Obama’s Push for Health Care Cuts Faces Daunting Odds
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — President Obama engineered a political coup on Monday by bringing leaders of the health care industry to the White House to build momentum for his ambitious health care agenda.
Mr. Obama pronounced it “a historic day, a watershed event,” because doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies voluntarily offered $2 trillion in cost reductions over 10 years. The savings, he said, “will help us take the next and most important step — comprehensive health care reform.”
Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Obama had told the health care executives, “You’ve made a commitment; we expect you to keep it.”
If history is a guide, their commitments may not produce the promised savings. Their proposals are vague — promising, for example, to reduce both “overuse and underuse of health care.” None of the proposals are enforceable, and none of the savings are guaranteed. Without such a guarantee, budget rules would normally prevent Congress from using the savings to pay for new initiatives to cover the uninsured. At this point, cost control is little more than a shared aspiration.
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