Obama Takes Healthcare Reform to AARP

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) I am just going to provide some brief remarks, and then I want to hear from you.

It is wonderful to be here today. I want to thank Mike for moderating this discussion. I want to thank Jennie and Barry for their extraordinary leadership here at AARP.

Some of you may know that 44 years ago today, when I was almost four years old, after years of effort, Congress finally passed Medicare, our promise as a nation that none of our senior citizens would ever again go without basic health care. It was a singular achievement — one that has helped seniors live longer, healthier and more productive lives; it’s enhanced their financial security; and it’s given us all the peace of mind to know that there will be health care available for us when we’re in our golden years.

Today, we’ve got so many dedicated doctors and nurses and other providers across America providing excellent care, and we want to make sure our seniors, and all our people, can access that care.

But we all know that right now, we’ve got a problem that threatens Medicare and our entire health care system, and that is the spiraling cost of health care in America today. As costs balloon, so does Medicare’s budget. And unless we act, within a decade — within a decade — the Medicare trust fund will be in the red.

Now, I want to be clear: I don’t want to do anything that will stop you from getting the care you need — and I won’t. But you know and I know that right now we spend a lot of money in our health care system that doesn’t do a thing to improve people’s health. And that has to stop. We’ve got to get a better bang for health care dollar.

And that’s why I want to start by taking a new approach that emphasizes prevention and wellness, so that instead of just spending billions of dollars on costly treatments when people get sick, we’re spending some of those dollars on the care they need to stay well: things like mammograms and cancer screenings and immunizations — common-sense measures that will save us billions of dollars in future medical costs.

We’re also working to computerize medical records, because right now, too many folks wind up taking the same tests over and over and over again because their providers can’t access previous results. Or they have to relay their entire medical history — every medication they’ve taken, every surgery they’ve gotten — every time they see a new provider. Electronic medical records will help to put an end to all that.

We also want to start rewarding doctors for quality, not just the quantity, of care that they provide. Instead of rewarding them for how many procedures they perform or how many tests they order, we’ll bundle payments so providers aren’t paid for every treatment they offer with a chronic — to a patient with a chronic condition like diabetes, but instead are paid for how are they managing that disease overall. And we’ll create incentives for physicians to team up and treat a patient better together, because we know that produces better outcomes.

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