At an emotional forum in Virginia, President Obama hugged a cancer patient Wednesday and vowed to bring greater efficiency and accessibility to the nation's health care system.
A woman named Debbie fought tears as she told Obama of her kidney cancer and her inability to obtain health insurance or hold a job. The president hugged her and called her "exhibit A" in an unsustainable system that is too expensive and complex for millions of Americans.
"We are going to try to find ways to help you immediately," he told her as hundreds watched at a community college forum — and countless others on television. But the nation's long-term needs require a greater emphasis on preventive care and "cost-effective care," he said.
Obama said the best way to drive down health care costs is to persuade doctors and hospitals to emphasize quality of care over the quantity of procedures.
Health experts have long criticized formulas that tie Medicare payments to tests and other services that may not always be the best way to treat a patient. Obama said the formulas must change as part of his bid to overhaul U.S. health care delivery.
"The biggest thing we can do to hold down costs is to change the incentives of a health care system that automatically equates expensive care with better care," the president said. He said the formula system drives up costs "but doesn't make you better."
Obama did not make specific recommendations for changing the incentive formulas.
He gave a lengthy sales pitch for his general overhaul proposals and then fielded questions from audience members, including Debbie, and from other people through the Internet.
Congress will return to debating health care when it returns Monday from a one-week recess. Obama's agenda calls for reducing delivery costs even as insurance coverage is extended to virtually all Americans.
Obama says the government will not borrow money to carry out the plans, but many Republicans are dubious if not outright hostile to his proposals.
This program aired on July 1, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.