Workforce.com

Health Care Costs Are Top Challenge, Obama Says

They are ‘the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far,’ and work is already under way to go “line by line” through the federal budget to cut wasteful and inefficient programs, the president says.

February 24, 2009
President Barack Obama called rising health care costs “the single most pressing fiscal challenge we face by far” and said that work is already under way to go “line by line” through the federal budget to cut wasteful and inefficient programs to halve the federal deficit in four years.

Economists put the deficit at close to $1 trillion, and last year alone the U.S. spent $250 billion on interest payments for that debt—roughly seven times what it spent on veterans’ health programs, the president said. “We cannot and will not sustain deficits like these without end,” Obama said Monday, February 23, in opening a scheduled “fiscal summit” at the White House.

The discussion comes just days before the Obama administration is expected to release a 10-year budgetary blueprint that likely will include spending cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

In opening remarks, White House budget director Peter Orszag said that the Obama administration is committed to health care reform this year. “The single most important thing we can do to put this nation back on a sustainable long-term fiscal course is slow the growth rate of health care costs,” he said. “Health care is the key to our fiscal future.”

Obama is slated to address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, February 24. The speech is expected to further outline his plans for health care reform.

Filed by Matthew DoBias of Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

Workforce Management’s online news feed is now available via Twitter.