President Obama: Settle Health Care Reform by October

President Barack Obama affirmed June 2 his continued support for a government-sponsored health insurance plan even though, he acknowledges, it may cause stalwart Republicans to put the brakes on his drive for health care reform legislation by October.

“I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans,” President Obama wrote in a letter to Senators Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus, the chairmen of the key committees in the Senate handling health care reform.

The president’s primary focus, however, remains on controlling costs. “Without a serious, sustained effort to reduce the growth rate of health care costs, affordable health care coverage will remain out of reach,” the president states in his letter.

To that end, The New York Times reports, the administration indicated support for a proposal to empower the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s (MedPAC) recommendations.

To back his commitment to health care reform, the president has set aside $635 billion in a health reserve fund. This reserve fund includes a number of proposals to cut spending by $309 billion over 10 years, such as:

  • Reducing overpayments to Medicare Advantage private insurers;
  • Strengthening Medicare and Medicaid payment accuracy by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • Improving care for Medicare patients after hospitalizations; and
  • Encouraging physicians to form “accountable care organizations” to improve the quality of care for Medicare patients.

Lawmakers seem to have formed a consensus that “cutting costs” applies mainly to health care workers, but the debate on how to pay for covering millions of uninsured Americans continues.

On the same day President Obama expressed the urgent need for health care reform, he also met with two dozen Senate Democrats and suggested that he is open to considering taxing employer-provided health benefits to pay for health care reform, The Washington Post reports. Something he campaigned against during last year’s presidential campaign.

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