- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

President Obama on Monday said a promise by a collection of U.S. health care industry interest groups to cut $2 trillion in spending and costs over the next decade was a “watershed event” in his drive to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

Industry groups, representing insurers, manufacturers, drug companies, hospitals, doctors and labor unions, outlined their plans in a meeting with the president and his advisers at the White House, pledging to cut the rate of cost increases by 1.5 percentage points per year.

“We as a nation are now spending a far larger share on our national wealth on health care than we were a generation ago,” but get less for it, Mr. Obama said.

Officials said the gathering was the most visible sign to date of support from industry interests that ferociously fought previous attempts to overhaul the industry, most notably former President Clinton’s bill in the early 1990s. “All too often real reform has fallen victim to special interests, Mr. Obama said. “That’s what makes today’s meeting so remarkable.”

The pledge provided few specifics on how the costs savings would be achieved or monitored. And many industry groups remain fiercely opposed to a central plank of the Obama health reform plan — the creation of a publicly funded health insurance plan to compete with private insurers and ensure universal health coverage.

Mr. Obama praised the day’s announcement, but said it could only succeed ultimately if the groups’ effort is “not in isolation, but part of a broader effort to reform the health care system.”

While Mr. Obama has announced broad goals that he wants in a health care reform plan, he has left many of the details up to Congress. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, has said he expects to mark up such legislation in June.

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