controversial subject of whether there needs to be a public option,
whether there needs to be government-run insurance as one of the options
to get more people insured, and for the general nature of health care
Your critics on the Republican side of the Senate Finance Committee
wrote you a letter and said: "At a time when major government programs
like Medicare and Medicaid are already on a path to fiscal insolvency,
creating a brand new program will not only worsen our long-term
financial outlook, but also negatively impact American families who
enjoy private coverage for their insurance."
What do you say to them?
OBAMA: They're wrong.
OBAMA: And so let's just explain as clearly as possible what we're
talking about. What we want to do, as I said before, was set up a health
care exchange, or a marketplace. Essentially giving the American people
the same kind of options that members of Congress do or federal
There is a range of options that are available. Private insurers will
participate. You will be able to do some one-stop shopping and compare
all of the different plans, what kind of benefits they provide, what are
the deductibles, figure out what is best for you.
Now what we've said is, as one option among multiple options, should be
a public option where we set up an insurer that isn't profit-driven,
that can keep administrative costs low, and that can serve as
competition to the private insurers.
Now what -- the argument that has been made has been that somehow the
public option will crowd out private insurers.
GIBSON: It's not a level playing field.
OBAMA: And that's the argument, that it's not a level playing field. And
what we've said is, it wouldn't be a level playing field if the
government can just print money and subsidize that public plan so that
premiums are a lot lower than costs and doctors are getting reimbursed a
lot lower than they do in the private sector. Well, that's true. It also
wouldn't be a very good plan.
But what we've said is that we can set up a public option in which
they're collecting premiums, just like any private insurer, that doctors
are reimbursed at a fair rate, but, because administrative costs are
lower, we are able to keep private insurers honest in terms of the
growth of costs of premiums and deductibles and so forth.
Now, you'll always hear folks say that the free market can do it better,
government can't run anything. And what I say, well, if that's the case,
nobody is going to choose the public option.
So, you know, the private insurers who I think are very confident that
they're providing a good service and a good product to their customers
should feel confident that they can compete with just one other option.
A lot of the objection to the public option idea is not practical. It's
ideological. People don't like the idea of government being involved.
But keep in mind that the two areas where government is involved -- are
involved in health care, Medicare and the V.A., actually there's pretty
high satisfaction among the people who participate.
GIBSON: Well, Diane is here with the head -- with the head of a major
SAWYER: If I could, I'm going to bring in Ron Williams from Aetna, CEO
of Aetna. And if I can reverse the order a little bit, Mr. President,
I'd like to ask a question of him and then let you come in on his answer.