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Obama tells AMA about healthcare plans

June 15, 2009 |  9:42 am

President Obama today took his message of healthcare reform to the American Medical Assn., continuing a public-relations blitz designed to push the issue through Congress and past a variety of special interests who want a say in how the final product is shaped.

There is perhaps no more contentious domestic issue on Obama’s plate than revamping the healthcare system. It is so complicated a problem that the various parties can’t even agree on which approach is best. Political ideologies have colored everyone’s positions. (Full text coming shortly.)

To find a path through the maze, do what every lobbyist on this issue will do: Follow the money.
First we have to understand how much money we are talking about:

The current estimate is more than $2 trillion a year is spent on healthcare, about 50% more per person than the next most costly nation. To understand the size, healthcare costs about....

...2.5 times the last $787 billion stimulus package.

The Obama administration’s position is that the current healthcare system is too costly and that it doesn’t make people better. The best example of the administration’s argument is a terrific New Yorker piece titled "The Cost Conundrum."

Cutting costs means that somebody will be paid less. Whether it is doctors, hospitals, insurance companies or patients depends on who is doing the talking, but all have said that they don’t want to lose any funding. 

While Congress debates the issues, the Obama administration has announced some broad guidelines, which the president reasserted today:

The Obama administration wants about $950 billion in healthcare savings over the next decade. This will come in part from cuts and economies in spending but also from a tax increase by limiting deductions the wealthiest American can take to what they were allowed during the Reagan years. By cutting back to the time of the great conservative icon, Obama is hoping to limit political opposition from the right flank.

The president also will insist that there be some public option to cover healthcare for the 45 million to 50 million uninsured Americans. But Obama will rule out a single-payer system, much like Canada’s. This is politically a non-starter, though some Democrats favor the approach, branded as socialism by conservatives.

 Although Obama’s appearance before the AMA was a bit like Daniel in the lion’s den, given the group’s opposition to a public role in healthcare, it seemed more cordial since Obama was proposing some things that might help some doctors. For example, many of the cuts would hit hospitals rather than doctors’ incomes; less paperwork would help cut doctors’ costs.

Still, the details have yet to be worked out so doctors will be careful.

In addition to today’s speech, Obama will participate in a prime-time question-and-answer session at the White House with ABC’s Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer. The special edition of “Primetime” will air Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT.

“Good Morning America,” “World News,” “Nightline” and’s “Top Line” will all feature special programming on the president’s healthcare agenda, ABC announced.

– Michael Muskal


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