By Elise Viebeck - 12/05/12 02:00 PM EST
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."