Healthcare meeting just the opening act

May 11, 2009 7:42:57 PM PDT
President Barack Obama got a lot of competing interests to sit at the same table at Monday's White House meeting on healthcare. There were some concessions made to reduce healthcare costs, but this is just the opening act of what Obama calls a "national imperative."

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"Too many Americans are skipping that check up they know they should get or going without that prescription that would make them feel better or finding some other way to scrimp and save on their healthcare expenses," Mr. Obama said.

The stakeholders who gathered at the White House included doctors, unions, drug companies and even the insurance interest group behind the 1993 ads that helped defeat the Clinton administration healthcare reform.

The groups agreed to do their part to cut costs by 1.5 percent each year for the next decade. The president says that amounts to $2 trillion.

"Well, it is significant in that they're coming out in front of even any legislation and saying, 'we're willing to be part of the solution,'" University of California, Berkeley health policy Professor Helen Halpin said.

Halpin says that is a very different mindset than has been seen in the past. The hospitals, the drug companies and the insurance carriers all agreed to reductions they have not agreed to before.

But a health economics professor who served on the Bush council of economic advisors says the congressional budget office has studied the proposals agreed to today.

"And they have determined that most of these reform proposals would have relatively low cost savings over time," UC Berkeley Professor William Dow said.

In fact, Dow says there is no way they will come close to $2 trillion.

One of the CEO's standing behind the president Monday was the head of the Kaiser Foundation health plan.

"Well, I think lot of the specifics on how this will be achieved have yet to be figured out; it is our expectation that the stake holders will be working closely with the administration in trying to figure out exactly how they can meet these objectives," Kaiser Senior Director of Health Policy Ruth Liu said.

Right now everyone is at the table, agreeing to work on a plan. The hard part will come when there is a plan.

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