Look, if right now hospitals and doctors aren’t coordinating enough to have you just take one test when you come in because of an illness, but instead have you take one test; then you go to another specialist, you take a second test; then you go to another special, you take a third test — and nobody’s bothering to send the first test that you took — same test — to the next doctors, you’re wasting money.
You may not see it because if you have health insurance right now it’s just being sent to the insurance company, but that’s raising your premiums, it’s raising everybody’s premiums, and that money one way or another is coming out of your pocket — although we are also subsidizing some of that because there are tax breaks for health care. So not only is it costing you money in terms of higher premiums, it’s also costing you as a taxpayer.
Now, I want to change that. Every American should want to change that. Why would we want to pay for things that don’t work, that aren’t making us healthier? And here’s what I’m confident about: If doctors and patients have the best information about what works and what doesn’t, then they’re going to want to pay for what works. If there’s a blue pill and a red pill and the blue pill is half the price of the red pill and works just as well, why not pay half price for the thing that’s going to make you well?
But the system right now doesn’t incentivize that. Those are the changes that are going to be needed — that we’re going to need to make inside the system. It will require I think patients to — as well as doctors, as well as hospitals — to be more discriminating consumers. But I think that’s a good thing, because ultimately we can’t afford this. We just can’t afford what we’re doing right now.
And just to raise a broader issue that I think has colored how we look at health care reform, let me just talk about deficit and debt, because part of what’s been happening in this debate is the American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficits and debt that we’re facing right now. And the feeling is, all right, we had the bank bailout, we had the recovery package, we had the supplemental, we’ve got the budget, we’re seeing numbers — trillions here and trillions there. And so I think legitimately people are saying, look, we’re in a recession, I’m cutting back, I’m having to give up things — and yet all I see is government spending more and more money. And that argument I think has been used effectively by people who don’t want to change health care to suggest that somehow this is one more government program. So I just want to address that point very quickly.