Obama on the Record: News Conference on Healthcare Reform

So if we don’t change, we can’t expect a different result. And that’s why I think this is so important, not only for those families out there who are struggling and who need some protection from abuses in the insurance industry or need some protection from skyrocketing costs, but it’s also important for our economy.

And, by the way, it’s important for families’ wages and incomes. One of the things that doesn’t get talked about is the fact that when premiums are going up and the costs to employers are going up, that’s money that could be going into people’s wages and incomes. And over the last decade we basically saw middle-class families, their incomes and wages flatlined. Part of the reason is because health care costs are gobbling that up.

And that’s why I say if we can — even if we don’t reduce our health care costs by the $6,000 that we’re paying more than any other country on Earth, if we just reduced it by $2,000 or $3,000, that would mean money in people’s pockets. And that’s possible to do.

But we’re going to have to make some changes. We’ve got to change how health care is delivered to — the health care delivery system works so that doctors are being paid for the quality of care and not the quantity of care. We’ve got to make information technology more effective. We’ve got to have the medical system work in teams so that people don’t go through five different tests. Those are all critical to do, and we can do them.

Now, I understand that people are feeling uncertain about this, they feel anxious, partly because we’ve just become so cynical about what government can accomplish, that people’s attitudes are, you know, even though I don’t like this devil, at least I know it and I like that more than the devil I don’t know. So folks are skeptical, and that is entirely legitimate because they haven’t seen a lot of laws coming out of Washington lately that help them.

But my hope is, and I’m confident that when people look at the costs of doing nothing they’re going to say, we can make this happen — we’ve made big changes before that end up resulting in a better life for the American people.

David Alexander, Reuters.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You’ve been pushing Congress to pass health care reform by August. Why the rush? Are you worried that if you don’t — there’s a delay until the fall, the whole effort will collapse?

THE PRESIDENT: A couple of points. Number one, I’m rushed because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs. And they ask me, can you help? So I’ve got a middle-aged couple that will write me and they say, our daughter just found out she’s got leukemia and if I don’t do something soon we just either are going to go bankrupt or we’re not going to be able to provide our daughter with the care that she needs. And in a country like ours, that’s not right. So that’s part of my rush.

The second thing is the fact that if you don’t set deadlines in this town things don’t happen. The default position is inertia. Because doing something always creates some people who are unhappy. There’s always going to be some interest out there that decides, you know what, the status quo is working for me a little bit better. And the fact that we have made so much progress where we’ve got doctors, nurses, hospitals, even the pharmaceutical industry, AARP, saying that this makes sense to do, I think means that the stars are aligned and we need to take advantage of that.

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