic of the healthcare plan, the public plan, it does seem logical to a lot of people that if the government is offering a cheaper healthcare plan, then lots of employers will want to have their employees covered by that cheaper plan, which will not have to be for profit, unlike private plans, and may possibly benefit from some government subsidies, who knows.

And then their employees would be signed up for this public plan, which would violate what you're promising the American people, that they will not have to change healthcare plans if they like the plan they have.

THE PRESIDENT: I got you. You're pitching, I'm catching. I got the question. First of all, was the reference to Spock -- is that a crack on my ears? (Laughter.) All right, I just want to make sure. No?

Q I would never make fun of your ears, sir. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: In answer to David's question, which you co-opted, we are still early in this process, so we have not drawn lines in the sand other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are underinsured. Those are the broad parameters that we've discussed.

There are a whole host of other issues where ultimately I may have a strong opinion, and I will express those to members of Congress as this is shaping up. It's too early to say that. Right now I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense.

Now, let me go to the broader question you made about the public plan. As I said before, I think that there is a legitimate concern if the public plan was simply eating off the taxpayer trough, that it would be hard for private insurers to complete.

If, on the other hand, the public plan is structured in such a way where they've got to collect premiums and they've got to provide good services, then if what the insurance companies are saying is true, that they're doing their best to serve their customers, that they're in the business of keeping people well and giving them security when they get sick, they should be able to compete.

Now, if it turns out that the public plan, for example, is able to reduce administrative costs significantly, then you know what? I'd like insurance companies to take note and say, hey, if the public plan can do that, why can't we? And that's good for everybody in the system. And I don't think there should be any objection to that.

Now, by the way, I should point out that part of the reform that we've suggested is that if you want to be a private insurer as part of the exchange, as part of this marketplace, this menu of options that people can choose from, we're going to have some different rules for all insurance companies -- one of them being that you can't preclude people from getting health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, you can't cherry pick and just take the healthiest people.

So there are going to be some ground rules that are going to apply to all insurance companies, because I think the American people understand that, too often, insurance companies have been spending more time thinking about how to take premiums and then avoid providing people coverage than they have been thinking about how can we make sure that insurance is there, healthcare is there when families need it.

But I'm confident that if -- I take those advocates of the free market to heart when they say that the free market is innovative and is going to compete on service and is going to compete on their ability to deliver good care to families. And if that's the case then this just becomes one more option. If it's not the case then I think that that's something that the American people should know.

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