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Obama "Confident" Congress Will Accept Cost-Cutting Plan

5170274One day after the Congressional Budget Office Director said Democrats' current health care legislation will not slow the long term growth of health care costs, President Obama said he is committed to signing legislation that does just that.

Speaking from the White House Friday, Mr. Obama said he has given Congress a proposal that should "bend the cost curve so we're not seeing huge health care inflation."

"I'm actually confident they may adopt these proposals," Mr. Obama said.

The White House has proposed establishing an independent, non-partisan commission of doctors and other health experts to oversee the costs of Medicare. White House Budget Director Peter Orszag described the proposal in a letter (PDF) Friday to Pelosi and other Democratic leaders.

An existing group called the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission already produces yearly reports with ways to bring down costs, but the group's report is only advisory and "ends up sitting on a shelf," the president said.

"We want to force Congress to make sure they are acting on these recommendations to bend the cost curve each and every year," Mr. Obama said. "We need an independent group that is empowered to make these changes, and that's something we've proposed."

"I'm confident if we work with the foremost experts in the field we can find a way to eliminate waste (and) slow the growth of costs," he added.

The president also reiterated today his commitment to keeping health care reform deficit-neutral. "Health insurance reform cannot add to our deficit over the next decade, and I mean it," he said. He repeated himself for emphasis.

While health care legislation has already passed out of two of the three committees it must go through in the House, negotiations have slowed in the Senate, with six moderate senators signing a letter today asking for more time to "achieve a bipartisan result."

"Now is not the time to slow down," Mr. Obama said.

He said that "unprecedented progress" has already been made coming to agreement on issues like preventive care, the need to simplify insurance forms, the need to prevent the denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, the establishment of a health insurance exchange, the need for patient choice, and the need to ensure coverage in the event that a patient changes or loses his or her job.

Washington has achieved "a level of consensus over health care reform that we've never seen before in this country," he said.

Without these reforms, he said, the nation would be "consigning our children to a future of skyrocketing premiums and crushing deficits."

Mr. Obama said those who were skeptical health care reform would be accomplished this year are "badly mistaken."

"We're going to be putting in a lot more hours," he said. "There are going to be a lot more sleepless nights."