This morning marked another major milestone for health reform, as Vice President Biden, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and representatives of the hospital industry came together to announce a major investment from hospitals in the effort. The contribution is yet another step towards ensuring reform will be deficit-neutral and a key to long-term fiscal sustainability.
"As part of this agreement," the Vice President explained
, "hospitals are committing to contributing $155 billion -- $155 billion -- in Medicare and Medicaid savings over the 10 years to cover health care cost reform -- over the next 10 years." He further explained how the agreement is another example of how reform is in everybody’s interest: "As more people are insured, hospitals will bear less of the financial burden of caring for the uninsured and the underinsured, and we'll reduce payments to cover those costs, in tandem with that reduction."
Having warmly welcomed the hospital CEOs and representatives, Vice President Biden honed in on the significance of this latest step towards consensus:
Folks, reform is coming. It is on track; it is coming. We have tried for decades -- for decades -- to fix a broken system, and we have never, in my entire tenure in public life, been this close. We have never been as close as we are today, and things remain on track.
We have these hospitals working with us, and we have the pharmaceutical industry working with us; we have doctors and nurses and health care providers with us; we have the American public behind us. And everyone sees that we need change. And in my view, we're going to get that change, and we're going to get it this year.
(Vice President Joe Biden announces that the nation's hospitals will give up $155 billion in future Medicare and Medicaid to help defray the cost of President Obama's health care plan, in room 350 of the EEOB, Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
And he explained how the agreement came about:
The hospital industry knows, and the people with me here today know, and the President knows, that the status quo is simply unacceptable. Let me say that again -- the status quo is simply unacceptable. Rising costs are crushing us. They're crushing families, crushing businesses, crushing state budgets -- and they are crushing the health care industry itself.
Hospitals have acknowledged that significant health care savings can be achieved by improving efficiencies, realigning incentives to emphasize quality care instead of quantity of procedures. And in the last several weeks, they've been working with Chairman Baucus and are coming forward with a proposal that produces real savings in federal health care spending -- savings that will be applied toward the President’s firm goal -- firm goal of enacting health care reform that is deficit-neutral -- health care reform that is deficit-neutral.