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Today the President hosted a meeting that marked one of the most promising signs for health reform to date, and not only because the topic was saving more than $2 trillion on health care costs. Representatives from hospitals, the insurance industry, medical device and pharmaceutical companies, labor and physicians came to the White House to discuss major steps being taken to lower health care costs across the board.
And that's what makes today's meeting so remarkable -- because it's a meeting that might not have been held just a few years ago. The groups who are here today represent different constituencies with different sets of interests. They've not always seen eye to eye with each other or with our government on what needs to be done to reform health care in this country. In fact, some of these groups were among the strongest critics of past plans for comprehensive reform.
But what's brought us all together today is a recognition that we can't continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years; that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait. It's a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the '90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America.
(President Barack Obama meeting with healthcare stakeholders in the Roosevelt Room at White House May 11, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
In short, the coalition has agreed to reduce the annual health care spending growth rate by 1.5 percentage points for the next 10 years, a change that could result in savings of roughly $2,500 for American families. Some of the changes the coalition is working on, explained fully in the fact sheet, include:
- Improving Care after Hospitalizations and Reduce Hospital Readmission Rates.
- Reducing Medicare Overpayments to Private Insurers through Competitive Payments.
- Reducing Drug Prices.
- Improving Medicare and Medicaid Payment Accuracy.
- Expanding the Hospital Quality Improvement Program.
The President closed his remarks making clear that this was just the beginning, and certainly no stopgap measure: "So the steps that are being announced today are significant. But the only way these steps will have an enduring impact is if they are taken not in isolation, but as part of a broader effort to reform our entire health care system." And while so much debate over politics and policy can get lost in the mire of facts and figured, the President made clear that his focus is squarely on one thing:
Ultimately, the debate about reducing costs -- and the larger debate about health care reform itself -- is not just about numbers; it's not just about forms or systems; it's about our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. And I understand that. As I've mentioned before during the course of the campaign, my mother passed away from ovarian cancer a little over a decade ago. And in the last weeks of her life, when she was coming to grips with her own mortality and showing extraordinary courage just to get through each day, she was spending too much time worrying about whether her health insurance would cover her bills. So I know what it's like to see a loved one who is suffering, but also having to deal with a broken health care system. I know that pain is shared by millions of Americans all across this country.
Today is a hopeful day.