Obama on the Record: Closing Remarks at Health Forum

more people we can also lower costs at the same time, presumably because those who are not insured at the moment are ending up using extraordinarily expensive emergency room care.

Senator Whitehouse — you’ve got two quotes in here — (laughter) — Senator Whitehouse pointed out that we pay more than a trillion dollars — we pay more than a trillion dollars more than other countries for the same or lower qualities of care.

Ken Powell, CEO of General Mills, and a member of the Business Roundtable, stressed the need to preserve the role of employers, and that many employers are investing in excellent prevention programs that are reducing costs and improving productivity. And I can testify to that. I’ve met a lot of extraordinary companies that have really taken the bull by the horns and are doing extraordinary work. Many participants stressed the need to invest in prevention to lower costs and improve care, to tackle obesity, manage chronic care, invest in comparative effectiveness.

Congressman Dingell talked about the need to simplify the system to reduce costs and medical errors. Senator Baucus mentioned the need to make investments up front, such as health IT and comparative effectiveness to get big savings and that we have to align incentives towards quality. And Congressman Waxman suggested the same point that’s been made earlier: that we can’t control costs unless everyone is covered.

With respect to the public plan, Congressman Jan Schakowsky and the AFL-CIO talked about the need to create a public option in order to reduce cost to consumers and save money within the system. There were others who raised the — some concerns about the impact of a public plan limiting choices.

As for paying for reform, Congressman Rob Andrews challenged the group to identify additional ways to pay for reform and suggested that everyone needs to put something on the table to get reform done. And Senator Wyden raised the issue of modifying the tax exclusion for higher income Americans.

Last set of points that we thought were notable: Senators Grassley and Hatch and Congressman Dingell all discussed the need to address medical malpractice and reduce defensive medicine as a cost saving measure.

So that’s just some of the points that were made. I know that many of you had other insights. They have all been recorded, and we are going to be generating a document coming out of this that summarizes much that was heard in these various breakout sessions.

But what I want to do is just take some time now to give all of you a chance to hear from me directly, and I’m going to call on some members; I’m going to call from some of the groups that were participating, as well. I’m not going to be able to get to everybody.

And since he got such a weak reception when he walked in, I think that — (laughter) — it’s only fitting that we give Ted Kennedy the first question. So we’ve got a microphone here, Ted, go ahead — or comment; it doesn’t have to be a

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