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Health Care Reform

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While Members of Congress were in their home districts for the customary two-week Spring Recess, President Barack Obama delivered what the White House billed as a major speech on the economy at Georgetown University on April 14.

President Obama at Georgetown

 In his remarks, which can be viewed HERE, the President described his vision for rebuilding the American economy based on “five pillars” for growth:

1)   Tougher rules for Wall Street;

2)   New fiscal responsibility in government spending;

3)   Investments in education;

4)   Investments in renewable energy; and

5)   Investments in health care reform.

In speaking out about the need to tackle problems in America’s health care system, the President spoke strategically about incorporating health care reform into the much wider debate over entitlement reform.  The President said:

“Nothing will be more important to this goal [of entitlement reform] than passing health care reform that brings down costs across the system, including in Medicare and Medicaid.  So make no mistake, health care reform is entitlement reform.  That's not just my opinion; that was the conclusion of a wide range of participants at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit that we held at the White House in February.  And that's one of the reasons why I firmly believe we need to get health care reform done this year.”

In the past, President Obama has called health care reform “not just a moral imperative, but an economic imperative.” 

In his speech at Georgetown University this past week, he also cited “glimmers of economic progress,” while emphasizing that these positive signs of hope “[do] not mean that hard times are over.”

Outlook:  Many Washington observers believe that the debate over health care reform will begin to take shape this fall, especially if there are signs that the economic downturn has abated.  The President’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, is expected to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee next week and confirmed by the full Senate soon thereafter.  SHRM will continue to monitor developments and keep you informed.



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