The Obama interview: Health care law 'the right thing to do'

U.S. President Barack Obama speaksin Largo, Md., on March 15, 2012.

President Obama, in exclusive Marketplace interview, defended U.S. investment in alternative energy and called for more investment in the nation's infrastructure. Above, host Kai Ryssdal checks his notes during interview at the Copper Mountain solar plant in Nevada desert.

Jeremy Hobson: The president will be talking energy today in Cushing, Okla. -- that's the starting point for the southern part of the Keystone XL Pipeline. In January, the President blocked construction of the Northern leg of the pipeline because of environmental concerns, and that decision has become a hot button political issue.

But come Monday, the President will have another issue to worry about: the future of his health care law. The Supreme Court will hear arguments next week on the constitutionality of the overhaul.

Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal sat down with President Obama yesterday in Nevada and asked him about it.


Kai Ryssdal: Friday is, I'm sure you know, is the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, your health care law. It goes before the Supreme Court on Monday for what you can only call a marathon hearing. I wonder as you look at a country that still is divided over that law, if there's anything you would have done differently to be in this place now, getting ready to enact it, with more of a mandate, with more popular support?

Barack Obama: Well I would have loved to have gotten it done quicker, which is part of the reason why we designed a program that actually previously had support of Republicans -- including the person who may end up being the Republican standard bearer and is now pretending like he came up with something different.

It is a program that says we're going to continue to have a private marketplace for health care, but we're going to allow consumers to pool the resources. We're going to make sure consumers are protected, and we're going to make sure if folks who don't currently have insurance that they've got a means of doing it at a reasonable rate.

Ryssdal: Let me ask you the follow-on question about the Supreme Court on Monday: Assuming as I'm sure you do that you will prevail in the Supreme Court with the case over the individual mandate, you will have beaten in court 26 states -- that is the majority of states. You will have to depend on them to execute your plan to reform the health care system in this country, and yet they will be unwilling and unwelcome partners. Are you confident you can still get it done, even after all this acrimony?

Obama: Absolutely, because frankly, these lawsuits that were filed were basically uniformly filed by Republicans who wanted to score political points. And even some of those who filed suit are actually behind the scenes working with us to prepare for a day when we've got exchanges in these states where people can be part of a larger pool so they can get a bit better deal on their insurance.

And it will be very hard for any governor to explain why it is that they're not giving people -- and small businesses, not just individuals -- an opportunity to get cheaper health insurance, better deal, more protections because of some ideological argument that they're having with the president. And when people see that in fact it works, it makes sense -- as it's, by the way, working in Massachusetts -- then I think a whole bunch of folks will say 'Why aren't we trying it as well?'

And you know, historically, when you look at the history of Social Security, when you look at the history of Medicaid -- some of the same controversies have come up, some of the same resistances come up. But ultimately, when people actually saw that it was helping them, helping their lives; when young people find out right now that 2.5 million young people are getting health insurance who didn't have it because they can stay on their parents' plan; or seniors learn that, 'you know what, this is actually helping me reduce my costs for prescription drugs'; poor families and small businesses realize that they're in a better position to get health care -- over time, as it gets implemented, I think people will say this was the right thing to do.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

President Obama, in exclusive Marketplace interview, defended U.S. investment in alternative energy and called for more investment in the nation's infrastructure. Above, host Kai Ryssdal checks his notes during interview at the Copper Mountain solar plant in Nevada desert.

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