President Obama met with health care groups Monday and praised them for agreeing on a plan they calculate would cut increases in projected health care costs by $2 trillion over the next decade, saying it was part of a broader effort to provide quality, affordable health care to every American.
Obama said after the morning meeting that the coalition — which included union members, insurance companies, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies — had voluntarily committed to cutting the growth rate of national health care spending by 1.5 percent each year from 2010 through 2019.
Under the health industry's plan, a family of four could save $2,500 a year within five years, the president said.
The savings would come from standardizing and simplifying all sectors of the health care system; implementing measures to reduce overuse and underuse of health care; investing in effective treatment and prevention; and reducing costs by developing technology and regulatory reforms, according to a letter signed by six coalition representatives.
"We, as stakeholder representatives, are committed to doing our part to make reform a reality in order to make the system more affordable and effective for patients and purchasers," the letter read. It also stated that health care legislation should focus on initiatives aimed at promoting good health by eliminating obesity.
Since his days on the campaign trail, the president has promised to push for affordable health care for Americans, often citing his mother's battle with insurance companies over payment of her mounting bills for treatment of ovarian cancer.
Obama noted Monday that 46 million Americans don't even have health insurance, and half of all personal bankruptcies stem from costly medical expenses. He also noted that many Americans forgo care because they can't afford it.
"We cannot continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years with costs that are out of control, because reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait," Obama said.
The coalition's efforts were intended to complement lawmakers' efforts to write comprehensive legislation that would decrease health care costs for families, businesses and the government. The Democratic-led Congress hopes to pass health care measures by the end of the year.
Obama is leaving the details to lawmakers, but he has pledged that health care legislation would do three key things: decrease health care costs, give Americans the freedom to choose a new doctor or health care plan, and ensure all Americans have quality, affordable health care.
In the meantime, the president said his administration would do its part to bring down costs by curbing waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs; bringing down prescription drug prices; and preventing unnecessary readmissions to hospitals.
Obama said steps have already been taken to increase coverage by extending quality health care to millions of children of working families who lack coverage and providing a COBRA subsidy for 7 million Americans who have lost their jobs during the economic downturn.
Although the health care groups have often been at odds, Monday's White House meeting reflects a growing awareness that changes to the health care system are coming — and that stakeholders should get onboard or risk being left out of the solutions.
"That is why these groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment," Obama said.