In his remarks today at the White House, the President reiterated that health care reform cannot wait, and pledged to get it done this year. It is not the time to slow down, as consensus continues to build on the urgent need for reform. This week, the American Nurses Association and American Medical Association, two organizations who know the realities of health care firsthand, announced their support of legislation that will lower costs, expand coverage, and assure choice. The President explained that we are closer than ever before to passing real reform and this is not the time to slow down, pledging that the legislation will lower costs, expand coverage, assure choice and be deficit-neutral:
In these past weeks, we've also built consensus around specific reforms on which there hasn't been consensus before. Let me list some of those. And I want to particularly applaud the efforts of the committees in the House and the Senate who have worked long and hard to make this progress. We're now at a point where most everyone agrees that we need to invest in preventative and wellness programs that can save us money and help lead healthier lives. We have an agreement on the need to simplify the insurance forms and paperwork that patients have to fill out everytime they go to a hospital or see a doctor. We have an agreement on the need to reform our health insurance system so if you lose your job, change your job, or start a small business, you can still get affordable health insurance. We have an agreement on the need to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. And we have agreement on the need for a health insurance exchange, a marketplace where people can compare prices and quality and choose the health care plan that best suits their needs.
(President Barack Obama makes a statement on healthcare legislation in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Friday, July 17, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
By cutting hundreds of billions in unnecessary spending and unwarranted giveaways to insurance companies, we can cover 2/3 of the costs just from these savings. The President also emphasized that the bill must also work to slow health care costs in the long run. He called for an independent board to help identify best practices and eliminate waste and ineffeciences:
I realize there's going to be a lot of debate and disagreement on how best to achieve these long-term savings. Our proposal would change incentives so that providers will give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care, which will mean big savings over time. This is what we mean when we say that we need delivery system reform. I have proposed to Congress, and I am actually confident that they may adopt these proposals, that an independent group of doctors and medical experts will oversee long-term cost savings measures. Every year there's a new report that details how much waste and inefficiency there is in Medicare, how best practices are not always used, and how many billions of dollars could be saved. Unfortunately, this report ends up sitting on a shelf, and what we want to do is force Congress to make sure that they are acting on these recommendations to bend the cost curve each and every year so that we're changes that will reduce costs for families and for taxpayers. We need an independent group that is empowered to make these changes, and that's something that we've proposed. I'm confident that if we work with the foremost experts in the field, we can find a way to eliminate waste, slow the growth of health care costs, and provide families more security in the long term.
(President Barack Obama makes a statement on healthcare legislation in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Friday, July 17, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President concluded his remarks by emphasizing that reform will get done this year, because we cannot afford to wait:
Now, I realize that the last few miles of any race are the hardest to run, but I have to say now is not the time to slow down, and now is certainly not the time to lose heart. Make no mistake, if we step back from this challenge at this moment, we are consigning our children to a future of skyrocketing premiums and crushing deficits. There's no argument about that. If we don't achieve health care reform, we cannot control the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and we cannot control our long-term debt and our long-term deficits. That's not in dispute. So we're going to have to get this done. If we don't get health care reform done now, then no one's health insurance is going to be secure because you're going to continue to see premiums going out-of-pocket costs going up at astronomical rates, and people who lose their jobs are having a pre-existing medical condition or changing their jobs finding themselves in a situation where they cannot get health care. And that’s not a future I accept for the United States of America. And that’s why those who are betting against this happening this year are badly mistaken. We are going to get this done. We will reform health care. It will happen this year.