Obama Presses for Health Care Overhaul

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WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration predicts health care costs will land more than a million people in bankruptcy this year, adding to the U.S. economic instability.

To generate ideas for a fix, the President convened a health care summit at the White House Thursday.  In his opening remarks, Obama told the assembled group that change is necessary.   

"The status quo is the one option that is not on the table," he said.

Click the player to watch the report from CBN News Washington Correspondent Jennifer Wishon.  Also, click here to watch the President's entire speech, Thursday, on health care reform.

Few doubt that health care is a complex problem. The United States has the highest health care costs in the world, amounting to $2.4 trillion per year.

Some 48 million Americans go without insurance and the number is only growing as more and more Americans lose their jobs.

Today, Obama promised a more open and inclusive process to deal with health care issues. 

"In this effort, every voice must be heard," the President said.  "Every idea must be considered. Every option must be on the table. There will be no sacred cows in this discussion." 

He also warned those who would attempt to block any changes to the present system.

"Those who seek to block any reform at any cost will not prevail this time around," Obama said.

The President is also setting a quick timeline to get health care reform started.  His advisors say he wants to get healthcare reform legislation passed during his first year in office.

On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders in both the House and the Senate rallied behind him, saying they hoped to have a health care reform bill passed by the end of the summer.

Seeking Answers

In hopes of making good on a campaign promise to provide health care coverage to everyone, today the President sought answers from 150 doctors, nurses, insurers, labor unions and business owners, along with Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Even some people who helped kill the Clinton administration's healthcare plan more than 15 years ago will be there. This time all parties agree something must be done to improve the system.

"I share your belief that we can't fix the economy without fixing healthcare," said Kathleen Sebilius, Healthcare Secretary nominee. "The work won't be easy, but bringing about real change rarely is."

The President has laid out goals of expanding coverage and improving quality while bringing down costs, but Congress will ultimately get to fill in the blanks.

Republicans say they are ready to play as long as reforms don't lead to a government run system.

"We're going down the path of having the government run health care, of having us raise taxes, borrow more money, and spend even more money on top of this to do this," said Rep. Paul Ryan R-Wis.

Funding Healthcare Reforms

To start paying for reforms, the President is calling on Congress to set aside $634 billion over the next ten years.

Half the money would come from cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The other half from tax hikes on people making $250,000 or more.

The President wants to let the Bush tax cuts expire. He also wants to limit deductions those families can claim for charitable donations.

It's a proposal that worries even some top Democrats.

"I would never want to adversely affect anything that is charitable or good," said Rep. Charles Rangel D-NY, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Today's talks among stakeholders will mark an amiable start to a process sure to be marked by tough negotiations on Capitol Hill and in the health care community.

Still, White House hopes are high that workable solutions can be found to benefit Americans who desperately need help.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News Washington Correspondent

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