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What has Obama said are his key healthcare policy goals?

August 26, 2009|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Universality: This would increase the availability of health insurance in all its forms, public and private, by mandating coverage, coupled with government subsidies. There are about 45 million people who lack insurance, though the numbers vary depending on the politics of who is doing the counting.

Public option: The president has called for some mechanism to stimulate market competition with private insurance companies and to give consumers greater choice in picking a plan. Both aspects, competition and choice, are central in the administration's plan for changing the healthcare system. Proposals include a government insurance plan, consumer-owner cooperatives and insurance exchanges that give price and service comparisons. Obama has said he prefers a robust public option, but he is willing to take less if it increases competition and choice. This has raised fears among his liberal supporters that he is willing to sacrifice a strong public option for a political victory.

Deficit neutral: The final plan should not increase the federal deficit, Obama insists. That means a combination of new revenue and cuts in services. Obama has ruled out middle-class income-tax hikes, but different versions of the bill in the House would levy a surtax on the rich. Businesses also could face new taxes to meet healthcare mandates.

"Bend the cost curve": Obama argues that two-thirds of the cost of any reform plan could come from within the healthcare system by eliminating unneeded procedures over time. He also called for an end to waste and fraud.

Insurance reform: The private insurance industry also would face new regulations so that people would not be dropped because of previous medical conditions. Caps on benefits might be eliminated so that consumers wouldn't face financial ruin as a result of a medical emergency.

Bipartisan politics: Obama has said he would prefer a bipartisan effort on healthcare reform, but also has insisted that the current system is not sustainable for the government, patients or healthcare providers. He has said he will not allow the Republican desire to hand him a political defeat block change, a stance that opens the door to Democrats trying to pass bills without GOP support.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

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