July 22, 2009: Text of Obama’s opening remarks (AP)

  • Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Congress, as you alluded to, is trying to figure out how to pay for all of this reform. Have you told House and Senate leaders which of their ideas are acceptable to you? If so, are you willing to share that stand of yours with the American people? And if you haven’t given that kind of direction to congressional leaders, are you willing to — are you willing to explain why you’re not stepping in to get a deal done, since you’re the one setting a deadline?
  • But my hope is — and I’m confident that, when people look at the cost 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.
  • And my measure of whether things work or not is listening to the American people, but also listening to health care experts who have shown that, in some communities, health care is cheaper and delivers a better result. I think we can achieve that.
  • So I’m confident that, if we just keep at it and we keep working, we’re diligent, we’re honest, if we take criticisms that are out there and modify whatever plans are already working through Congress so that it meets those concerns and those criticisms, that we can arrive at a bill that is going to improve the lives of the American people.
  • So — can I say this, though? If we hadn’t had any kind of deadline, that change probably would never have surfaced until who knows when. And so, you know, I want to do this right, but the American people need some relief.
  • You know, if you’ve got somebody out there saying not that — you know, let’s get the best bill possible, but instead says, you know, let’s try to beat this so we can gain political advantage, well, that’s not, you know, I think, what the American people expect.
  • Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You said earlier that you wanted to tell the American people what’s in it for them. How will their family benefit from the health care reform? But experts say that in addition to the benefits that you’re pushing, there is going to have to be some sacrifice in order for there to be true cost-cutting measures, such as Americans giving up tests, referrals, choice, end-of-life care.
  • When you describe health care reform, you don’t — understandably, you don’t talk about the sacrifices that Americans might have to make. Do you think — do you accept the premise that other than some tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, the American people are going to have to give anything up in order for this to happen?
  • And — and — and just to — to raise a broader issue that I think has colored how we look at health care reform, let me just talk about deficit and debt, because part of what’s been happening in this debate is the American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficits and debt that we’re facing right now.
  • We’re going to have to eliminate no-bid contracts. We’re going to have to do all kinds of reforms in our budgeting. But we’re also going to have to change health care. Otherwise, we can’t change that $7.1 trillion gap in the way that the American people want it to change.
  • 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’s a marketplace of different plans that they can access, depending on what’s best for their families.
  • What’s the constraint on that? How can — how can you ensure that those costs aren’t being passed onto employers or passed onto employees, the American people, ordinary middle-class families, in a way that over time is going to make them broke? Well, part of the way is to make sure that there’s some competition out there.
  • So — so that’s the idea. Now, to get to your — your original question, can I guarantee that there are going to be no changes in the health care delivery system? No. The whole point of this is to try to encourage changes that work for the American people and make them healthier.
  • Those are changes that I think the American people want to see.