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

Gail Wilensky, Senior Fellow, Project HOPE: I want to go back to how we pay for the expansions. Estimates, as you indicated, probably $1.5 trillion to cover everyone. You mentioned savings in Medicare and Medicaid, $500 billion to $600 billion, from the numbers you've provided. Another $300 billion from additional revenue. That leaves about $300 billion to $600 billion more. What do we do in ways that CBO will count so that we can actually get everybody covered?

GIBSON: And run that down in about 30 seconds.


OBAMA: Look, that's the challenge. And, obviously, there's a

vigorous debate taking place. There are a whole host of ideas, some

that cut across parties. There are people who think that we should tax

benefits -- health care benefits at a certain level, cap the deduction.

There are others who proposed a surcharge on high-income individuals.

There are other cuts that may be obtained that ultimately we could find


Here's my general point, because I know that we're starting to wrap

up. This is not an easy problem, and it's especially not an easy

problem when the economy is going through a difficult phase. You know,

we've taken a body blow to the economy, and families were oftentimes

hurting even before then.

But the one thing I'm absolutely confident about is that, whenever

this country has met a significant challenge to our long-term

well-being, that we ultimately rise up and meet it. And this is one of

those moments where the stars are aligned.

We've got insurers who are interested, doctors who are interested,

nurses, patients. AARP is here, and they've seen some of the potential

benefits. We're actually going to be filling the donut hole. Drug

companies have said that they'd be willing to reduce the cost for

seniors for prescription drugs as part of health care reform.

But we have to have the courage and the willingness to cooperate and

compromise in order to make this happen. And if we do, it's not going

to be a completely smooth ride. There are going to be times over the

next several months where we think health care is dead, it's not going

to happen.

But if we keep our eye on the prize, and if we recognize that

America's always stood up to these big challenges, and we can't afford

not to act, then I'm absolutely convinced that we can get it done this time.

GIBSON: Mr. President, thanks. We're going to take a

break. Be right back.

GIBSON: So that concludes our primetime special of "Prescription for

America," but your local news is coming up next, and we hope you'll stay

with us. The president is going to stay with us. Our audience stays

with us. And we will have more questions for him about health care

reform during the "Nightline" half-hour.


GIBSON: And we welcome you to this special edition of NIGHTLINE. Just

to tell you where we are, we're in the East Room of the White House with

the president and the 164 invited guests here who represent all

different perspectives on the subject of health care reform.

And we have questions for the president. Call this "Prescription for

America." We had an hour there on "PRIMETIME," earlier, before your

local news, but the president is going to stay with us and we have more


And there are some critical things that we did not get to in that hour.

Most critically of all, in talking about health care reform, this very

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