Obama Takes Healthcare Reform to AARP

The average family is spending about $900 a year in higher health care premiums, because they are paying indirectly for uncompensated care. Essentially, the insurance companies charge you a little more, and hospitals and doctors, they’re all charging you a little bit more, because they’re not getting reimbursed for people who don’t have any care whatsoever.

So what we’ve done is we’ve said, look, over 10 years, the health care reform proposals, to cover everybody, would cost about a trillion dollars over 10 years. So that’s about $100 billion a year. Keep in mind we spend $2 trillion every year on health care, so this is just a fraction of what we spend. But we’re talking about a trillion dollars over 10 years — that’s $100 billion a year.

About 60 percent of that can be paid for by taking money that’s already in the system but isn’t working to make you healthier — that can pay for about 60 percent of it. So really what we’re talking about is another $30 billion to $40 billion every year to cover everybody, and we’re going to get most of that money back if we’re providing more prevention, more wellness, doctors and hospitals are being reimbursed more intelligently. Over time that money will — that investment will more than pay for itself.

But Ollie is exactly right — you get these stories where, oh, there’s a trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there; after a while it starts being real money, even here in Washington. And so I understand people being scared that this is going to be way too costly. It’s not that costly if we start making changes right now.

Last point I would make, just to give you a sense of why I know that we can get savings in the system without over the long term spending more money. We spend about $6,000 per person more than any other industrialized nation on Earth — $6,000 more than the people do in Denmark, or France, or Germany, or — every one of these other countries spend at least 50 percent less than we do, and you know what, they’re just as healthy.

And I just had a doctor in the Oval Office today who told me it’s not because they’re healthier; it turns out they actually are generally older and they smoke at a higher rate. And so, in fact, their costs should be higher than ours. And yet they are spending $6,000 per person less than we are.

Now, that’s money out of your pocket. If you’re already retired, it’s money that is out of your pocket because some of that money could have been going into your retirement fund instead of going to pay for your health care. If you’re working right now, some of that money could be going into your paycheck instead of going into your health benefits right now. It’s money that is being given away, and we need to save it. That’s why health reform is so important.

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