President Barack Obama's plan to provide medical insurance for all Americans took a big step toward becoming reality Sunday after leaders of the health care industry offered $2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years to help pay for the program.It's that last sentence that of course is the caveat. It assures some sort of universal health care legislation will pass now.Hospitals, insurance companies, drug makers and doctors planned to tell Obama on Monday they'll voluntarily slow their rate increases in coming years in a move that government economists say would create breathing room to help provide health insurance to an estimated 50 million Americans who now go without it.
With this move, Obama picks up key private-sector allies that fought former President Bill Clinton's effort to overhaul health care.
Although the offer from the industry groups doesn't resolve thorny details of a new health care system, it does offer the prospect of freeing a large chunk of money to help pay for coverage.
And it puts the private-sector groups in a good position to influence the bill Congress is writing.
But what has big pharma bought for its two trillion dollars? After all, this is a mere drop in the bucket for the health care industry, literally a matter of shaving a couple of percentage points off of the rate of increase in health care costs in an industry where yearly increases in the double digit percentage range are the norm.
Clearly they've had something in mind all along. It has to be better than no health insurance for 1 in 6 Americans...but there's going to be a cost down the road. A big one.
More on this tomorrow.