Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Health Care Reform

White House


President Obama's approach to health care reform is pragmatic and result-oriented. It has been known by everyone that our health care cost per capita is one of the highest in the world, yet, the quality of care is not consistent for everyone.

President Obama has chosen to emphasize:
  1. preventive care and wellness,
  2. computerized information system,
  3. package billing based on quality, i.e. delivered result, versus the old, line-by-line itemized quantitative billing,
  4. accountable costs that eliminate wastes and unfair subsidies to companies that don't improve patient health.
Perhaps it is time for Canada and other developed countries in the world to look to the American health care reform as a model for the twenty first century. The old system is obviously found wanting and need fixing. A pragmatic, result-oriented approach is the most dependable and proven method.


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.) I am just going to provide some brief remarks, and then I want to hear from you.

It is wonderful to be here today. I want to thank Mike for moderating this discussion. I want to thank Jennie and Barry for their extraordinary leadership here at AARP.

Some of you may know that 44 years ago today, when I was almost four years old, after years of effort, Congress finally passed Medicare, our promise as a nation that none of our senior citizens would ever again go without basic health care. It was a singular achievement -- one that has helped seniors live longer, healthier and more productive lives; it's enhanced their financial security; and it's given us all the peace of mind to know that there will be health care available for us when we're in our golden years.

Today, we've got so many dedicated doctors and nurses and other providers across America providing excellent care, and we want to make sure our seniors, and all our people, can access that care.

But we all know that right now, we've got a problem that threatens Medicare and our entire health care system, and that is the spiraling cost of health care in America today. As costs balloon, so does Medicare's budget. And unless we act, within a decade -- within a decade -- the Medicare trust fund will be in the red.

Now, I want to be clear: I don't want to do anything that will stop you from getting the care you need -- and I won't. But you know and I know that right now we spend a lot of money in our health care system that doesn't do a thing to improve people's health. And that has to stop. We've got to get a better bang for health care dollar.

And that's why I want to start by taking a new approach that emphasizes prevention and wellness, so that instead of just spending billions of dollars on costly treatments when people get sick, we're spending some of those dollars on the care they need to stay well: things like mammograms and cancer screenings and immunizations -- common-sense measures that will save us billions of dollars in future medical costs.

We're also working to computerize medical records, because right now, too many folks wind up taking the same tests over and over and over again because their providers can't access previous results. Or they have to relay their entire medical history -- every medication they've taken, every surgery they've gotten -- every time they see a new provider. Electronic medical records will help to put an end to all that.

We also want to start rewarding doctors for quality, not just the quantity, of care that they provide. Instead of rewarding them for how many procedures they perform or how many tests they order, we'll bundle payments so providers aren't paid for every treatment they offer with a chronic -- to a patient with a chronic condition like diabetes, but instead are paid for how are they managing that disease overall. And we'll create incentives for physicians to team up and treat a patient better together, because we know that produces better outcomes.

And we certainly won't cut corners to try to cut costs, because we know that doesn't work. And that's something that we hear from doctors all across the country. For example, we know that when we discharge people from the hospital a day early without any kind of coordinated follow-up care, too often they wind up right back in the hospital a few weeks later. If we had just provided the right care in the first place, we'd save a whole lot of money and a lot of human suffering, as well.

Finally, we'll eliminate billions in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies in the Medicare Advantage program --giveaways that boost insurance company profits but don't make you any healthier. And we'll work to close that doughnut hole in Medicare Part D that's costing so many folks so much money. Drug companies, as a consequence of our reform efforts, have already agreed to provide deeply discounted drugs, which will mean thousands of dollars in savings for the millions of seniors paying full price when they can least afford it.

All of this is what health insurance reform is all about: protecting your choice of doctor; keeping your premiums fair; holding down your health care and your prescription drug costs; improving the care that you receive -- and that's what health care reform will mean to folks on Medicare.

We've made a lot of progress over the last few months. We're now closer to health care reform than we ever have been before. And that's due in no small part to the outstanding team that you have here at AARP, because you've been doing what you do best, which is organize and mobilize, and inform and educate people all across the country about the choices that are out there; pushing members of Congress to put aside politics and partisanship; and finding solutions to our health care challenges.

I know it's not easy. I know there are folks who will oppose any kind of reform because they profit from the way the system is right now. They'll run all sorts of ads that will make people scared. This is nothing that we haven't heard before. Back when President Kennedy, and then President Johnson, were trying to pass Medicare, opponents claimed it was "socialized medicine." They said it was too much government involvement in health care; that it would cost too much; that it would undermine health care as we know it.

But the American people and members of Congress understood better. They ultimately did the right thing. And more than four decades later, Medicare is still giving our senior citizens the care and security they need and deserve.

With the AARP standing on the side of the American people, I'm confident that we can do the right thing once again, and pass health insurance reform and ensure that Medicare stays strong for generations to come.

So I'm hoping that I can answer any questions that you have here today. I'm absolutely positive that we can make the health care system work better for you, work better for your children, work better for your parents, work better for your families, work better for your businesses; work better for America. That's our job.

So thank you very much.

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