He's open to medical malpractice reform as part of compromises in the larger health reform package:
"I've said this to people like Mitch McConnell," he recalled. "I said, look, on health care reform, you may not agree with me that we should have a public plan. That may be philosophically just too much for you to swallow. On the other hand, there are some areas like reducing the costs of medical malpractice insurance where you do agree with me. If I'm taking some of your ideas and giving you credit for good ideas, the fact that you didn't get 100 percent can't be a reason every single time to oppose my position."Maybe it's just a posture. Congressional prospects for liability reform are not terrific. But nice to see that he recognizes the need and is willing to say so publicly. Also good to know that he is still emphasizing the need for a public plan option, a point also emphasized by the letter 16 Senate Democrats (some of them surprising) sent to Baucus and Kennedy yesterday urging them to retain the public plan as the negotiations continue.
Jonathan Cohn at TNR highlights a couple of key exchanges from Obama's extended interview. In the first, Obama discusses the asymmetry of information that will prevent consumer-directed health care from achieving the cost savings some hope it might:
OBAMA: ...we should not overstate the degree to which consumers rather than doctors are going to be driving treatment, because, I just speak from my own experience, I’m a pretty-well-educated layperson when it comes to medical care; I know how to ask good questions of my doctor. But ultimately, he’s the guy with the medical degree. So, if he tells me, You know what, you’ve got such-and-such and you need to take such-and-such, I don’t go around arguing with him or go online to see if I can find a better opinion than his.And in the second clip he discusses the challenges surrounding costs in end-of-life care:
This is a huge issue that no prominent politician has dared to broach, in my memory. He doesn't have answers, but he's raising the right questions. We will see if there's a will out there to start filling in the right answers.
OBAMA: ...I actually think that the tougher issue around medical care — it’s a related one — is what you do around things like end-of-life care--
LEONHARDT: Yes, where it’s $20,000 for an extra week of life.
OBAMA: Exactly. And I just recently went through this. I mean, I’ve told this story, maybe not publicly, but when my grandmother got very ill during the campaign, she got cancer; it was determined to be terminal. And about two or three weeks after her diagnosis she fell, broke her hip. [... long clip cut...] There is going to have to be a conversation that is guided by doctors, scientists, ethicists. And then there is going to have to be a very difficult democratic conversation that takes place. It is very difficult to imagine the country making those decisions just through the normal political channels.