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

OBAMA: ... absolutely, people are afraid of it. People are

concerned -- they know that they're living with the devil, but the devil

they know they think may be better than the devil they don't. And --

and that's understandable.

Look, every time we've made progress in this country on health care,

there has been a vigorous debate. You know, senior citizens love Medicare now, but there was a big debate about whether we could set up Medicare. Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides millions of children health care across this country, that was a big debate.

So there's -- these things are always going to be tough politically. Let me tell you, though, that we actually do know in a lot of instances what works and what doesn't. What's lacking is not knowledge. We've been debating this stuff for decades.

What's lacking is political will, and that's what I'm hoping the American people provide, because genuine change generally does not come from Washington. Whether we like it or not, it comes from the American people saying, "It's time for us to move forward." And I think this is that moment.

SAWYER: And when we come back, Mr. President, from the break, we're going to be talking more about the centerpiece of this in many ways, primary care doctors and providers. And I'm going to turn to Hershaw Davis here, who's a nursing student and also an emergency tech at Johns Hopkins. Stand up, if you will, because how bad is our shortage out there?

HERSHAW DAVIS, NURSING STUDENT: It's bad, sir. Currently, our patient load is increasing due to patients not having access either to insurance or primary care. And I want to ask, what's the administration going to do to place primary care providers -- physicians and nurse practitioners -- back in the community so the E.R. is not America's source of primary care?

SAWYER: All right.

GIBSON: Let's leave that question on the table.

SAWYER: On the table.

GIBSON: We'll give you a second to think about the answer, and we'll take a commercial break. Be right back.


ANNOUNCER: Questions for the President, Prescription for America continues. Once again, from the East Room of the White House, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer.

GIBSON: Mr. President, before we went to break, Hershaw Davis raised what is an elemental question, which is, any kind of new system needs to be built around primary care, and not all the specialists with all the tests, but primary care physicians who can then farm you out, in effect.

So how do we reorient the system very quickly to get better primary care and more primary care?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, we need more people like Hershaw, who are going to school and committed to the kind of primary care that's going to be critical to us bringing down costs and improving quality. We're not going to be able to do it overnight. Obviously, training physicians, training nurse practitioners, that takes years of work.

But what we can do immediately is start changing some of the incentives around what it takes to become a family physician. Right now, if you want to go into medicine, it is much more lucrative for you to go into a specialty. Now, we want terrific specialists, and one of the great things about the American medical system is we have wonderful specialists, and they do extraordinary work.

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