This week, President Obama sat down with President Clinton to talk about healthcare reform. The setting was the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, which was founded by Clinton in 2005 to provide a forum for global leaders to tackle the challenges of today. The annual meeting is held each year in New York concurrent with the opening of the UN, which brings together heads of state from all over the world. The forum provides an opportunity to address issues that are too complex to be handled in the politicized environment of the UN.
After his address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, the President spent about an hour in a one-on-one discussion about the healthcare law. When asked why he went through the grief of getting healthcare reform passed when there were some many concerns about the economy, he presented a several-minute answer that included the following:
The fact is that we have been, up until recently, the only advanced industrialized nation on Earth that permits large numbers of its people to languish without health insurance. Not only is there the cruelty of people who are unable to get health insurance having to use the emergency room as their doctor or their health service, but — we’re also more efficient than anybody else and so when we talk about, for example, our deficit — you know this better than anybody — the reason that we have not only current deficits but also projected long-term deficits — the structural deficit that we have is primarily based on the fact that we have a hugely inefficient, wildly expensive health care system that does not produce better outcomes.
And if we spent the same amount of money on health care that Canada or France or Great Britain did, or Japan, or any other industrialized country, with the same outcomes or better outcomes, that essentially would remove our structural deficit, which would then free up dollars for us to invest in early-childhood education and infrastructure and medical research and all the other things that can make sure that we’re competitive and growing rapidly over the long term.
So my view when I came into office was we’ve got an immediate crisis — we’ve got to get the economy growing. But what we also have to do is to start tackling some of these structural problems that had been building up for years. And one of the biggest structural problems was health care. It’s what accounts for our deficit. It’s what accounts for our debt. It causes pain and misery to millions of people all across the country. It is a huge burden on our businesses.
So this has everything to do with the economy, in addition to what I consider to be the moral imperative that a mom should not have to go bankrupt if her son or daughter gets sick; that a family who’s dealing with a layoff and is already struggling to pay the bills shouldn’t also be wondering whether they’re one illness away from losing their home. And I think most Americans agree with that.
Social justice and improving the economy. The President laid out the case for healthcare reform. It’s a good read and better if you listen to the discussion which can be found here.