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Health-Care Reform Could Be Obama's Toughest Challenge
Date:6/22/2009

re system doesn't work, but what may not be as apparent to people is that without health reform our health-care costs in this country are going to be out of control in the decade ahead," Mundinger added.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the United States spends $2.2 trillion on health care annually, or almost $8,000 per person, a number likely to swell to $4 trillion by 2017 if costs aren't contained.

"The cost of our health care is a threat to our economy," Obama bluntly stated last week while addressing the American Medical Association (AMA) annual meeting in Chicago. "It is a ticking time bomb for the federal budget. And it is unsustainable for the United States of America."

The reforms currently being debated in Washington, D.C., and around the country will cost an estimated $1 trillion over the next decade -- and possibly more.

What, exactly, is that $1 trillion supposed to buy America?

Several committees in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are aggressively debating both the larger and the finer points of a reform plan.

But the push seems to consist of three major components, explained David Cutler, a professor of applied economics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a health-care advisor to Obama's presidential campaign. They are: providing health insurance coverage to all Americans; changing medical care so it's less expensive and of better quality; and investing in public health prevention.

Obama isn't the first president to attempt sweeping health-care reform: As he himself acknowledged in his recent Chicago speech, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter all tried -- and failed -- before him.

Then there was Hillary Clinton's ill-fated effort back in the early 1990s, which, according to the Chicago Tribune, set the reform effort back by 15 years.

"While significant individual re
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