Obama: "Got the little single-payer advocates up here."
"Got the little torturers up here"? Nope.
"Got the little banksters up here"? Nope.
But just do what any citizen should be able to do and applaud for single payer, and the President who ought to be on your side -- and would be, if his policies were science-based -- diminishes you. Here's the whole thing:
Q Oh, thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. I work for one of the large corporations here. But I talk to a lot of people about health care. My question is, so many people go bankrupt using their credit cards to pay for health care. Why have they taken single-payer off the plate? (Applause.) And why is Senator Baucus on the Finance Committee discussing health care when he has received so much money from the pharmaceutical companies? Isn't it a conflict of interest? (Applause. THE PRESIDENT: Well, as you know, I campaigned vigorously on health care reform, and I think that we have a better chance of getting it done this year than we've had in decades. I am optimistic about us getting health care reform done. Now, health care is one-sixth of our economy, so it is a complicated, difficult task. And Congress is going to have to work hard. And everybody is going to have to come at this with a practical perspective, as opposed to trying to be ideologically pure in getting it done. Here are my principles in terms of health care: Number one, we've got to control costs across the system, because if we simply insured everybody under the current system, we couldn't afford it -- we'd go broke. The fact of the matter is, is that families are seeing their premiums go up -- skyrocket each and every year. Businesses are getting crushed by the rising costs of their employees' health care. And the federal government -- Medicare and Medicaid -- is going broke. That's the single biggest driver, by the way, of our deficits. I want everybody to be clear about this, because driving in I saw some folks who were saying, what are you going to do about debt, et cetera. Listen, by far the biggest contributor to our national debt and our annual deficit is the costs of Medicare and Medicaid -- as well as the other entitlement, Social Security -- defense, and interest on the national debt. That's the lion's share of the federal budget.
The things you read about in the newspapers and you see on TV about earmarks -- I want to get rid of earmarks, but the truth of the matter, they're only 1 percent of the entire budget. Most of what's driving us into debt is health care. And so we've got to drive down costs. Now, here is some good news. There are ways that we can drive down costs, because we just have an inefficient system. If we emphasize prevention and wellness programs; if we help -- (applause) -- if we -- so that we're reimbursing doctors and providers not just for treating people after they get sick but for helping people stay well if we use medical technology to reduce error rates and ensure electronic medical billing so when you go to the hospital, you don't have 15, 20 forms that you have to fill out over and over and over again.
There are simple things that we can do that will save us money, so we need to focus on cost, that's number one.
Number two, I think that it is very important that we provide coverage for all people, because if everybody's got coverage then they're not going to the emergency room for treatment. (Applause.) And right now, if you've got health insurance, the average family is paying about $900 a year in additional hidden costs because you're subsidizing the folks who are going to the emergency room.
And so you'd be better off with a system that might cost the federal government overall a little bit more -- and we do have to pay for that -- but that would lower your premiums so that you don't have these hidden costs, because it's cheaper to treat a child for asthma with an inhaler than it is to have them go to the emergency room and take up a hospital bed. So that's the second principle.
Now, this brings to the last principle, and so this touches on your point, and that is, why not do a single-payer system. (Applause.) Got the little single-payer advocates up here. (Applause.) All right. For those of you who don't know, a single-payer system is like -- Medicare is sort of a single-payer system, but it's only for people over 65, and the way it works is, the idea is that you don't have insurance companies as middlemen. The government goes directly -- (applause) -- and pays doctors or nurses.
If I* were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense. That's the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world.
The only problem is that we're not starting from scratch. We have historically a tradition of employer-based health care. And although there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with their health care, the truth is, is that the vast majority of people currently get health care from their employers and you've got this system that's already in place. We don't want a huge disruption as we go into health care reform where suddenly we're trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy.
So what I've said is, let's set up a system where if you already have health care through your employer and you're happy with it, you don't have to change doctors, you don't have to change plans -- nothing changes. If you don't have health care or you're highly unsatisfied with your health care, then let's give you choices, let's give you options, includinyou could enroll in and sign up for. That's been my proposal. (Applause.)
The good news: Obama mentions that he's for the public option. [How wrong, or trusting, I was on that!] Whether he'll renege (FISA; torture photos) is a question, but it's a positive this is out there.
For the rest of it... It's the same canned speech. Turn the "start from scratch" argument over: The rest of the world has a proven system that works. Obama's the one who's "reinventing," by experimenting with ideas that not only haven't been proven to work, we don't even know what they are because they haven't been embodied in legislation -- and he's left all the details to Congress!
NOTE * It's not all about you!
NOTE Oh, and did you notice that Obama never answered the question? The question is "Why have they taken single-payer off the plate?" The other thing Obama said -- flat out right said it -- is that the process doesn't bring single payer to the table, and isn't transparent. Oh, well.
UPDATE Helen Thomas puts the case for single payer eloquently.
UPDATE The White House transcript; "the little" people...
UPDATE Digby noticed too.
UPDATE See here on White House censorship of a single payer advocate's question in a live blog.