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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have! - Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Obama Discusses Universal Health Care Plan at Columbus Roundtable

After visit to OSU Medical Center, Obama meets with uninsured Ohioans and medical professionals to share plan to cut costs and improve care

Chicago, IL —Following a visit to Ohio State Medical Center today, Senator Barack Obama held a roundtable with uninsured Ohioans and medical professionals to discuss his plan to fix our broken health care system. Obama shared his plan to make quality health care available to every American by focusing on prevention and shifting to electronic record-keeping to cut costs and improve care.

“One out of every four dollars we spend on health care is swallowed up by administrative costs – on needless paperwork and antiquated record-keeping that belongs in the last century. We also spend far too much on treating illnesses and conditions that could’ve been prevented or managed for far less,” Senator Obama said today. “Family premiums in Ohio have risen more than 40 percent over the last eight years, and the number of uninsured now stands at around 1.2 million people. That’s unacceptable, and we can’t afford to let these costs keep going up year after year.”

Before the roundtable, Obama visited the OSU Medical Center, greeting with nurses and physicians and touring the 9th floor Kidney/Diabetes Ward. Diabetestreatment is a leading expense within the health care system and represents an area where enhanced prevention could vastly cut costs. The Medical Center has been recognized for eight consecutive years as one of America’s Most Wired Hospitals because of its leadership in using information technology to cut costs and improve patient care.

Barack Obama believes we live in the greatest country in the world and that when it comes to health care America can and must do better. Obama has a three part plan to build upon the strengths of the U.S. health care system, including innovative state efforts, and address its glaring weaknesses, such as affordability. The Obama plan will save a typical American family up to $2,500 every year on medical expenditures by:

Providing affordable, comprehensive and portable health coverage for every American;
Modernizing the U.S. health care system to contain spiraling health care costs and improve the quality of patient care; and
Promoting prevention and strengthening public health to prevent disease and protect against natural and man-made disasters.

You can learn more Obama’s Plan for a Healthy America HERE.

Senator Obama’s full remarks at today’s health care roundtable follow as prepared for delivery.

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Ohio State University Medical Center
Saturday, February 23rd, 2008
Columbus, Ohio

We had a great tour of the Medical Center just now, and one of the most promising things I saw were the technological innovations here that are cutting the cost of health care and improving its quality. For eight consecutive years, OSU has been recognized as one of America’s Most Wired Hospitals because it’s been a leader in the use of information technology in patient care and research.

This must be the future of health care in America – not just because every patient deserves the best care possible, but because they deserve the most affordable care possible. And bringing our health care system into the 21st century is one of the best ways to do that.

We now spend over $2 trillion on medical care every single year. It would be one thing if all this money went directly towards making us healthier and improving the quality of our care. But it doesn’t.

One out of every four dollars we spend on health care is swallowed up by administrative costs – on needless paperwork and antiquated record-keeping that belongs in the last century. We also spend far too much on treating illnesses and conditions that could’ve been prevented or managed for far less. Our health care system is turning into a disease care system, where too many plans and providers don’t offer or encourage check-ups and tests and screenings that could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars down the road.

And of course, the biggest obstacle in the way of reforming this system are those who profit most from the status quo – the drug and insurance companies who pocket an enormous chunk of the skyrocketing medical bills that working families are struggling to pay.

I’ve heard these stories day after day over the last year of this campaign. The husband and wife who own a successful small business but are now on the verge of bankruptcy because they’re paying nearly half their income on premiums. Or the young woman who gets three hours of sleep a night because she works the night shift after a full day of college and still can’t afford health care for her sister who’s ill.

The same stories are happening right here in Ohio. Family premiums have risen more than 40% over the last eight years, and the number of uninsured now stands at around 1.2 million people.

That’s unacceptable, and we can’t afford to let these costs keep going up year after year. We can’t afford to keep talking about health care reform in every election and then fail to act when we go back to Washington. We can’t afford to let the drug and insurance lobbyists stand in our way, or the same partisan bickering stop us getting this done. Not this time. Not this year.

I know how scary it can be when you don’t know whether or not you’ll be able to pay your medical bills. My mother died of ovarian cancer when she was only 53. And in the last months of her life, the one thing that worried her most was whether or not her insurance company would still cover her and pay for her treatments. So this is personal for me.

When I got to the Illinois state Senate over a decade ago, I brought Republicans and Democrats together to expand health care coverage to another 150,000 children and parents. I passed a bill cracking down on hospital price gouging of uninsured patients, and helped expand coverage for routine mammograms for women on Medicaid. And we also created hospital report cards, so that every consumer could see things like the ratio of nurses to patients, the number of annual medical errors, and the quality of care they could expect at each hospital.

In this campaign, I’ve put forth a universal health care plan that will cut costs and guarantee coverage to every American. Under this plan, if you’re uninsured, you’ll be able to get the same kind of health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves. We’ll stop the insurance companies from discriminating against any American just because they’re sick or have a preexisting condition, because those who are the American who need help the most. And we’ll lower premiums for the typical family by $2500 a year.

We’ll cut these costs in part by requiring that our public plan includes evidence-based, preventive care so that we’re not treating illnesses or conditions in the Emergency Room that could’ve been caught with a check-up or managed with the right care. And we’ll also reduce waste and inefficiency by instituting new technologies like you’ve done right here at OSU Medical Center and moving from paper records to electronic medical records. This is a reform that will reduce deadly medical errors, shorten the length of hospital stays, ensure that nurses can spend less time on paperwork and more time with patients, and save billions and billions of dollars in the process.

Now, both Senator Clinton and I have put forth similar plans, and we share the goal of universal health care. The main difference between us is that Senator Clinton includes a mandate, which means she’d have the government force you to buy health insurance, and she said she’d consider ‘going after your wages’ if you don’t. I disagree with that approach. I believe that the reason Americans don’t have health care isn’t because no one’s forced them to buy it, it’s because no one’s made it affordable, and that’s why my plan does more to cut costs than any other that’s been offered in this race.

But the truth is, both of our plans are far better than what’s being offered by John McCain – more of the same Bush health care policies that haven’t worked in the past and won’t work today. It’s a tax break that doesn’t guarantee coverage and doesn’t make sure that health care is affordable for the working families who need it most. It reflects the agenda of the drug and insurance lobbyists, who back his campaign and use money and influence to block real health care reform.

This is an area where I disagree with Senator McCain and Senator Clinton. She’s taken nearly a million dollars from lobbyists in this campaign and says they “represent real Americans.” He takes their money and has put them in charge of his campaign.

This is standard operating procedure in Washington. And that’s what I’m running to change. Because if we don’t challenge the power of the drug and insurance companies and the lobbyists who hold sway, we’ll still be talking about these problems years from now.

At the end of the day, all the good plans in the world won’t mean anything if we can’t get them passed – if we can’t break through the partisan bickering in Washington, open up the process to new ideas and new voices, and bring people together to get this done. That’s how we’ll overcome the lobbyists and special interests. That’s how I passed health care reform in Illinois. That’s how we can make this time different than all the rest, and that’s what I intend to do as President of the United States.

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