Description: Town Hall Question #5 - Health Care
Candidate: Sen. Obama
Question: Selling health care coverage in America as the marketable commodity has become a very profitable industry. Do you believe health care should be treated as a commodity? ]
BROKAW: Next question for you, Senator Obama, and it comes from the E section over here and it's from Lindsey Trellow (ph).
QUESTION: Senator, selling health care coverage in America as the marketable commodity has become a very profitable industry.
Do you believe health care should be treated as a commodity?
OBAMA: Well, you know, as I travel around the country, this is one of the single most frequently asked issues that I get, is the issue of health care. It is breaking family budgets. I can't tell you how many people I meet who don't have health insurance.
If you've got health insurance, most of you have seen your premiums double over the last eight years. And your co-payments and deductibles have gone up 30 percent just in the last year alone. If you're a small business, it's a crushing burden.
So one of the things that I have said from the start of this campaign is that we have a moral commitment as well as an economic imperative to do something about the health care crisis that so many families are facing.
So here's what I would do. If you've got health care already, and probably the majority of you do, then you can keep your plan if you are satisfied with it. You can keep your choice of doctor. We're going to work with your employer to lower the cost of your premiums by up to $2,500 a year.
And we're going to do it by investing in prevention. We're going to do it by making sure that we use information technology so that medical records are actually on computers instead of you filling forms out in triplicate when you go to the hospital. That will reduce medical errors and reduce costs.
If you don't have health insurance, you're going to be able to buy the same kind of insurance that Senator McCain and I enjoy as federal employees. Because there's a huge pool, we can drop the costs. And nobody will be excluded for pre-existing conditions, which is a huge problem.
Now, Senator McCain has a different kind of approach. He says that he's going to give you a $5,000 tax credit. What he doesn't tell you is that he is going to tax your employer-based health care benefits for the first time ever.
So what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away. He would also strip away the ability of states to provide some of the regulations on insurance companies to make sure you're not excluded for pre-existing conditions or your mammograms are covered or your maternity is covered. And that is fundamentally the wrong way to go.
In fact, just today business organizations like the United States Chamber of Commerce, which generally are pretty supportive of Republicans, said that this would lead to the unraveling of the employer-based health care system.
That, I don't think, is the kind of change that we need. We've got to have somebody who is fighting for patients and making sure that you get decent, affordable health care. And that's something that I'm committed to doing as president.