- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

Several health-industry trade groups have come up with a plan they say would save Americans at least $2 trillion over 10 years, an offer intended to complement President Obama’s push for universal health care, senior White House officials said Sunday.

The groups, which represent health insurers, hospitals, doctors and drugmakers, along with a major labor union, will be at the White House on Monday to present the offer.

Two senior White House officials, briefing reporters Sunday on the condition of anonymity, said the plan would have “massive consequences” in helping reduce overall health-care costs in the U.S.

Industry and White House officials declined to release specific information on the plan until at least Monday. But the sources said the groups have pledged to reduce the annual rates of increase in health-care spending by 1.5 percentage points per year for the next 10 years, compared with current projections.

A family of four would save about $2,500 annually by the fifth year of the plan, if the plan were implemented.

“There is nothing that could be done that would be more substantial to address our long-term fiscal challenge than this kind of step to reduce the growth rate of health-care spending,” one senior White House official said. “When we talk about bending the curve on health care cost growth, this is precisely the type of commitment that is necessary to achieve that.”

The groups include America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the Service Employees International Union, the sources said.

The industry groups have been working with the Obama administration in the hope that they can prevent health care reforms that would hurt them financially.

The White House officials said that the group’s plan is unconditional and that the Obama administration has not agreed to back off its push for a government-run health insurance option to compete with the private sector - a proposal vehemently opposed by AHIP and other industry groups.

The administration officials wouldn’t say whether there would be consequences if the groups were to fail to reach their goals.

“These are sophisticated entities, and they would know better than to make a commitment that was not feasible,” one of the officials said.

It’s unclear whether the proposed savings will prove decisive in pushing a health care overhaul through Congress this summer. But the industry’s willingness to work with the administration is a far cry from 1993 and 1994, when insurers and other key groups successfully opposed the Clinton administration’s push for universal health care.

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