Obama Outlines Health Care Goals

Posted on June 10, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Seeking congressional action this summer, the President says reform is “a necessity we cannot defer.”

Working with congressional Democrats, President Obama is pushing a plan to meet the long-elusive goal of providing high-quality, affordable health care coverage for all Americans and he wants a bill on his desk within months.
While lawmakers from both sides of the aisle recognize the urgency of America’s health care crisis, Republicans are lining up to oppose a pillar of the Obama plan that would provide a government option for those who cannot afford to purchase their own private health care coverage.
The plan will have broad impacts on businesses that could be required to provide health insurance for all their employees as one means of expanding coverage to the nation’s 46 million uninsured. Obama has said he could support mandated health coverage as long as there is an exemption for small businesses.
Obama’s plan also includes $19 billion already set aside under the stimulus package to digitize medical records, a program aimed at adding efficiency and ending duplicate or unnecessary treatments. This is one of the few areas on which the president has been specific.
Other options are less clear. The plan could, for example, include taxes on health insurance benefits of the richest Americans or on those with the most valuable insurance plans. Also on the table: New taxes on alcohol and sugary beverages.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said his version of the bill could be unveiled next week and the measure will include new taxes on at least some employer-provided benefits.
Meanwhile, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions, unveiled his own bill that would require all Americans to be covered, set up insurance exchanges to help them obtain coverage, increase government oversight of the insurance industry and reward the best performing doctors and hospitals.
Though Obama has been meeting with Democrats on the issue, he has promised to include Republicans and other stakeholders as debate heats up this summer.
“We simply cannot afford to postpone health care reform any longer. This recognition has led an unprecedented coalition to emerge on behalf of reform — hospitals, physicians, and health insurers, labor and business, Democrats and Republicans. These groups, adversaries in past efforts, are now standing as partners on the same side of this debate,” Obama wrote in a recent letter to lawmakers.
But the president’s plan faces a tough sale on Capitol Hill, where Republicans are already bridling at the idea of a government run option.
“Now, there’s lots of room for improvement in this current system, but boy, if we go to a government plan, the government will be setting prices. They’ll be telling people what they can do. They’ll be injecting themselves between your doctor and yourself. I can’t even begin to tell you what a lousy rotten thing it will be, and it will be tremendously costly,” said Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Health, Labor and Pensions.
“So I just don’t understand what’s happening with the president,” Hatch said on Fox News
Even before he returned from his trip to the Middle East and Europe on Sunday, Obama used his weekly Saturday radio and Internet address to press for change. He said he envisions a plan that cuts the cost of health care across the board, while at the same time improving the quality of health care in America.
“Some of these costs are the result of unwarranted profiteering that has no place in our health care system, and in too many communities, folks are paying higher costs without receiving better care in return,” he said, pointing to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio as examples of institutions that provide high quality health care at reasonable prices.
“We should learn from their successes and promote the best practices, not the most expensive ones. That’s how we’ll achieve reform that fixes what doesn’t work, and builds on what does,” Obama said.
Before entering a closed-door session with some two dozen Democratic senators at the White House last week, Obama stressed the critical nature of health care reform.
“This issue, health care reform, is not a luxury. It’s not something that I want to do because of campaign promises or politics. This is a necessity. This is something that has to be done. We cannot avoid bringing about change in our health care system,” Obama said.
In a letter to Kennedy and Baucus, Obama said much of the reforms he has in mind can be paid for through new efficiencies in the system and the elimination of waste, fraud and abuse.
The president said he has “set aside” $635 billion in a health reserve fund to help pay for reform, which includes $309 billion in cuts from Medicare and Medicaid. Obama also said he hopes to cut another $200 to $300 billion from the programs over the next 10 years.
Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff said in an interview with NBC that White House staffers will be busy readying a health care package for presentation to lawmakers while Obama is vacationing, but before Congress embarks on its summer recess in August.
“We’re trying to get health care…done. And get all of that done in these work periods, so when he’s gone, while they (lawmakers) are here, you’ve got to get a lot of work done, try to fit it all in and get all of the policy choices made,” he said.
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