President Obama called today's meeting with healthcare industry heavyweights "historic" and "a watershed event in the long and elusive quest for healthcare reform," despite the muted reaction outside the White House as proponents and critics wait to see how the plan actually develops.
Health care industry leaders pledge to dramatically reduce health care costs. The president, echoing his past remarks, emphasized today that healthcare reform is a central component of fixing the economy and the lives of the American people.
He told healthcare players at the meeting, "You've made a commitment. We expect you to keep it," according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
"It is a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise , who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the '90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America," the president said after the meeting. "That is why these groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment," he added.
The groups committed to a number of steps to defray costs, including reducing the number of forms and bills, and changing the incentive structure so as to reward results not the sheer number of tests.
At the meeting, an official from the American Medical Association told the president that one of the reasons doctors order so many unnecessary tests is because they fear malpractice lawsuits and are practicing "defensive medicine." The doctor asked the president if medical malpractice reform would be part of the solution; the president said he'd keep an open mind, though on Capitol Hill Democrats have historically opposed such efforts.
There are no guarantees that the $2 trillion the players pledged in cost reductions over the next decade will happen. And it bears pointing out that while they pledged to cut the rate of increase by 1.5% every year for the next 10 years, health inflation is anticipated to increase rates by 6.5% this year.
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