Obama Hosts Cyber Town Hall

A lot of people think that in order to get universal health care, it means that you have to have what’s called a single-payer system of some sort. And so Canada is the classic example: Basically, everybody pays a lot of taxes into the health care system, but if you’re a Canadian, you’re automatically covered. And so you go in — England has a similar — a variation on this same type of system. You go in and you just say, “I’m sick,” and somebody treats you, and that’s it.

The problem is, is that we have what’s called a legacy, a set of institutions that aren’t that easily transformed. Let me just see a show of hands: How many people here have health insurance through your employer? Okay, so the majority of Americans, sort of — partly for historical accident. I won’t go into — FDR had imposed wage controls during war time in World War II. People were — companies were trying to figure out how to attract workers. And they said, well, maybe we’ll provide health care as a benefit.

And so what evolved in America was an employer-based system. It may not be the best system if we were designing it from scratch. But that’s what everybody is accustomed to. That’s what everybody is used to. It works for a lot of Americans. And so I don’t think the best way to fix our health care system is to suddenly completely scrap what everybody is accustomed to and the vast majority of people already have. Rather, what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps.

And I’m looking to Congress to work with me to find that optimal system. I made some proposals during the campaign about how we can lower costs through information technologies; how we can lower costs through reforms in how we reimburse doctors so that they’re not getting paid just for the number of operations they’re doing, but for whether they’re quality outcomes; investing in prevention so that kids with asthma aren’t going to the emergency room, but they’re getting regular checkups.

So there are a whole host of things that we can do to cut costs, use that money that we’re saving then to provide more coverage to more people. And my expectation is, is that I will have a health care bill to sign this year. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. That’s what we’re going to be striving for.

Can I just interrupt, Jared, before you ask the next question, just to say that we — we took votes about which questions were going to be asked and I think 3 million people voted or –

DR. BERNSTEIN: Three point five million.

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