Obama Hosts Cyber Town Hall

And the reason — (laughter) — the reason that I think it is so important is that the high costs of health care are a huge drag on our economy. It’s a drag on our families. I can’t tell you how many personal stories that I hear about people who are working, maybe have two parents working and yet still don’t have health care. And the decisions that they have to make — excruciating decisions about whether or not somebody goes to a doctor — it makes them less productive, it makes them less mobile in terms of being able to take new jobs or start a new business because they’re worried about hanging on to their health care. So it’s a drag on families.

But it’s a drag on businesses, as well. There’s not a small business or large business out here who hasn’t seen their health care costs skyrocket, and it cuts into their profits.

And it’s a drag on the federal budget and the state budgets. That’s the thing that is going to potentially break the bank here in the United States. Medicare and Medicaid, if we don’t get control of that, that is the biggest driver of our long-term deficits.

So when people — when you hear this budget debate that’s taking place right now, and folks say, oh, you know, President Obama’s budget, he’s increasing money for veterans and he’s increasing money for education, and he’s doing all these things that — that’s going to bust the budget, what they don’t understand is, is that if you add up the recovery package that we’ve already passed and you add up the various proposals I have to grow the economy through clean energy and all that stuff that we’re doing, that amounts to a fraction of the long-term deficit and debt that we’re facing. The lion’s share of it has to do with Medicare and Medicaid and the huge, rising cost of health care. So our attitude is, better to pay now and make an investment in improving the health care system rather than waiting and finding ourselves in a situation where we can’t fix it.

Now, the question is, if you’re going to fix it, why not do a universal health care system like the European countries? I actually want a universal health care system; that is our goal. I think we should be able to provide health insurance to every American that they can afford and that provides them high quality.

So I think we can accomplish it. Now, whether we do it exactly the way European countries do or Canada does is a different question, because there are a variety of ways to get to universal health care coverage.

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