Obama on the Record: Healthcare Reform Town Hall

Because the truth is, is that I am now President and I am — (applause) — and I am responsible, and together we have to restore a sense of responsibility in Washington. (Applause.) We have to do what businesses and families do — we’ve got to cut out the things we don’t need to pay for the things we do.

And that’s why I pledged that I will not sign health insurance reform — as badly as I think it’s necessary, I won’t sign it if that reform adds even one dime to our deficit over the next decade — and I mean what I say. (Applause.)

Now, we have estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform to bring health care security to every American can actually be paid for by reallocating money that’s already in the system but is being wasted in federal health care programs. So let me repeat what I just said: About two-thirds of health care reform can be paid for not with new revenues, not with tax hikes, just with taking money that’s not being spent wisely and moving it into things that will actually make people healthy.

And that includes, by the way — right now we spend more than $100 billion in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare — subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. We ought to take that money and use it to actually treat people and cover people, not to line pockets of insurers. (Applause.) And I’m pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. And while they’re currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health care reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families. (Applause.)

Now, in addition to making sure that this plan doesn’t add to the deficit in the short term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs, while improving care, in the long run.

I just came from the Cleveland Clinic where I toured the cardiac surgery unit, met some of the doctors who are achieving incredible results for their patients. There’s important work being done there as well as at the University Hospitals and MetroHealth. (Applause.) And Cleveland Clinic has one of the best health information technology systems in the country. And that means they can track patients and their progress. It means that they can see what treatments work and what treatments are unnecessary. It means they can provide better care for patients. They don’t have to duplicate test after test because it’s all online. They can help patients manage chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure and asthma and emphysema by coordinating with doctors and nurses both in the hospital and in the community.

And here’s the remarkable thing: They actually have some of the lowest costs for the best care. That’s the interesting thing about our health care system. (Applause.) Often, better care produces lower, not higher, expenses, because better care leads to fewer errors that cost money and lives. You, or your doctor, don’t have to fill out the same form a dozen times. Medical professionals are free to treat people — not just illnesses. And patients are provided preventive care earlier — like mammograms and physicals — to avert more expensive and invasive treatment later.

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