By Eric Zimmermann - 06/06/09 08:11 AM EDT
Congress has a historic opportunity to reform and expand healthcare with every major stakeholder at the table, President Obama said today.
Lawmakers must act now, the President urged, before healthcare costs spiral out of control.
Though overseas on a historic trip to the Middle East and Europe, Obama used the address to push for healthcare reform, a sign of how serious the White House is about passing legislation before the August recess. Congress is set to hold key hearings on healthcare reform next week.
Congress can succeed where it has failed before because all the stakeholders are on board, Obama argued.
"Unlike past attempts at reforming our health care system, everyone is at the table -- patient’s advocates and health insurers; business and labor; Democrats and Republicans alike," said the president.
Last month, industry leaders pledged to cut healthcare costs by $2 trillion, a sign, the president argued, that there is a broad consensus for change.
"What makes this so remarkable is that it probably wouldn’t have happened just a few short years ago," he said. "But today, at this historic juncture, even old adversaries are united around the same goal: quality, affordable health care for all Americans."
In a letter to lawmakers this week, Obama laid out his expectations for a reform package. Among his demands was a public insurance option to compete with private insurers.
In both the letter and his address today, the President said that Americans who like their insurance will be able to keep it. Democrats are emphasizing consumer choice in hopes of fending off the kind of political attacks that derailed President Clinton’s attempts to expand healthcare coverage in his first term.
Democrats hope to introduce legislation next week with the goal of passing a bill before the August recess.
“This window between now and the August recess, I think, is going to be the make-or-break period,” Obama said earlier this week. “This is the time where we have got to get this done.”