So, for example, right now we’re paying about $177 billion over 10 years to insurance companies to subsidize them for participating in Medicare Advantage. Now, insurance companies are already really profitable. So what we’ve said is let’s at least have some sort of competitive bidding process where these insurance companies who are participating, they’re not being subsidized on the taxpayer dime; if they got better services — they have better services that they can provide to seniors rather than through the traditional Medicare program, they’re free to participate, but we shouldn’t be giving them billions of dollars worth of subsidies.
That’s the kind of change that we want to see. That will strengthen Medicare. But nobody is talking about cutting Medicare benefits. And I just want to make that absolutely clear because we’ve received some e-mails and some letters where people are concerned that that may happen.
MR. CUTHBERT: Our operators, by the way, are telling us that we have literally tons of questions from people worried about keeping the care they have. On the other hand, Ollie, in Texas, you’ve got a concern on the other end.
Q Hello. May I start now?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Well, I am an AARP volunteer, an AARP member. I support AARP’s position on health care reform and I want to thank President Obama for making this a priority issue on his agenda also.
My question is there are so many negative ads and so many negative articles about the tremendous cost for health care reform that is being proposed by different congressional committees. What we don’t hear is what the dollar amount would be if we do nothing. And I think this is very important because people are scared by the trillions of dollars, and I know that if we do nothing for the next 10 years, health care will still keep on rising. And I want to know if the President has any way of putting out some information as to what it would cost if we do nothing. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I think this is a great question, Ollie, and so let me try to be as specific as I can about the cost of doing nothing.
I’ve already mentioned that health care costs are going up much faster than inflation. So your wages, your income, if you’re lucky, right now, maybe they’re going up 2 percent a year, maybe 3 percent a year; for a lot of people, they’re not going up at all because the economy is in tough shape. But your health care costs are still going up 6 percent a year, 7 percent a year. Some people are getting notices in the mail their premium just went up 20 percent.