MR. OBAMA: Now, the public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies. What we've said is, under our proposal, let's have a system, the same way that federal employees do, same way that members of Congress do, where we call it an exchange, but you can call it a marketplace, where, essentially, you've got a whole bunch of different plans.
If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won't have to do a thing. You keep your plan; you keep your doctor. If your employer's providing you good health insurance, terrific. We're not going to mess with it.
But, if you're a small-business person; if the insurance that's being offered is something you can't afford; if you want to shop for a better price, then you can go to this exchange, this marketplace, and you can -- look, OK, this is how much this plan costs; this is how much that plan costs; this is what the coverage is like; this is what fits for my family.
As one of those options, for us to be able to say, here's a public option that's not profit-driven, that can keep down administrative costs, and that provides you good, quality care for a reasonable price as one of the options for you to choose, I think that makes sense.
QUESTION: Wouldn't that drive private insurance out of business?
MR. OBAMA: Why would it drive private insurance out of business? If -- if private -- if private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care; if they tell us that they're offering a good deal, then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business? That's not logical [President Barack Hussein Obama, transcript, White House press conference, 2009.06.23].
Dang. Vulcans really do belong in the big chair.
Update 16:55 CDT: "The Gloves Come Off..." says Forbes.com's Brian Wingfield of the above presidential comment. And Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who has roughed up the president on past occasions, says that here, Obama is making sense. (Krugman, along with Matthew Yglesias, also digs the Obama-Spock groove.)
Update 2009.06.24 08:30 CDT: The President may have the pulse of the electorate: this NYT/CBS poll has some complex results, but 72% of Americans support a public option. Even half of Republicans say they'll go for a public option.