Obama on the Record: Reforming Healthcare System

May 11, 2009

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON REFORMING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
TO REDUCE COSTS

State Dining Room

12:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everyone. All right. Well, I just concluded a extraordinarily productive meeting with organizations and associations that are going to be essential to the work of health care reform in this country — groups that represent everyone from union members to insurance companies, from doctors and hospitals to pharmaceutical companies. It was a meeting that focused largely on one of the central challenges that we must confront as we seek to achieve comprehensive reform and lay a new foundation for our economy — and that is, the spiraling cost of health care in this country.

They’re here because they recognize one clear, indisputable fact: When it comes to health care spending, we are on an unsustainable course that threatens the financial stability of families, businesses and government itself.

This is not news to the American people, who, over the last decade, have seen their out-of-pocket expenses soar, health care costs rise, and premiums double at a rate four times faster than their wages.

Today, half of all personal bankruptcies stem from medical expenses. And too many Americans are skipping that check-up they know they should get, or going without that prescription that would make them feel better, or finding some other way to scrimp and save on their health care expenses.

What is a growing crisis for the American people is also becoming an untenable burden for America’s businesses. Rising health care costs are commanding more and more of the money that our companies could be using to innovate and to grow, making it harder for them to compete around the world. These costs are leading the small businesses that are responsible for half of all private sector jobs to drop coverage for their workers at an alarming rate.

And, finally, the explosion in health care costs has put our federal budget on a disastrous path. This is largely due to what we’re spending on Medicare and Medicaid — entitlement programs whose costs are expected to continue climbing in the years ahead as baby boomers grow older and come to rely more and more on our health care system. That’s why I’ve said repeatedly that getting health care costs under control is essential to reducing budget deficits, restoring fiscal discipline, and putting our economy on a path towards sustainable growth and shared prosperity.

We, as a nation, are now spending a far larger share of our national wealth on health care than we were a generation ago. At the rate we’re going, we are expected to spend one fifth of our economy on health care within a decade. And yet we’re getting less for our money. In fact, we’re spending more on health care than any other nation on Earth, even though millions of Americans don’t have the affordable, quality care they deserve, and nearly 46 million Americans don’t have any health insurance at all.

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