Obama on the Record: Reforming Healthcare System

This problem didn’t just appear overnight. For decades, Washington has debated what to do about this. For decades, we’ve talked about reducing costs, improving care, and providing coverage to uninsured Americans. But all too often, efforts at reform have fallen victim to special interest lobbying aimed at keeping things the way they are; to political point-scoring that sees health care not as a moral issue or an economic issue, but as a wedge issue; and to a failure on all sides to come together on behalf of the American people.

And that’s what makes today’s meeting so remarkable — because it’s a meeting that might not have been held just a few years ago. The groups who are here today represent different constituencies with different sets of interests. They’ve not always seen eye to eye with each other or with our government on what needs to be done to reform health care in this country. In fact, some of these groups were among the strongest critics of past plans for comprehensive reform.

But what’s brought us all together today is a recognition that we can’t continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years; that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait. It’s a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the ’90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America.

And that’s why these groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment. Over the next 10 years — from 2010 to 2019 — they are pledging to cut the rate of growth of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year — an amount that’s equal to over $2 trillion. Two trillion dollars.

Their efforts will help us take the next and most important step — comprehensive health care reform — so that we can do what I pledged to do as a candidate and save a typical family an average of $2,500 on their health care costs in the coming years. Let me repeat that point. What they’re doing is complementary to and is going to be completely compatible with a strong, aggressive effort to move health care reform through here in Washington with an ultimate result of saving health care costs for families, businesses and the government. That’s how we can finally make health care affordable, while putting more money into the pockets of hardworking families each month. These savings can be achieved by standardizing quality care, incentivizing efficiency, investing in proven ways not only to treat illness but to prevent them.

This is a historic day, a watershed event in the long and elusive quest for health care reform. And as these groups take the steps they are outlining, and as we work with Congress on health care reform legislation, my administration will continue working to reduce health care costs to achieve similar savings. By curbing waste, fraud, and abuse and preventing avoidable hospital re-admissions and taking a whole host of other cost-saving steps, we can save billions of dollars, while delivering better care to the American people.

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