WASHINGTON, March 5 (UPI) -- Healthcare reform summit participants agree that change is needed now and that past opposition is just that -- in the past -- U.S. President Barack Obama said.
Summing up notes from the summit's break-out sessions Thursday, Obama said the participants believed "we can do healthcare now," past opposition has been laid to rest and partisan politics must be put aside as well.
Lawmakers, individuals and representatives of business, insurers, healthcare providers and health facilities officials met at the White House to discuss aspects reforming the U.S. healthcare system and ways to fund it.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who is recuperating from surgery for brain cancer, received a rousing reception. Kennedy, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said the number of representatives "challenges all of us to do the best we can."
"I'm looking forward to being a foot-soldier in this undertaking," Kennedy said. "This time we will not fail."
When discussing reforming Medicare and Medicaid entitlement programs, "which everybody here understands is the 800-pound gorilla," Obama said he didn't see being able to develop a reform package around those entitlements without fixing the underlying problem of healthcare inflation.
"If we've got 6 percent, 7 percent, 8 percent healthcare inflation, we could fix Medicare and Medicaid temporarily for a couple of years, but we would be back in the same fix 10 years from now," he said.
Obama said he recognizes two main, competing philosophies of healthcare reform -- market forces and government intervention.
"There is a moral imperative to healthcare," Obama said. "Having said that, if we don't address costs, I don't care how heartfelt our efforts are, we will not get this done. ... We've got to balance our heart and head as we move this process forward."
At the end of the day's proceedings, Obama said he thought the event had been "extraordinarily productive" and that there is a "clear consensus that the need for healthcare reform is here and now."