Exchange With Reporters on Health Care Reform in Boston
Q. Are you now willing to compromise on universal coverage more and on mandates, sir? We're really confused.
The President. Listen, I've always had the olive branch out. I am not willing to do something that doesn't work. Did you all listen to what I said? I said that of the States that have done these modest reforms, only 10 have increased the number of people with insurance. We are losing ground. We must not do something that is a fraud.
I have never said that we had to have the employer mandate, although I think that's the best and fairest way. I do think we have to keep going towards universal coverage. That's what I think we have to do.
Q. But you would accept something less than 100 percent?
The President. Social Security doesn't have 100 percent.
Q. That's the first time we've heard you say that.
The President. Social Security—you cannot physically get 100 percent. There's no way to get 100 percent. Social Security only has 98, and they've just moved from 97 a couple years ago. But I think you have to have a universal coverage goal because if you don't have the idea of trying to essentially have functionally full coverage—whatever that is, it's a very high percentage—then the rest of these reforms will not work.
So my olive branch came because he said he was willing to work every day in August, every day in September, and every day in October, and I liked that.
Q. Maybe he's talking about a filibuster——
The President. All I'm asking you tonight is report this on the merits. Talk about what the doctors said. Talk about what the people said. These doctors, a lot of these doctors might be Republicans that signed this ad in the Boston Globe today. They said what will work is universal coverage. That is the almost universal opinion of knowledgeable physicians. The people who know what will control costs and provide security to middle class America know that unless you cover virtually everybody, you're not going to get that done.
And let's talk about the merits. Let's not turn this into a political story, let's talk about what will work in middle America.
Q. How about a 50-50 split?
The President. I'm open to changes in the split. I'm open to a lot of things. I just want to cover the American people. I've always been open to that from the first day. The only thing I want to do is get everybody covered, deal with the cost, preserve choice.
Q. [Inaudible]—fully cover less than 100 percent?
The President. You cannot physically cover 100 percent. It's impossible. Nobody can do that. We don't cover 100 percent of the people in Social Security, and it's universal. Social Security is universal. I want a universal program, but we can't physically get to 100 percent.
NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 12:30 p.m. at the Hynes Convention Center. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.
William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters on Health Care Reform in Boston Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/219320