Now, none of these steps can be taken by our federal government or our health care community acting alone. They’ll require all of us coming together, as we are today, around a common purpose — workers, executives, hospitals, nurses, doctors, drug companies, insurance companies, members of Congress. It’s the kind of broad coalition, everybody with a seat at the table that I talked about during the campaign, that is required to achieve meaningful health care reform and that is the kind of coalition which — to which I am committed.
So the steps that are being announced today are significant. But the only way these steps will have an enduring impact is if they are taken not in isolation, but as part of a broader effort to reform our entire health care system. We’ve already begun making a down payment on that kind of comprehensive reform. We’re extending quality health care to millions of children of working families who lack coverage, which means we’re going to be preventing long-term problems that are even more expensive to treat down the road. We’re providing a COBRA subsidy to make health care affordable for 7 million Americans who lose their jobs. And because much of every health care dollar is spent on billing, overhead, and administration, we are computerizing medical records in a way that will protect our privacy, and that’s a step that will not only eliminate waste and reduce medical errors that cost lives, but also let doctors spend less time doing administrative work and more time caring for patients.
But there’s so much more to do. In the coming weeks and months, Congress will be engaged in the difficult issue of how best to reform health care in America. I’m committed to building a transparent process where all views are welcome. But I’m also committed to ensuring that whatever plan we design upholds three basic principles: First, the rising cost of health care must be brought down; second, Americans must have the freedom to keep whatever doctor and health care plan they have, or to choose a new doctor or health care plan if they want it; and third, all Americans must have quality, affordable health care.
These are principles that I expect to see upheld in any comprehensive health care reform bill that’s sent to my desk — I mentioned it to the groups that were here today. It’s reform that is an imperative for America’s economic future, and reform that is a pillar of the new foundation we seek to build for our economy; reform that we can, must, and will achieve by the end of this year.