Calling it a "watershed event," President Barack Obama on Monday applauded an offer by health care industry leaders to voluntarily slow rate increases. The move is designed to help provide heath insurance for the estimated 50 million Americans who have none and who are a focal point of the administration's health care reform proposals, the Associated Press reported.
The industry leaders -- representing sectors including hospitals, doctors and insurers -- offered the president more than $2 trillion in rate reductions over the next 10 years and pledged to cut the growth rate for health care by 1.5 percentage points each year, the wire service said. The industry groups' offer doesn't resolve prickly details of the emerging health care plan overall, but does put the health care industry in a position to influence legislation that Congress is writing.
By offering the savings now, these private sector health care groups hope to avoid creation of a competing government health plan that would enroll middle-class workers and their families, the AP said. Additionally, hospitals and doctors are worried that any government-run plan could dictate what they get paid to care for patients, and drug makers are concerned that future medications could face tougher cost-benefit analysis before new drugs could win approval.
While it's unclear whether the proposed rate reductions will prove decisive in passing more encompassing health care legislation, the promised savings could accrue to society as a whole, not just the federal government, the AP reported. A key point is that specific federal savings would be needed to help pay for expanding insurance coverage. U.S. costs for a health care overhaul could range from $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, according to the AP, but President Obama has so far only outlined where he would get about half that amount.
"I will not rest until the dream of health care reform is achieved in the United States of America," Obama said in the White House's State Dining Room as he announced the offer, the AP reported. "We can't continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years.