Whitehouse to Obama: Find savings in healthcare delivery

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The White House is struggling with GOP lawmakers to find a way to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1.

On Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that Medicare benefits are "clearly on the table" in talks between Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

"They've been on the table for some period of time. That does not mean that I'd be prepared to adopt them now, but they're clearly, I think, on the table," Hoyer said.

Whitehouse's letter proposes to shift the conversation. It cites experts who believe the healthcare system can stand to save between $700 billion and $1 trillion without compromising quality.

Whitehouse pointed to the $700 billion estimate, made by the Council of Economic Advisers.

"Since 40 percent of America’s healthcare spending is federal," he wrote, "we could save over $80 billion a year if we only achieved 30 percent of the potential.

"Over a 10-year budget period, that amounts to $800 billion in federal healthcare savings — all without taking away any benefits, while likely improving care."