Healthcare Town Hall - Page 18 of 18

Healthcare Town Hall

So I actually think that if everybody has a pragmatic attitude about this problem, they say we’re all going to have to do our part; families are going to have to do their part by being healthier; employers do their parts by encouraging their employers to be healthier; government doing its part by making sure that those people who are working very hard but still don’t have health insurance or their premiums are getting too sky-high, that they’re getting a hand up; insurance companies, drug companies doing their parts by not price gouging or trying to cut people out of the system; hospitals adopting best practices. If we’re doing all those pieces, then we can start bending this cost curve down.

And that’s one last point I want to make, because what you’ll hear during this debate over the next several weeks is people will also say “The deficit and the debt are skyrocketing, and that’s the reason why we can’t afford to do health reform.” So I just want to repeat the single biggest problem we have in terms of the debt and the deficit is health care, it’s Medicare and Medicaid. (Applause.) That is — when you hear all these projections about all these trillions of dollars and red ink going out as far as the eye can see — almost all of that is because of the increase in Medicare and Medicaid costs that are going up much, much faster than inflation.

It’s undoubtedly true that this economic crisis has hurt our budget situation, because again, a lot less money is coming in from corporate taxes, sales taxes, et cetera. So that reduces the amount of money coming out at the same time as we’re having to put a lot more money out for food stamps and for unemployment insurance and all kinds of other help that people need when they get thrown out of their jobs; subsidizing COBRA so they can keep their health care. That’s contributed to some of it.

Some of it is that I have proposed some investments in education and in energy and in health information technologies. But there was just an article in The New York Times yesterday that showed that all that stuff, everything that I’ve proposed — my stimulus package, what we’ve done in terms of bailing out the financial system — all that stuff, that accounts for maybe 7, 8 percent of what you’ve seen in terms of increased debt and deficit. The real problem is Medicaid and Medicare. That’s the nightmare scenario. If we can bend the curve, the cost-curve down so that health care inflation is no more than ordinary inflation, it’s matching up with the amount of increases that you’re seeing on your paychecks in your wages and your incomes, then we’re going to be okay. And if we don’t get a handle on it, we’re not going to be okay. It doesn’t matter, you know, that we eliminate earmarks or do all that other stuff. That won’t make any difference — we’ll still be consumed by huge debt for the next generation.

That’s why it’s so important, that’s why we’re going to get it done, that’s why I need your help, Green Bay. Thank you, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)

(Source: White House)