Health care reform is not something I just cooked up when I took office. Sometimes I hear people say, he’s taking on too much, why is he — I’m not doing this because I don’t have enough to do. (Laughter.) We need health care reform because it’s central to our economic future. It’s central to our long-term prosperity as a nation. In past years and decades there may have been some disagreement on this point, but not anymore. Today, we’ve already built an unprecedented coalition of people who are ready to reform our health care system: physicians and health insurers; businesses and workers; Democrats and Republicans.
A few weeks ago, some of these groups committed to doing something that would’ve been unthinkable just a few years ago: They promised to work together to cut national health care spending by $2 trillion over the next decade. And that will bring down costs. It will bring down premiums. That’s exactly the kind of cooperation we need.
But the question now is how do we finish the job? How do we permanently bring down costs and make quality, affordable health care available to every single American? And my view is that reform should be guided by a simple principle: We will fix what’s broken and we build on what works. (Applause.)
In some cases there’s broad agreement on the steps we should take. So in our Recovery Act that we already passed — hey, buddy — my guy in the cap, he was waving at me. (Laughter and applause.) In the Recovery Act, we’ve already made investments in health IT — that’s information technologies — and electronic medical records that will reduce medical errors, save lives, save money, and still ensure privacy. We also need to invest in prevention and wellness programs to help Americans live longer and healthier lives. (Applause.)
But the real cost savings will come from changing the incentives of a system that automatically equates expensive care with better care. We’ve got to move from addressing — we’ve got to address flaws that increase profits but don’t actually increase the quality of care for patients.
We have to ask why places like Geisinger Health systems in rural Pennsylvania, or Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, or communities like Green Bay can offer high-quality care at costs well below average, but other places in America can’t. We need to identify the best practices across the country, learn from the successes, and then duplicate those successes everywhere else.
And we should change the warped incentives that reward doctors and hospitals based on how many tests and procedures they do — (applause) — even if those tests and procedures aren’t necessary or result from medical mistakes. Doctors didn’t get into the medical profession to be bean counters or paper pushers. They’re not interested in spending all their time acting like lawyers or business executives. They became doctors to heal people, and that’s what we have to free them to be able to do.