Health care leaders compromise on health bill

July 8, 2009 10:29:05 PM PDT
Some of the biggest hospital chains in the country are now promising to kick in billions of dollars to make universal health care coverage happen. Vice President Joe Biden made the announcement Wednesday morning at the White House. The heath care bill is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1 trillion. The president has promised not to pay for it by increasing the national debt, so the hunt is on for the money to make it work.

Biden was flanked by the CEO's of three major hospital associations Wednesday morning as he announced the hospitals have agreed to take $155 billion less from Medicare, Medicaid and subsidies over the next decade to help bring down healthcare costs.

"We have tried for decades, for decades to fix a broken system and we have never in my entire tenure in public life been this close," Biden said.

Biden said the $155 billion could be saved by improving efficiencies and realigning incentives to emphasize quality care instead of quantity of procedures.

There was no comment Wednesday from San Francisco General Hospital, California Pacific Medical Center or Kaiser Permanente.

"Well certainly it is political we have yet to see how the house will weigh in on this," Hospital Council of Northern and Central California spokesperson Scott Seamons said.

Seamons' association supports the vice president's announcement and the goal of health care reform by the end of August.

"There seems to be a fever in this country to put healthcare reform on the front burner," Seamons said.

Seamons says hospitals are concerned about the so-called "public option" -- the most controversial of the health care proposals.

On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House legislation will include a public or government plan to compete with private health insurers.

"And in the house we will not have a health bill without a public option," Pelosi said.

But the next day, White House Cheif of Staff Rahm Emanuel suggested to the Wall Street Journal the public option could be negotiable.

Berkeley-based Moveon.org immediately urged its members to contact the White House and push for a public option.

And from Moscow, the president issued a statement saying one of the best ways to bring down costs provide more choices and assure quality is a public option.

But how it will play out is still very up in the air.

"I still think everybody's fishing, I mean they're throwing something out there to see how many bites they get," Seamons said.

Conservatives and some moderates in the senate are concerned the public option will scuttle private sector participation. Pelosi insists it will not.

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