President Obama Makes Health Care Reform a Top Priority

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President Obama Makes Health Care Reform a Top Priority

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | March 03, 2009

The budget also includes more than $1 billion to help the FDA fortify its food safety program because of the salmonella outcry; $6 billion for cancer research and a program to send nurses to new mothers' homes to check on babies. Another $76.8 billion would go to the Health and Human Services Department to fund electronic medical records to end costly duplication of diagnostic tests and allow doctors to share patient histories. This provision is not only cost-effective but potentially beneficial to the patient, experts say. Obama promises to preserve patients' privacy, even while doctors share patients' records.

White House budget director Peter Orszag projected in commentary over the weekend that the proposed spending would save $1.8 billion in 2010, $16.2 billion in 2011 and increasing amounts annually to create a $633.8 billion fund to pay for health care reform by 2018. Congress has already provided $25 billion to help laid-off workers pay for COBRA.

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What's more, Obama says that spending to get coverage for more of America's 46 million uninsured will save money, if preventive care helps patients avoid expensive and chronic diseases.

Money will be also be saved, Obama said, by finding and eliminating overpayments in Medicare. "The Government Accountability Office has labeled Medicare as 'high-risk' due to billions of dollars lost to overpayments and fraud each year," the budget reads.

Better Care, Not More

In conclusion, the budget says "about $26 billion can be saved over 10 years by using a combination of incentives and penalties to prevent avoidable expensive readmission when patients go back into the hospital within a month after treatment. Reforming the way doctors are paid will also reduce costs, by paying them to provide better care rather than more expensive care, such as imaging scans and surgery that may not be necessary." For example, since Obama took office, Medicare has announced it does not plan to cover virtual colonoscopies, deciding they're too expensive.

None of this will be easy but one thing is for sure. President Obama has made health care reform a top priority.

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