This is the real fight, healthcare.....
President Barack Obama takes on healthcare reform at a White House forum on Thursday, seeking to design an overhaul of a costly and inefficient system he believes is threatening the U.S. economy.
Obama, who has nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as his health secretary, will gather about 120 people representing everyone from doctors and patients to health insurers and lawmakers to discuss how to fix U.S. health care.
It's a challenge that has defeated earlier presidents. But officials say the current U.S. economic crisis only makes it more imperative.
"Our healthcare costs are exploding our economy," said Melody Barnes, Obama's senior domestic policy adviser. "When he talks about getting spending under control ... one of the primary things he is focusing on is bringing our healthcare costs under control."
The United States spends approximately $2.5 trillion annually on healthcare but leaves some 46 million people uninsured and consistently ranks lower than other Western countries on indicators like infant mortality rates.
Obama pledged during his election campaign that he would expand health insurance coverage to virtually all people and find a way to control costs, which businesses complain are making their products less competitive in the global markets.
The president has not presented a specific reform plan to Congress, seeking to avoid the problems that killed President Bill Clinton's healthcare effort in the 1990s when his administration presented a long, detailed plan to lawmakers.
"He isn't sending a bill up to the Hill," said Barnes. "He's articulated some of the principles that are important to him, but I think he also strongly believes that to get this done he's going to have to ... be open, pragmatic and listen and engage with Congress to get a bill done."