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

SAWYER: Mr. Williams, Aetna, so take one. An insurance company we hear

all over the company people see their premiums going up 119 percent in

the last several years. They see the profits of the insurance companies

in the billions and billions of dollars. Even in a lean year, they see

profits in the billions of dollars. Is the president right that you need

to be kept honest?

RONALD WILLIAMS, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF AETNA: Well, I would first say I would commend the president for the commitment he's made to really try to get and keep everyone covered. And I think, as a health insurance company, we're committed to that.

In the context of the question that you asked, I think that it's

difficult to compete against a player who's also the person who's

referring the game. And so I think in the context of thinking about a

government plan, what we say is, let's identify the problem we're trying

to solve. Let's work collaboratively with physicians, hospitals, and

other health care professionals, and make certain that we solve the

problem, as opposed to introduce a new competitor who has the rulemaking

ability that government would have.

SAWYER: Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, I think that...

SAWYER: Premiums going up...

OBAMA: First of all, I want to say that Mr. Walters (sic) has been very

cooperative. We've been having a series of conversations, and I

appreciate the constructive manner in which we've been trying to work

together.

But I just want to make clear that the government, whatever rules it

provides to insurers, a public plan would have to abide by those same

rules. So we're not talking about unlevel -- unequal playing field.

We're talking about a level playing field.

I also want to point out that one of the incentives for private insurers

to get involved in this process is that potentially they're going to

have a whole bunch of new customers, paying customers.

And if we are, as part of health care reform, going to go forward in

providing additional coverage to people who either don't have health

insurance or who are underinsured -- and that's a lot of working people.

I just want to be clear. These are people who are working everyday and

are still finding themselves having a great deal of trouble, and

oftentimes collecting huge amounts of debt.

If we're going to give all these new customers to the insurance

industry, one of the things that we should say is, in return, that we

change some of our practices and at least have some competition so that,

for example, you can't eliminate people for pre-existing conditions, you

can't cherry-pick just the healthiest folks, and a public option is one

tool by which we can do this.

And I think that the insurance companies will still thrive. They've got

terrific leadership. Aetna is a well-managed company, and I'm confident

that your shareholders are going to do well.

GIBSON: Mr. President, there is a lot of doubts about this as to whether

it's a level playing field. The Lewin Group studied this. There's 177

million in this country with private insurance through their employers.

That group estimates, with government insurance, that employers will go

to that because it will be cheaper. And they estimate, the head of the

Lewin Group, I believe, is here, Mr. Sheils -- they estimated that

two-thirds of people would go to the private -- go the public insurance

option.

Let me get you a microphone. Can we get him a microphone, please? Thanks.

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