Obama calls health care industry pledge to cut costs "a watershed event" on path to reform

ABC News' Karen Travers reports:

President Obama said the health care industry’s pledge to cut $2 trillion in costs over 10 year was “a watershed event in the long and elusive quest for health care reform.”

Obama lauded the cooperation among various interest groups with a stake in the issue, after meeting with representatives from the insurance industry, the medical community, pharmaceutical companies and labor groups.

The president said that health care reform must and will be achieved by the end of the year.

He noted that the groups he met with today do not agree on every element of his health care plans and they represent very different constituencies with different interests. But they are cooperating because of a shared sense that something must be done.

“What's brought us all together today is a recognition that we can't continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years, that costs are out of control, and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait,” he said.

Obama cited the memorable fictional couple, Harry and Louise, who became the face of opposition to health care reform in television ads in the early 1990s. Obama said that today, Harry and Louise “desperately need health care reform,” and so does the nation.

Obama reiterated much of his rhetoric from the campaign trail on this issue and said that when it comes to health care spending, the United States is on an “unsustainable course that threatens the financial stability of families, businesses, and government itself. “

He framed this as an imperative in order to reducing the federal budget, which he said was on a “disastrous path” because of Medicare and Medicaid costs that will climb as the baby boomer generation ages.

“[G]etting health care costs under control is essential to reducing budget deficits, restoring fiscal discipline, and putting our economy on a path towards sustainable growth and shared prosperity,” Obama said.

Obama outlined his three principles on health care:

  1. rising costs of health care must be brought down
  2. Americans must be able to keep their doctor and health plan or switch if they want to
  3. All Americans must have quality, affordable health care

As he did on the campaign trail, Obama spoke about his mother, who died from ovarian cancer.

“I know what it's like to see a loved one who's suffering, but also having to deal with a broken health care system. I know that pain is shared by millions of Americans all across this country,” he said. “And that's why I was committed to health care reform as a presidential candidate. That's why health care reform is a key priority to this presidency. That's why I will not rest until the dream of health care reform is finally achieved in the United States of America.”

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