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Seeking Opinions on Health Reform, and Getting an Earful

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report, from President Obama is letting Congress write the details of his plan for what he calls health insurance reform. Congress was on vacation in August. But members held what are known as town hall meetings around the country to hear reaction. And they have been getting an earful from crowds for and against the plan. The president, at his own meetings, pointed back to the nineteen nineties. He said: "Every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they've got." Some objections are based on cost estimates from an independent agency, the Congressional Budget Office. Also, some people said they did not have enough details of the plan to be able to make up their minds. Two goals are to expand health insurance to millions of Americans who do not have it, and to control rising costs for those who do. A public insurance plan was proposed to compete with private insurance companies. Republicans and other critics said the Democrats' idea of reforms would lead to socialized health care. But one of the first groups to support the administration was the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA spent millions of dollars on advertising to support the plan. The industry group has already promised to cut drug costs by eighty billion dollars over ten years. Critics want more. Some liberal lawmakers have proposed measures such as letting the government negotiate lower drug prices. But under the PhRMA deal, the chances for additional cost-saving measures are unclear. Drugs that need a doctor's prescription became a bigger part of the debate over health care costs in two thousand three. Congress and President George W. Bush added prescription drugs to the Medicare insurance program for older Americans. That raised the costs of Medicare, which represented fifteen percent of the federal budget last year. But PhRMA says drug costs are only ten percent of all health care costs in America. It also points out the high costs of developing new drugs. Yet researchers from Stanford University say new treatments are often no better than existing ones, but are almost always more costly. They suggested a way to lower prices. They said the government should require drug makers to state how new medications compare with existing ones. And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 21Aug2009)
Length: 04:14


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