Obama Hosts Health Summit
President Barack Obama kicked off his effort to reform the U.S. health care system with a White House summit yesterday at which he vowed to take a pragmatic approach in crafting a plan this year to expand coverage and reduce costs.
More than 150 people attended the meeting, including leaders of health and consumer organizations, unions, business groups, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and health insurers, as well as members of Congress and Obama administration officials.
The United States spends $2.3 trillion a year on health care, more than any other country in the world. For the 24 million Americans with diabetes, health care costs are twice as high on average as for people who don't have the disease. Obama called the cost of health care "one of the greatest threats … to the very foundation of our economy." "If we don't tackle health care, then we're going to break the bank," Obama said.
Obama unveiled a budget proposal last week that would invest $634 billion over the next decade in expanding the health care system. The details are unclear, but Obama's proposal would raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for health care reform and give hospitals incentives to provide better follow-up care to patients, thereby lowering the rate of readmissions.
During his presidential campaign, Obama advocated a plan that would maintain patient choice while moving toward universal coverage of all Americans. But at the summit, the president said that he was open to other approaches to creating an effective health care system.
"In this effort, every voice has to be heard. Every idea must be considered," Obama said. "Each of us must accept that none of us will get everything that we want, and that no proposal for reform will be perfect."
Larry Hausner, chief executive officer of the American Diabetes Association, was among those who attended the summit.
"President Obama's budget proposal of $634 billion dedicated to health reform is a crucial first step toward positive change in reforming the existing health system," Hausner said.
For people with diabetes, the current health care system presents obstacles ranging from being unable to purchase private health insurance because they have diabetes to getting ineffective care even if they have coverage. Diagnosed diabetes cost an estimated $174 billion in 2007. ADA calls for affordable insurance that would be accessible to all and put a greater emphasis on preventing disease.
ADA has commended Obama for signing a $787 billion economic stimulus plan last month that backs prevention efforts and increases funding for research.