Today's Question: Obama's health insurance initiative

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 | 2:29 p.m. CDT; updated 11:23 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 3, 2009

Leaders from the health care industry met with President Obama on Monday to discuss his plan to provide health insurance to every American.

At the meeting, hospitals, doctors, drug companies and insurance providers volunteered $2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years. Those savings would come in the form of slowing projected cost increases, according to The Associated Press.

Costs are the biggest obstacle for Obama's proposed plan, and these savings could help him justify the estimated $1.1 trillion to $1.5 trillion it would cost over the next decade to extend health coverage to the estimated 50 million uninsured Americans.

Insurers want to avoid a government insurance program that would compete with them to provide insurance for the middle class. Doctors and hospitals fear legislation dictating how much they can charge for care.

It appears health care officials want to cooperate now before rising costs turn public opinion completely against them.

But it isn't clear whether the savings officials promised Monday will actually help Obama push his health care plan through Congress. The $2 trillion in savings isn't specific or guaranteed. For instance, officials vowed Monday to reduce "overuse and underuse of health care."

Without specific reduction to the cost of programs like Medicaid or Medicare, budget rules would prevent Congress from using any of the $2 trillion in savings to fund initiatives to extend insurance coverage.

Are the proposed savings by health care officials an empty promise or a meaningful first step toward universal health care coverage?

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