Obama urges healthcare reform paid for by boosting efficiencies

By Bernie Monegain
11:04 AM

Fixing the nation's broken healthcare system cannot wait, President Obama said Saturday in his weekly address. The government could pay for reform now, he said, by eliminating waste and fraud and taking on key causes of rising costs.

Obama has repeatedly spotlighted the use of information technology as one way to reduce waste, improve efficiencies and provide better care.

"My budget included an historic down payment on reform,” Obama said in his address, “and we'll work with Congress to fully cover the costs through rigorous spending reductions and appropriate additional revenues.  We'll eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in our healthcare system, but we'll also take on key causes of rising costs - saving billions while providing better care to the American people."

Reform must be built on lowering costs, improving quality, and protecting consumer choice so people who are happy with their coverage can keep it, Obama said.

"Over the past few days, I've been traveling through the Middle East and Europe working to renew our alliances, enhance our common security, and propose a new partnership between the United States and the Muslim world, he said.  "But even as I'm abroad, I'm firmly focused on the other pressing challenges we face - including the urgent need to reform our health care system.”

Congress at work on reform

Congress is poised to introduce healthcare reform legislation over the next few months, and the pace of the debate over which approach to take is expected to escalate this week.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D., Mass.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont), chairman of the finance committee have worked on separate versions of draft legislation.

The two committees will negotiate the terms of a bill they can present to Congress.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) is working with Baucus on a draft. Grassley was apparently miffed at the president's pressure in his Saturday address. Grassley twittered: "You got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us 'time to deliver' on health care," he posted. "We still on skedul/even workinWKEND."

Learn from what works

"Simply put, the status quo is broken," Obama said.  "We cannot continue this way.  If we do nothing, everyone's healthcare will be put in jeopardy.  Within a decade, we'll spend one dollar out of every five we earn on healthcare - and we'll keep getting less for our money. That's why fixing what's wrong with our healthcare system is no longer a luxury we hope to achieve - it's a necessity we cannot postpone any longer."

Obama again called attention to the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic and other institutions as he did in a letter to Sens. Kennedy and Baucus last week. He said they offer “some of the highest quality of care in the nation at some of the lowest costs in the nation.”

“We should learn from their successes and promote the best practices, not the most expensive ones,” Obama said. “That’s how we’ll achieve reform that fixes what doesn’t work, and builds on what does.

Th president also mentioned that "an unprecedented coalition" had come together to support reform. America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association are among the groups that are on the record as backing reform, though they opposed it in the past.

But, they do not back a government-run insurance plan that Obama says is critical to any reform.  Kennedy's draft bill includes a public plan.

"Now, I know that when you bring together disparate groups with differing views, there will be lively debate," Obama said Saturday. "And that's a debate I welcome.  But what we can't welcome is reform that just invests more money in the status quo - reform that throws good money after bad habits."