Obama on the Record: Closing Remarks at Health Forum

so forth.

This is really not going to be easy, it has a fairly steep learning curve for an awful lot of people to get this done. But clearly the attitude is here, that is, the frame of mind is here, the desire is here to do this in a very cooperative way. And I can’t thank you enough for your quiet leadership to help make all that happen. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Max. Chuck.

SENATOR GRASSLEY: Mr. President, thank you very much for this opportunity.

From our breakout session you probably get the idea that it’s pretty easy to get done. We know it’s very difficult to get done. But without that sort of feeling starting out, nothing would get done. And I think you served with us in the Senate long enough to know that Max Baucus and I have a pretty good record of working out bipartisan things — neither one of us, or neither one of our parties get everything that they want, but we’ve had a pretty good record — I think only two bills in eight years that haven’t been bipartisan.

And so we have a process in place that has hearings coming up, it has a process of getting roundtable discussions, getting stakeholders in, getting authorities in. And we expect to have — work on this in the committee in June. It maybe will sound a little ambitious, but if you are ambitious on a major problem like this that the country decides needs to be done, it will never get done.

So the only thing that I would throw out for your consideration — and please don’t respond to this now, because I’m asking you just to think about it — there’s a lot of us that feel that the public option that the government is an unfair competitor and that we’re going to get an awful lot of crowd out, and we have to keep what we have now strong, and make it stronger.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, let me just — I’m not going to respond definitively. The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices, and it helps give — keep the private sector honest, because there’s some competition out there. That’s been the thinking.

I recognize, though, the fear that if a public option is run through Washington, and there are incentives to try to tamp down costs and — or at least what shows up on the books, and you’ve got the ability in Washington, apparently, to print money — that private insurance plans might end up feeling overwhelmed. So I recognize that there’s that concern. I think it’s a serious one and a real one. And we’ll make sure that it gets addressed, partly because I assume it will be very — be very hard to come out of committee unless we’re thinking about it a little bit. And so we want to make sure that that’s something that we pay attention to.

A couple of other people I want to call on. I’m going to — I’m going

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