Posted on Mar 10, 2009, 8 a.m.
By gary clark
With 14,000 Americans losing their health insurance each day and healthcare costs skyrocketing, President Obama has pledged to pass sweeping healthcare legislation this year. And in general, the healthcare industry has expressed support of his plan to provide insurance to all Americans.
During the campaign, President Obama promised real change - and he intends to deliver. At last week's healthcare summit, he announced ambitious plans for universal healthcare coverage to deal with the tremendous cost burden that the uninsured - now at 46 million Americans - places on our society. In fact, according to Health Affairs, from 2008 to 2018, the average annual growth in national health spending is projected to be 6.2 percent - 2.1 percent faster than the average annual growth in the gross domestic product (GDP). That translates into the healthcare cost share of the GDP anticipated to increase from 16.2 percent in 2007 to 17.6 percent in 2009. In the new budget, Obama has set aside $634 billion over 10 years as a "down payment to reform the health system."
During the summit, President Obama emphasized that "by covering more people, we can also lower costs at the same time, presumably because those who are not insured at the moment are ending up using extraordinarily expensive emergency room care." And said Sen. Ted Kennedy, a long-time champion of expanding access to quality healthcare: "Previous efforts to reform healthcare haven't been the kind of serious effort that I think we are seeing right now. This time, we will not fail."
Unlike in the 1990s, when then-President Clinton led the last effort to overhaul our healthcare system, the healthcare industry is optimistic that reform will be achieved. "The stakeholder community is no longer organizing to say 'no,'" says Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). Among those attending the summit were several people who have made it their careers to stop healthcare reform. For example, Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Texas "proudly reminded" attendees that he played a key role in killing Clinton's reform plan. Yet during the summit, he announced that he "supported principles outlined by Obama." And remember those infamous "Harry and Louise" TV ads in which a middle-aged couple complained that the Clinton health plan would create too much government meddling with their healthcare? Those ads, which were credited with being a major factor in the defeat of Clinton's plan, were launched by insurance lobbyist Chip Kahn. Kahn attended the summit and publicly praised Obama for arranging the bipartisan summit, adding that Obama "successfully launched the process we need to achieve health reform, which we all want."