January 8, 2009 / 6:13 PM / 10 years ago

Obama health reform drive gets diverse backing

WASHINGTON, Jan 8 (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to reform the U.S. health care system got an important vote of confidence on Thursday as a diverse alliance of doctors, a labor union, the drug industry and health insurers pledged to support the effort.

Health care reform was a central plank of Obama’s campaign, and a Senate subcommittee on Thursday was questioning his designated Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Daschle, as part of the confirmation process.

Daschle said he understood the need to work with Congress and the industry groups said they wanted to be part of the process — as opposed to in 1994, when then-first lady Hillary Clinton’s efforts to reform health care fell apart in part because of health insurance industry resistance.

Then, health insurers launched an advertising campaign depicting the reform as unnecessary “big government” interference.

On Thursday, six organizations launched a new ad campaign, but this one is focused on supporting efforts to reform the U.S. system, which leaves 46 million Americans uninsured, costs more than any other country’s and yet produces poorer outcomes than those of other developed nations, such as high rates of newborn deaths, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“In order to fix the ailing economy, the nation needs health care reform that addresses the related problems of health care costs and people losing health coverage,” read a joint statement from the American Cancer Society, American Medical Association, Families USA, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, and Service Employees International Union.

“Healing our health care system is a key component to jumpstarting our national economy. As our new ad makes clear — quality, affordable health care is good for families and it’s good for businesses,” said AMA President Dr. Nancy Nielsen.

“While businesses and families cope with unaffordable health care costs, many workers are losing their jobs and health coverage,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a non-profit health care interest group.

“As a result, it’s clear that America’s economic difficulties require meaningful health care reform.”

Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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