Obama to unveil 2 trillion dlr healthcare plan

 President Barack Obama is Monday to outline plans to cut US healthcare costs by two trillion dollars over the next 10 years, part of a bid to slash spending while making treatment more affordable.

Obama is expected to detail what he will describe as an "unprecedented commitment" by six major healthcare lobby groups to limit spending increases over the next decade, senior administration officials said on Sunday.

The White House hopes the voluntary plan -- drawn up by groups representing insurance firms, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical makers and a labor union -- could eventually save US families as much as 2,500 dollars a year.

"We cannot continue down the same dangerous road we've been traveling for so many years, with costs that are out of control," Obama is expected to tell Americans, according to excerpts of his remarks released by the White House.

"Reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait."

Signatories to the deal have promised to reduce spending increases by 1.5 percentage points each year until 2019.

Officials say that amounts to around two trillion dollars, in part through slashing administrative costs.

The United States currently spends more than two trillion dollars a year on healthcare, but around 46 million Americas remain without health insurance.

Even with the planned savings, spending is still projected to increase by around seven percent each year, an administration official said.

But officials insisted the deal was a "game changer" that would "virtually eliminate the long-term fiscal gap" -- the government's long-term budget deficit.

The targets, which will not be subject to formal government oversight or sanctions, are likely to be met with some skepticism by consumer groups who in the past have been wary of self-regulation, which they say amounts to no regulation at all.

Anticipating criticism, one official said the move would be "done within the context of comprehensive health reform" and healthcare firms would receive no under-the-table quid pro quo.

Signatories to the deal include America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the Service Employees International Union and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Obama has vowed to present substantial healthcare reforms to Congress this year, despite the inevitable political dogfight that will follow and which will add to his existing difficulties -- from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the sagging economy.

Healthcare reform has long been one of Washington's most contentious issues.

In the 1990s, former president Bill Clinton campaigned hard on promises to establish a universal healthcare system, only to be badly burned when his proposals were slapped down by Congress.

Many Congressional Democrats have backed a shift toward European-style system that would guarantee healthcare for everyone, but such a move is strongly opposed by most Republicans who argue it would lessen choice and worsen standards.

Source AFP

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