CBS: Axelrod on Health Care, a Public Option

CQ Transcriptswire
Sunday, September 13, 2009; 12:37 PM

BOB SCHIEFFER (host): Why doesn't the president just say, we don't have the votes to pass this, we have the votes perhaps to pass a lot of other things, and just put that aside and say he's not going to push it? He said, you know, he didn't think it was crucial to the plan but he still liked it.

WHITE HOUSE ADVISER DAVID AXELROD: Well, he -- let me say again that he believes that it will add an element of competition where there is none in some places in this country where there's a monopolistic situation with insurance companies.

And we believe competition and choice will help bring prices down and improve care and give a better deal to consumers. So he continues to believe it's a good idea. He continues to advocate it. And I'm not willing to accept that it's not going to be in the final package.

But what he also said and what we've all said is that this is not the whole of health insurance reform. And we should not let the whole debate devolve into this one question, circulate around this one question, and lose the best opportunity we've had in generations to do something very significant about a problem that just -- that is just getting worse.

SCHIEFFER: One of the other things he said the other night was that he thought that this program could be self-sufficient. How can he really say that he can put all of this into effect without adding to the deficit? We don't have any other programs that haven't added to the deficit like Medicare or like Social Security.

AXELROD: Well, look, one of the reasons we have the problems we have is because over the last eight years Congress has passed a series of things, two major tax cuts for the very wealthy, funded two wars, prescription drug coverage for seniors, without funding any of it.

AXELROD: And that's why we have the tremendous deficit problem we have today.

So what this president is saying is, we need to move forward on this, but we need to do it in a fiscally responsible way, so we need to say how we're going to pay for it. And the president has identified a series of savings that he feels can be made in our public health programs. The Congressional Budget Office has certified that, yes, these are real and legitimate savings. And now we have to discuss how we close the rest of the gap.

He embraced one idea on Wednesday night relative to fees on insurance companies on high-end insurance policies. And there are a menu of other things that we'll be discussing with Congress, but he is absolutely committed that he will -- he will not sign a bill unless he can say to the American people honestly that this bill will not add to our deficit.

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