In addition to making sure that this plan doesn’t add to the deficit in the short term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs in the long run. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses are free to give patients the best care, just not the most expensive care. That’s why the nation’s largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan.
We also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare on an annual basis — a proposal that could save even more money and ensure long-term financial health for Medicare. Overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors and save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, which is why the AARP has endorsed our reform efforts.
Not all of the cost savings measures I just mentioned were contained in Congress’s draft legislation, but we’re now seeing broad agreement thanks to the work that has done over the last few days. So even though we still have a few issues to work out, what’s remarkable at this point is not how far we have left to go — it’s how far we’ve already come.
I understand how easy it is for this town to become consumed in the game of politics — to turn every issue into a running tally of who’s up and who’s down. I’ve heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it’s better politics to “go for the kill”; another Republican senator that defeating health care reform is about “breaking” me.
So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This is about the woman in Colorado who paid $700 a month to her insurance company only to find out that they wouldn’t pay a dime for her cancer treatment — who had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life. This is about the middle-class college graduate from Maryland whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs and woke up from the emergency surgery that he required with $10,000 worth of debt. This is about every family, every business, and every taxpayer who continues to shoulder the burden of a problem that Washington has failed to solve for decades.
This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they can’t afford to wait any longer for reform. They’re counting on us to get this done. They’re looking to us for leadership. And we can’t let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year.