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US healthcare reform summit

9th March 2009

US President Barack Obama clarified his goals for healthcare reform in the context of the current economic crisis.

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Speaking before a crowd of patient advocates, health industry representatives, doctors, and lawmakers at a White House forum, Obama said that, by a wide margin, the biggest threat to the US economy was the skyrocketing cost of healthcare.

This comes after the president announced his budget strategy, which sets aside US$630 billion over the next 10 years as a down payment on healthcare reform.

During the Clinton years, failure to reform the US healthcare system was due mainly to the opposition of lawmakers, many of whom were members of the Democratic party.

The conference was praised early on by a number of Republicans, many of whom had opposed Clinton's attempts at healthcare reform in the 1990s.

White House official Melody Barnes said that the current administration did not want to approach Congress with a preset plan for reform as the Clinton administration had, but viewed the endeavour as a detailed process that everyone would be able to make suggestions about.

Side discussions were organised at the conference around the topics of reform of payment incentives for doctors and hospitals, expansion of medical research, preventive medicine and wellness programmes, and the improvement of childhood nutrition.

Lawmaker Joe Barton said that if drafting the reform legislation was a real process, and the suggestions of both sides were listened to, then people like him would participate in it.

Fellow Republican Mike Enzi said that both Republicans and Democrats were already in agreement about most of the solutions to the problem of limiting health costs.

Lawmakers from both sides of the debate were not the only ones present at the White House forum, since CEOs, consumer advocates, medical society presidents, and others were also allowed to speak.

Congress has already begun to draft its plans for a healthcare reform and will formulate its plans after the present debates are finished.

The premium for private insurance for families in the US hovers around US$12,000 yearly, and is usually paid by employers.

Tens of millions of people in the USA are classified as underinsured, due to inadequate coverage, and 46 million have no coverage at all.


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