Thursday, August 20, 2009

Live Blog: President's Health Care Forum

(Via conference call) President's intro:

There are a lot of concerns about this health care plan.

A- Immigrants will get free health care
B- Government takeover of health care
C- Death Panels

C'mon people. (applause)

More and more employers are going to say we can't afford to provide you health insurance, or will pass more of the cost on to you. The status quo is unsustainable. It's not as if if we just stand still that everything's going to be okay.

If you don't have health insurance, we're not forcing you into a government plan, we just want to set up a system like what congress enjoys that you can go into if you choose. Nobody will force you into this option, but it will keep private insurance honest.

Most people have insurance, remember that. The people without insurance are already in favor of this plan. This plan will provide a set of consumer protections. It will say to insurance companies "you've got to do a few things" to participate in the exchange. You have to offer insurance to people with pre-existing conditions. We're going to reduce the cost of health care overall, in the long term. Americans are paying $5,000-$6,000 more per person than any other country.

There is a lot of misinformation because health care is complicated.
Question from FL: I'm a retired health care insurance administrator now I'm an organizer: are we winning support from members of congress? Are we making a difference?

Prez: Convincing people more broadly about the need for reform makes a difference. Washington is obsessed with the snap poll. For seniors, we think medicare is a sacred trust. We are not changing your medicare. In fact, we're extending the life of the medicare trust funds. About $17b is taken out of medicare each year to subsidize existing insurance companies.

Twitter question: Too many lies, death panels, rationing, where are these lies from:

Prez: I don't think it's any secret [where these lies are coming from]. If you just flick channels, and then stop on... certain ones (laughter) you'll see where these lies are coming from. The best offense against lies is the truth. The truth is there's no plan that has ever been considered that covers illegal immigrants. Nobody has proposed that. There are no plan to revoke the existing the existing prohibition on using taxpayer dollars for abortions. Just not true. Nobody has proposed a government takeover of health care. The most liberal plans that have come out of committee, all of them presume that if you've got private insurance, you can keep your insurance. We don't want gov bureaucrats interfering with that relationship, but we also don't want insurance co bureaucrats interfering with that relationship.

The death panels. The idea is that we should reimburse people who might want end of life counseling. It's a voluntary provision. And it's been supported by Republicans. In fact, a similar provision was in the Republicans prescription drug bill a few years ago. The reason this spreads is the way reporting is done today. It's irresponsible. It's fine to have a debate back and forth, unless someone is just not telling the truth. You should say in your reports "well, that's just not true." There are some people who just want to see this go down. Some people just don't believe the government should get involved in anything. And that's a respectable position. There you can have a philosophical debate. But there are certain sensible reforms we can pass so that consumers are protected and the market is working the way it should.

If the majority of people have the facts, they will be on our side.

Question from NC: I have two children, and four grandchildren. I'm working for them, and for people who -- unlike me -- don't have health insurance. How can we get this passed?

Prez: We've been working with Baucus and the committee to see if we can craft a bipartisan bill. I don't know if in the end they can get there. At some point, there's going to have to be a conclusion that either they can get a [bipartisan] bill done, or they can't. I have no control over the other sides political strategy, and the American people are telling me we're going to get this done one way or another.

Question from VA: It all comes down to money. How are we paying for this? How do I know my employer won't just dump me into the public option?

Prez: Opposition loves repeating "trillion dollar bill." We're talking over ten years, and it's still a significant amount of money. But to give you prospective, in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're spending 8 or 9 billion a MONTH. The cost of this reform over the next ten compared to the cost of those wars over the last few years... we could've already payed for this reform. Money is being wasted right now. We're proposing reallocating that money to make it work better for people. The way we reimburse hospitals right now, we don't offer incentives to hospitals to get patients the best care first time around. If we just went back to the tax rate deductions that were available under even Ronald Reagan -- that radical! (laughter) -- we'd be able to pay for this. I'm committed to making sure this is not funded on the backs of middle class families, not add to their tax burden. There is a firewall in the plan that says if your employer is offering you good insurance and can afford to keep offering you that, they can't just default to the public plan. But small businesses without purchasing power with the insurance companies would benefit from the public option. Pool their purchasing power.

Question from NC: The only way to do this is to include a public option. If that's the solution, why aren't you pushing it harder? And if it's not the solution, what else is out there?

Prez: Let me be clear. I continue to support a public option. You could say we've been honest to a fault in saying we would consider other routes. Madates: No denial for pre-existing conditions, no taking money from people that they don't have. It's the belt and suspenders complex. Reforms to private insurance are the belt, the public option can be the suspenders. If we talk only about the public option, people get scared, and those opposed will use that to twist the debate, cloud the fact that people are not getting a good deal from their insurance co's. We want to focus on all aspects to build the largest coalition possible to get this done.

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