TRANSCRIPT: ABC News' Dr. Timothy Johnson Interviews President Barack Obama

After a Senate panel approves a health bill, the president sits down with ABC.

ByABC News
July 15, 2009, 2:43 PM

July 15, 2009— -- JOHNSON: I'd like to begin with a topic you talk a lot about, waste in the present system. Everybody agrees there is waste that is a bi-partisan agreement. The debate as you know starts when you talk about who is going to identify and remove the waste. In other words, there are experts who will label something as waste and other doctors or patients might say is important or even essential. So who exactly or what process exactly is going to do that very difficult job?

OBAMA: Well, I think it's a great question, and I think the important thing is to underscore that there is consensus that we spend too much on care that does not improve people's health. And if we start with that, then that means we've got to make some changes.

What I've proposed is that we have a panel of medical experts that are making determinations about what protocols are appropriate for what diseases. There's going to be some disagreement, but if there's broad agreement that, in this situation the blue pill works better than the red pill, and it turns out the blue pills are half as expensive as the red pill, then we want to make sure that doctors and patients have that information available to them.

Now, we don't think that we have to impose draconian measures to force patients to use a generic instead of a brand-name drug, for example, or to force a hospital to administer one test instead of five tests. But if, generally speaking, there's consensus that this will work in most circumstances, that's the default position, then I think most patients and doctors don't want to spend money unnecessarily.

JOHNSON: The House bill that came out yesterday proposed a so-called health benefits advisory committee, 25 people appointed mostly by you and by the surgeon general, who is going to figure out what benefits will get paid for and what won't.

Most people hate the insurance companies, but they know that devil; they're worried about this new devil, and how those decisions are going to be made behind closed doors.

OBAMA: Well, Doctor, I think you just made an important point. The decisions, right now, are being made by insurance companies. And I think a whole lot of people out there are having bad experiences because they know that recommendations are coming from people who have a profit motive.

Now, if I've got a panel of doctors and experts whose only motivation is making sure that we get the best bang for the buck from our health care, I think that's a situation that most Americans would feel pretty good about.

And what we can't do is pretend that somehow with all the waste that's in the system -- and everybody acknowledges that -- that we can just keep on doing business as usual and somehow bend the curve on health care costs in a way that not only provides affordable coverage to families but also makes sure that we don't have the federal budget blowing up.