TRANSCRIPT: 'Questions for the President: Prescription for America'

The following is a transcript from ABC News' health care forum, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America" on June 24, 2009, in the East Room of the White House.

ANNOUNCER: From the White House, a special edition of "Primetime."

OBAMA: We have finally decided to fix what's broken about health

care in America.

ANNOUNCER: The president calls for sweeping reforms. What the

changes would mean to your family.

(UNKNOWN): What's going to happen if my cancer comes back?

ANNOUNCER: Who decides what doctors you can see and the treatment

you'll receive?

(UNKNOWN): Who should decide whether you live or die? The government?

ANNOUNCER: And how much are we willing to pay? Real people, real

fears, and tonight, real answers.

OBAMA: We need to get this done.

ANNOUNCER: Questions for the president, prescription for America.

Now, from White House, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON: Good evening. Diane and I are delighted that you could

join us this evening. We are going to be talking about what will be the

number one subject for public discourse all through this summer, and

that is health care reform.

SAWYER: The president has said it's the ticking time bomb at the

center of the American economy, and so we have gathered 164 people in

the East Room of the White House tonight. They're from all over the

country, all walks of life, on the front lines of health care in

America. They are doctors, businessmen, patients, Republicans,

Democrats, independents. And we know we can't cover every question

tonight, but we're going to get the conversation started.

GIBSON: They will be questioning the president, as will we. And we

think by the end of the evening, you will have a pretty good sense of

what the parameters of this debate are, just what's at stake for each of

you and for the country as a whole, because this will be discussed, as

we said, all through the summer in the Congress. It will be discussed,

I think, also in your living room. Every family, I think, will be

debating this.

So with that as preface, we want to thank the president for giving

us his parlor and his living room tonight to do this broadcast.

OBAMA: Thank you so much, Charlie.

GIBSON: Mr. President, I think this could be an interesting evening.

OBAMA: Thank you so much, Diane.

SAWYER: Mr. President, thank you.

OBAMA: Grateful to have you.

SAWYER: And while we head into the East Room, we're going to have

the audience waiting for us there. Dr. Tim Johnson, who's our medical

editor, is going to give everyone a sense of some the key questions.

We're heading to the East Room.

DR. TIMOTHY JOHNSON: First: access and choice. The president constantly

stresses that, if you like what you have, you can keep it. But he also

wants to offer more choice and competition with a one-stop shopping list

of approved private insurance plans through a so-called health insurance

exchange.

So far, he has also insisted that a public option be one of the

choices. It has sometimes been described as Medicare like, meaning the

government would be involved with the financing, but patients would be

able to choose their own doctors and hospitals.

He says this public option would keep pressure on private insurance

to hold down costs. Critics say government's advantages -- easy

funding, huge bargaining power -- would eventually put private insurers

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