May 11, 2009

Obama Works To Gain Support For Healthcare Reform

President Barack Obama's plan to overhaul the US healthcare system is expected to receive major support from groups representing hospitals, insurance companies, drug makers and doctors on Monday, who say they will slow their rate increases to enable them to provide health insurance to approximately 50 million Americans who are living without it over the next 10 years.

White House officials estimate savings to amount to $2 trillion.

Confirming the deal with the health industry, Obama is expected to tell Americans that "we cannot continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years, with costs that are out of control, because reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait."

"That is why these groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment," he will say.

The six industry groups are expected to deliver a letter to the president delineating their voluntary agreement to slash spending increases by 1.5% every year until 2019.

The White House believes families could eventually save $2,500 a year.

One of the main ideas in Obama's health proposal would be a new government health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. The administration says the public plan would help cut costs by encouraging competition to cover the uninsured.

Drug makers are also concerned that in the future, new medications might have to pass a cost-benefit test before being approved. And hospitals and doctors are worried that the government could dictate what they get paid to treat any patient, not just the elderly and the poor.

Republicans and insurers oppose a government plan, fearing that it would undermine the privatized healthcare market.

The Washington Post quoted a senior administration official on Sunday as saying, "I don't think there can be a more significant step to help struggling families and the federal budget."

Among those signing the agreement are America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Service Employees International Union and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

These groups were among the harshest critics of a similar health reform plan presented by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

The Associated Press reports that some industry groups seem to feel that now is perhaps a more opportune time to act before public opinion can turn against them because of an anger over the costs.

Obama administration officials believe the move will provide a significant charge in momentum for the president's plans to get a reform package agreed on this year.

The US currently spends $2.2 trillion a year on medical care, which amounts to 16% of the overall economy.


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