Biden: Hospitals ante up for health care

Industry will contribute $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings in the next decade, to help fund health care reform vice president says.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that a deal has been reached with hospitals to help fund health care reform.

Biden said the hospital industry has pledged to contribute $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings in the next decade.

"We're here today to make our health care system healthy again," the vice president said in announcing the agreement.

"Hospitals have acknowledged that significant health care savings can be achieved by improving efficiencies, realigning incentives to emphasize quality care instead of quantity of procedures," Biden said.

"In the last several weeks, they've been working with (Senate Finance Committee) Chairman (Max) Baucus and are coming forward with a proposal that produces real savings in federal health care spending," he said. "Savings that will be applied toward the president's firm goal ... of enacting health care reform that is deficit neutral."

As the health care system becomes more efficient through technology and innovation, increases in Medicare and Medicaid payments to hospital will slow, and as more people are insured, hospitals will bear less of the financial burden in caring for those without adequate coverage, Biden said.

"Today's announcement, I believe, represents the essential role hospitals play in making reform a reality, and the reality will be -- we must enact this reform this year. We must, and we will, enact reform by the end of August, and we can't wait," Biden said.

Biden was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and representatives of the hospital industry.

The hospital deal follows Obama's announcement last month of an agreement reached with the nation's pharmaceutical industry to cut drug costs for elderly Americans, calling it an example of the kind of compromise required for successful national health care reform.

That agreement discounts medications for Medicare beneficiaries facing high out-of-pocket expenses when their benefits reach a gap in coverage.

Following Biden's announcement, House Minority Leader John Boehner accused the administration and Democrats of "bullying health care groups into cutting backroom deals to fund a government takeover of health care."

"Democrats, Republicans, and health care stakeholders must work together on real reform to give Americans better access to affordable health care, but that's not happening in Washington," Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.

"It's time for Washington Democrats to abandon their 'go it alone' approach and work with Republicans on true reform that expands Americans' access to affordable health care," he said. To top of page

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