President Obama yesterday kicked off his ambitious goal of reforming health care and providing insurance to all Americans, the first major government effort at reform in 15 years. At the White House’s health summit, Obama pledged to pass comprehensive legislation this year, despite economic crises and U.S. engagement in two overseas wars. “When times were good, we didn’t get it done. When we had mild recessions, we didn’t get it done,” Obama said. “There’s always a reason not to do it. Now is exactly the time for us to deal with this problem.” Indeed, with increasing job losses, approximately 14,000 Americans are losing their health coverage every day. Forty-six million Americans are without health insurance (86.7 million over the last two years), while others are paying more than they can afford. The health care cost share of GDP “is anticipated to rise rapidly from 16.2 percent in 2007 to 17.6 percent in 2009, largely as a result of the recession, and then climb to 20.3 percent by 2018.” Referring to a statement made by Health Care for America Now’s Richard Kirsch, Obama addressed the cost issue, arguing that “by covering more people, we can also lower costs at the same time, presumably because those who are not insured at the moment are ending up using extraordinarily expensive emergency room care.” In his new budget, Obama plans to set aside $634 billion over 10 years as a down payment to reform the health system. While the fund represents a strong start toward reform, it will not be enough to provide affordable coverage for all and a stronger commitment will need to be made. But Obama also “indicated for the first time that he was open to compromise on details of the proposal he put forth in the 2008 campaign.” Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) — who has spent decades as a champion of expanding access to quality health care — said at yesterday’s summit that previous efforts to reform health care “haven’t been the kind of serious effort that I think we’re seeing right now.” “This time, we will not fail,” he urged.
From The Progress Report