Obama Says Congress Must Act to Fix 'Broken' Health-Care System
By Michael A. Fletcher
Stepping up his push to enact legislation to reform the nation's health-care system, President Obama today declared, "The status quo is broken," and he warned that the current system could eventually collapse if nothing is done to control spiraling costs.
With Congress poised to debate sweeping health-care legislation in the coming weeks, Obama warned that if "we do nothing, everyone's health care will be put in jeopardy."
Speaking in his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said that the fast-rising cost of health care is placing an unsustainable burden on personal budgets, small businesses and the federal government.
"Within a decade we'll spend one dollar out of every five we earn on health care -- and we'll keep getting less for our money," he said. "That's why fixing what's wrong with our health care system is no longer a luxury we hope to achieve; it's a necessity we cannot postpone any longer."
Obama said that health-care reform can address rising costs by reining in profiteering by health insurers and providers, stoking competition in the industry, and creating a mechanism for building on the models of efficient care that exist around the country.
The president also reiterated his pledge to enact costly reforms while not adding to the nation's already soaring budget deficit. Just how that would happen remains to be seen.
"We'll work with Congress to fully cover the costs through rigorous spending reductions and appropriate additional revenues," Obama said. "We'll eliminate waste, fraud and abuse in our health care system."
As Congress prepares to take up the health-care debate later this month, critics of the reform package have been ramping up their opposition. Lawmakers' first draft of the measure, which emerged last night, requires all Americans to have health insurance, while subsidizing the cost for lower-income people.
Employers would have to offer coverage, or pay into a fund that provides coverage. Obama has said he would like to see exemptions to the mandates for small businesses and low-income people.
Meanwhile, many Democrats -- including Obama -- favor creation of a publicly run health insurance plan to compete with private insurers -- something vehemently opposed by many Republicans and their conservative supporters.
Obama has been careful not to close off options for implementing a plan that would control costs and provide health coverage to most of the 46 million Americans who do not have it now.
In a meeting with lawmakers earlier this week, Obama refused to rule out taxing employer-sponsored health insurance -- an idea he had ridiculed during the presidential campaign. He also indicated that he would consider a requirement that every American have health coverage. During the campaign, he had also dismissed that idea.
"All across America, our families are making hard choices when it comes to health care," Obama said today. "Now it's time for Washington to make the right ones. It's time to deliver."
Posted at 6:00 AM ET on Jun 6, 2009
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