'This Week' Full Transcript: Dec. 13, 2009

SUMMERS: The president is going to do what's necessary to respond to this crisis. He's put a figure of $50 billion on the infrastructure support that he proposes. His proposals on unemployment insurance are primarily a continuation of the legislation that the Congress has already passed and that has been put in place. And he recognizes that when we take new steps, we have to do it in the context of a framework that is fiscally responsible. We can't just look in isolation at one measure. We've got to look at the $8 trillion in deficit over the next 10 years that the president inherited, and start making progress with respect to those deficits. That's what the president did in his budget. That's what the health care bill does with the most consequential set of health care reforms that have ever been put forward, and they are now on the brink of passage.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me ask you about on health care, because the president has said consistently that he wants health care to bend the cost curve, to bring overall health care costs down. But this week, the administration's chief actuary for Medicare and Medicaid concluded that the Senate health bill would actually increase national health spending by about $234 billion over the next 10 years. Can the president sign legislation that actually increases national health spending?

SUMMERS: We'll see what legislation ultimately emerges. The president is going to sign legislation that helps the budget over the next 10 years, helps the budget more over the 10 years after that, and we're already seeing employers start to respond to the provisions directed at influencing health insurance costs. Over time, when the commission is in place, we will star to see further reforms in Medicare.

And look, George, we've taken an incredibly conservative approach to this. The program includes, for example, significant support for preventive care. That's not being given any credit, but we know that over time, better health habits for all of us can reduce costs. So yes, the legislative process isn't pretty, and it's certainly not pretty on health care. But we will get to a point where we have significant reductions in health care costs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So bottom line, are you saying that if the administration's own actuaries say that the bill on the president's desk increases health care costs, he will not sign it?

SUMMERS: I am saying that the president's bill will meet what has been the agreed test, that the Congressional Budget Office assesses the bill and concludes that it reduces the budget deficit. To do anything else would be irresponsible. I am also saying that in the view of most experts, the judgments made about imposing a fee on Cadillac policies, the judgment included in the bill with respect to taking politics out of the process of reimbursing health care, the support for prevention contained in the bill goes after some of the fundamental problems in the health care system.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I understand that, but if I heard you correctly, you are saying the bill must reduce the deficit but does not necessarily have to reduce overall health care costs.

SUMMERS: Look, the criterion for passing a bill is what happens to the budget. That's our budget process. I am telling you that we're very confident that this bill will reduce health care costs in whatever form ultimately emerges from the Congress.

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