President Barack Obama spoke strongly Wednesday night about the need to achieve meaningful health care reform now -- allowing the status quo to continue will see 14,000 Americans a day lose their health insurance, health care costs and premiums will continue to skyrocket, and health care costs will continue to take an ever-increasing share of the mounting federal deficit.
It will be key, however, how much he convinced bickering Democrats and unbending Republicans to come together and make the best policy in the best interests of Americans. The president believes that must come soon, lest any kind of momentum be lost.
At a cost of at least $1 trillion over 10 years, we are concerned about how health care reform will be paid. We are encouraged, though, that the president emphatically said that any reform will be paid, will not add to the federal deficit, and will not come at the expense of already financially strapped middle-income Americans.
We are also pleased that the president specifically cited the plight of rural America in Medicare reimbursement rates, that they be boosted in rural America where no less quality health care is expected as our neighbors served by big-city hospitals. He admitted it will take money to do so, and we hope that he pushes for that money in any reform bill.
Minnesota's congressional delegation - its two senators and eight House members - said the same in a letter to Obama. "... we want to make you aware that Minnesota is a state in which the quality of care exceeds the national average and per-beneficiary fee-for-service Medicare costs are substantially lower than the national average," they wrote. Our 'low-cost, high-quality' state is setting the national standard for Medicare, yet we are penalized by the current geographic payment inequities in the Medicare reimbursement formula."
For instance, they cite that Minnesotans pay higher premiums for prescription drugs, dental, vision and hearing services while residents in other states get them free of additional costs.
The president outlined a sound plan to move most Americans to health care coverage and gave examples of where savings could occur. We hope his call that two-thirds of the cost will come from savings within the system, but given the partisanship of the current system, that could be optimistic.
He pledged competition in the health insurance exchange or marketplace but we did not hear the words "government insurance." Again, we need to see what Congress sends to President Obama. Those happy with their private insurance will receive stability and security, holding the line on premium increases and prevention from being dropped from coverage if sick.
We just hope the president has the courage to do it, as he says "the right way," and veto anything else.