Health Care Costs Figure Prominently in White House Fiscal Summit
At the White House Monday, President Obama hosted a "fiscal responsibility summit" during which he addressed health care and other issues, CongressDaily reports (Condon, CongressDaily, 2/24).
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the "summit served several purposes: to establish Obama's credibility as a Democrat who cares about budget deficits despite the stimulus, to court allies in both parties who are pivotal to his aims and to throw down the gauntlet on health care reform."
During the summit, Obama and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said that efforts to limit Medicare spending will require broader health care reform.
Orszag said, "Let me be very clear: Health care reform is entitlement reform," adding, "The path of fiscal responsibility must run directly through health care" (Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/24). He cited efforts to limit health care costs as the "single most important thing we can do" for long-term fiscal stability (Condon, CongressDaily, 2/23).
Obama said, "Putting America on a sustainable fiscal course will require addressing health care," adding, "Many of you said what I believe, that the biggest source of our deficits is the rising cost of health care" (Kranish/Wangsness, Boston Globe, 2/24).
In addition, Obama said that he seeks to "educat(e) the public" on the "tradeoffs involved in health care" reform (Young, The Hill, 2/23).
Obama also announced plans to hold an additional summit on health care in the middle of next week (Thomma, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 2/23).
The summit on health care will focus on proposals to expand health insurance to more U.S. residents and reduce health care costs (Boston Globe, 2/24).
According to The Hill, "by scheduling a White House summit on health reform in early March, Obama is sending a clear message to Congress and the public that he is not setting aside his ambitious health care agenda" (The Hill, 2/23).
During the fiscal responsibility summit, Obama also discussed the outline of his fiscal year 2010 budget proposal, which he will release on Thursday. He said that the proposal will target Medicare spending.
Obama said that efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit and almost $11 trillion national debt will require efforts to limit health care costs in public programs and the private sector (Wolf, USA Today, 2/24).
According to the Washington Post, the White House "offered no timetable for those goals and few explicit ideas for how to achieve them, disappointing some lawmakers and other participants, who had hoped the summit might produce greater momentum to fix the chronic imbalance between government spending and tax collections that is driving the national debt to dangerous levels" (Montgomery/Goldstein, Washington Post, 2/24).
In recent days, Obama also indicated that he "has no plans to back away from campaign promises to revamp the nation's health care system and create new sources of clean energy, both of which cost money, at least in the short term," Roll Call reports (Koffler, Roll Call, 2/24).
According to the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, his "challenge is clear: He will have to increase spending on health care and energy if he wants to accomplish the policy overhaul he promised during his campaign, yet he also needs to cut spending elsewhere and increase revenue to meet his deficit goal" (Kuhnhenn, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/24).
The Obama administration and congressional Democrats "are putting out a new line ... that plans to revamp the health care system are the key to cost savings that will help reduce spending on Medicare," according to Roll Call (Roll Call, 2/24).
The telephone poll, conducted from Feb. 19 to Feb. 22, includes responses from a random sample of 1,001 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Eight percent of adults believe that Medicare will provide them with benefits through retirement, the poll found. Among adults ages 65 and older, 67% believe that Medicare will provide them with benefits through retirement, according to the poll (Fletcher/Cohen, Washington Post, 2/24).
On Tuesday night, Obama will address a joint session of Congress, during which he likely will "launch arguably the most ambitious component of his domestic agenda: providing medical insurance to all U.S. residents," CQ Today reports (Bettelheim, CQ Today, 2/23).
According to the Washington Times, Obama plans to "use a significant portion" of his speech "to highlight his plans for health care reform" and "tell Congress and the nation that overhauling the country's health system is the country's next significant priority" (Lengell, Washington Times, 2/24).
"Experts say that by designating health care as a priority now, Obama is trying to take advantage of a narrow window of opportunity when the public and many interest groups favor change and the economic crisis is making health coverage an imperative," CQ Today reports (Bettelheim, CQ Today, 2/23).
- American Public Media's "Marketplace" on Monday reported on the fiscal responsibility summit. The segment includes comments from Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, and Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future (Radbill, "Marketplace," American Public Media, 2/23).
- NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday also reported on the summit (Gonyea, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/23).
- NPR's "All Things Considered" on Monday reported on the Obama speech (Horsley, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/23).
- NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday also reported on the speech (Gonyea, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/24).