Joe Scarborough suggested that President Obama's remark that “we are out of money” was at odds with Obama's health care reform proposal. However, Obama has argued that health care reform is essential to the long-term economic health of the country.
On the May 29 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough suggested that President Obama's May 22 remark that “we are out of money” was at odds with his call for immediate congressional action on health care reform. After co-host Mika Brzezinski said, “Obama is warning that if Congress doesn't pass health care legislation by the end of the year, the opportunity will likely not come again,” Scarborough interrupted her and said, “And he's right, because we've got all this extra money right now, so if we're going to do it, we have to do it now.” He added, “I'm just saying -- no, seriously, now is the time. It's not like he said this past weekend that we've run out of money.” However, during the May 22 C-SPAN interview in which Obama said “we are out of money,” Obama also said that this was “a short-term problem” that is “dwarfed by the long-term problem” of “Medicaid and Medicare.” Fixing that problem, he said, requires immediate action to “reduce long-term health care inflation substantially.”
As Media Matters for America has noted, many media figures have claimed or suggested that given the size of the current and projected U.S. federal debt, the Obama administration's health care reform proposal is untenable. However, in making such statements, those media figures did not address the argument Obama has repeatedly made in response to such claims: that health care reform is essential to the long-term economic and fiscal health of the country.
Indeed, in his May 22 interview, Obama rejected “do[ing] nothing” soon after saying “we are out of money now.” From a discussion about the costs of health care reform from Obama's interview with C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully:
OBAMA: Health information technology, for example, can be a huge cost saver, because it can eliminate duplicative records, reduce medical errors, but it's going to take some time for us to build out the infrastructure so that every provider, every small community hospital has these things in place. And that's part of the role that the government can play.
But the key point here, which I think I want to emphasize again, is if you've got health care -- I don't want to take away your choices. I want to add your choices. I want you to be able to keep your doctor, keep your health care, but I want to be able to drive down costs. And if you are dissatisfied with your health care, I want to make sure you get some other options out there.
SCULLY: Yet, it all takes money. You know the numbers, $1.7 trillion debt, a national deficit of $11 trillion. At what point do we run out of money?
OBAMA: Well, we are out of money now. We are operating in deep deficits, not caused by any decisions we've made on health care so far. This is a consequence of the crisis that we've seen and in fact our failure to make some good decisions on health care over the last several decades.
So we've got a short-term problem, which is we had to spend a lot of money to salvage our financial system, we had to deal with the auto companies, a huge recession which drains tax revenue at the same time it's putting more pressure on governments to provide unemployment insurance or make sure that food stamps are available for people who have been laid off.
So we have a short-term problem and we also have a long-term problem. The short-term problem is dwarfed by the long-term problem. And the long-term problem is Medicaid and Medicare. If we don't reduce long-term health care inflation substantially, we can't get control of the deficit.
So, one option is just to do nothing. We say, well, it's too expensive for us to make some short-term investments in health care. We can't afford it. We've got this big deficit. Let's just keep the health care system that we've got now.
Along that trajectory, we will see health care cost as an overall share of our federal spending grow and grow and grow and grow until essentially it consumes everything. That's the wrong option.
I think the right option is to say, where are the game changers, the investments that we can make now that are going to reduce costs, even if they don't reduce them this year or next year, but 10 years from now or 20 years from now, we are going to see substantially lower costs.
And if -- one of the very promising areas that we saw was these insurance companies, drug companies, hospitals, all these stakeholders coming together, committing to me that they would reduce costs by 1.5 percent per year.
If we do that, it seems like small number, we end up saving $2 trillion. $2 trillion, which not only can help deal with our deficit and our long-term debt, but a lot of those savings can go back into the pockets of American consumers in the form of lower premiums. That's what we are driving for.
From the May 29 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
BRZEZINSKI: Meanwhile, President Obama is warning that if Congress doesn't pass health care legislation by the end of the year, the opportunity will likely not come again.
SCARBOROUGH: And he's right, because we've got all this extra money right now, so if we're going to do it, we have to do it now.
BRZEZINSKI: Joe, I'm doing the news.
SCARBOROUGH: No, I'm just saying --
BRZEZINSKI: You can [inaudible] your commentary for after.
SCARBOROUGH: -- no, seriously, now is the time.
BRZEZINSKI: The com --
SCARBOROUGH: It's not like he said this past weekend that we've run out of money.
BRZEZINSKI: The comments came as the president returned from a West Coast fundraising trip.