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Blue Girl and I took part in a conference call for bloggers on health care reform with President Obama and senior members of his staff late this afternoon. The President made a brief opening statement and then took questions from those on the call. The President’s staff continued after he left the call.

The transcript of President Obama’s opening remarks:

Operator:….We have the President of the United States.

President Barack Obama: Hey guys. Uh, it, it is great to talk to you. Thanks, uh, so much for, uh, thanks so much for being on. And I want to just make a couple of quick comments. I want to leave about fifteen minutes for questions to me directly. And then David Axelrod, uh, my senior advisor, as well as Nancy-Ann DeParle who is my chief, uh, uh, member of my health care brain trust, uh, will stay on and she can, uh, answer some additional calls afterwards.

Um, this is a critical time for us who care deeply about changing the health care system and how it’s currently working. We are closer to reform than we’ve ever been. Of course that means that the special interests and some of their representatives in Congress are gonna pull out everything they have to stop it. I want to make sure that all of you and your readers hear from me directly and others on my team about what’s going on. I know that there’s been a lot of focus, uh, from a lot of people on keeping the bill strong and that continues to be a key focus for me as well. But, there’s also a primary point that can’t be lost. The status quo is unacceptable.  Uh, you’ve got forty-six million people without health insurance. You’ve got premiums going up three times faster than wages, out of pocket costs skyrocketing. Uh, so people who would defend doing nothing, uh, I think are defending the indefensible. Uh, so far those who oppose reform have offered no meaningful, uh, alternatives. And one of the things that I know the blogs are best at is debunking myths that can slip through a lot of the traditional media outlets and a lot of the conventional wisdom.

And that’s why you’re gonna to play such an important role in our success, uh, in the weeks and months to come. For example, the idea that the legislation I sign is going to be a source of record deficits is simply not true. It’s a myth that’s been spread by the same people that were responsible for record deficits over the last eight years, a deficit that I inherited. And now we’ve got folks going out there saying that somehow that that should be an excuse for inaction when it comes to health care. Uh, I’ve explained from the v…very beginning that this legislation has to be funded over the course of the next ten years. And I’ve talked about the fact that two thirds of the funding, uh, are gonna come from, uh, ending unwarranted give, giveaways, hundreds of billions of dollars, to insurance companies, and the Medicare and Medicaid system, and other changes that, uh, reallocate tax dollars that are already into the system, uh, and spending those dollars in a more intelligent way.  Uh, so that’s just an example of the, of the kind of, uh, change in the debate that so many of you can drive. And I think that’s absolutely critical.

Uh, I also think it’s important just to keep the pressure on members of Congress, uh, because what happens is there is a, uh, there is a default position of inertia here on, here in Washington. And pushing against that, making sure that people feel that, that the desperation that ordinary families are feeling all across the country every day, uh, when they’re worrying about whether they can pay their premiums or not, or how to, uh, deal with a loss of insurance when they lose their job. Pe.. people have to feel that in a visceral way. And you guys can help, uh, deliver that better than just about everybody.

So, uh, I appreciate you guys being on. Uh, Jesse [Lee – White House Director of Online Programs] why don’t you, uh, tell me who’s gonna be, uh, the first, uh, first caller. The first question….