Obama on the Record: News Conference on Healthcare Reform

And in terms of the last point that you made, which is the possibility of fees for transactions that we want to discourage, that is one of the ideas that is going to be working its way through the process. I think at minimum what we want to do is to make sure that to the extent the federal government is going to have to be a backstop, just like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, what everybody is familiar with, FDIC, the reason that when you put your deposits in your bank you can have confidence that they’re insured — that’s paid for through bank fees. We may need to make sure that there is a similar mechanism in place for some of these other far-out transactions. So if you guys want to do them, then you got to put something into the kitty to make sure that if you screw up it’s not taxpayer dollars that have to pay for it, but it’s dollars coming out of your profits.

Steve Koff, the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Q Thank you. To follow up on Jake’s question earlier, sir, so many Americans are concerned that this plan, particularly the government insurance, the public option, would lead to reduced benefits or reduced coverage.

Two questions. One, can you guarantee that this legislation will lock in and say the government will never deny any services; that that’s going to be decided by the doctor and the patient, and the government will not deny any coverage? And secondarily, can you, as a symbolic gesture, say that you and the Congress will abide by the same benefits in that public option?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, number one, not only the public option but the insurance regulation that we want to put in place will largely match up with what members of Congress are getting through the federal employee plan. That’s a good example of what we’re trying to build for the American people — the same thing that Congress enjoys, which is they go — there is a marketplace of different plans that they can access, depending on what’s best for their families.

Now, one of the plans that we’ve talked about is a public option. And part of the reason we want to have a public option is just to help keep the insurance companies honest. If the insurance companies are providing good care — and as it is, they’re going to be more regulated so that they can’t deny you care because of a preexisting condition or because you change jobs or because they’ve decided you’re too sick and not a good risk — with regulation there’s already going to be some improvement in the insurance industry.

But having a public plan out there that also shows that maybe if you take some of the profit motive out, maybe if you are reducing some of the administrative costs, that you can get an even better deal, that’s going to incentivize the private sector to do even better. And that’s a good thing. That’s a good thing.

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