In the early 1990s when President Bill Clinton tried to introduce a health care reform, industry leaders fought back hard, ultimately killing the White House proposal before it could go to Congress.
On Monday, May, 11, 2009, President Barack Obama, flanked by six health care industry representative, came to the White House State Dining Room to announce the voluntary offer made the same day to the White House by a consortium of hospitals, insurance companies, drug makers and doctors.
The health industry representatives assured the president that “they would slow rate increases by 1.5 percentage points a year by improving coordination, focusing on efficiency and embracing better technology and regulatory reform”. That would represent a cut of $2 trillion in costs over 10 years, which, according to government economists, would create breathing room to help provide health insurance to an estimated 50 million Americans who now do not have it.
Although the industry’s letter affirmed that “these and other reforms will make our health care system stronger and more sustainable,” President Obama said: “All too often, efforts at reform have fallen victim to special interest lobbying aimed at keeping things the way they are, to political point-scoring that sees health care not as a moral issue or an economic issue, but as a wedge issue, and to a failure on all sides to come together on behalf of the American people.” President Obama also said: “I will not rest until the dream of health care reform is achieved in the United States of America,”
It was observed that the industry groups are trying to move along with the administration for expanded coverage now “in the hope they can steer Congress away from legislation that would restrict their profitability in future years”. Insurers, for example, want to avoid the competition of a government health plan that would limit their enrollment of middle-class workers and their families. Drug makers worry of possible approval limitation of cost-benefit over new medications. And hospitals and doctors are concerned “the government could limit what they charge to care for any patient, not only the elderly and the poor”.
President Obama acknowledged that the step announced would be meaningful into the future “only if it is not a singular event, but part of a larger and successful effort toward universal health care coverage for Americans”. He said the country “can, will and must” accomplish this goal by the end of the year. “There’s so much more to do“. Today, too many people restrain from going to a doctor, afraid of the consultation fee and more critically of the prescribed medicine’s cost. The situation becomes tragic, when the patient does not have health insurance.
“We can’t continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years”, President Obama said, “Reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait.”
During a short exchange on television, Donna E. Shalala, MD., former Health Secretary and current University of Miami president, applauded the event and said that “when our health project failed in the 1990’s we had the money, now that this new approach may succeed, the money to finance it must be found”.
Indeed, this is an enormous task facing multiple oppositions from divers sources. It is like putting a human face on a hideous oversized head. Who knows? Obama does not believe in the word impossible.