Obama: 'Time to deliver' on health care
President Barack Obama said "it's time to deliver" on his health care agenda, using his weekly radio and Internet address to focus on his domestic priority even while traveling overseas.
His remarks airing Saturday were timed to gatherings in living rooms and coffee shops around the country by tens of thousands of people to discuss health care. The weekend events, organized by his campaign, were intended to try to build a groundswell of support for congressional action.
Washington (AP) — "If we do nothing, everyone's health care will be put in jeopardy," Obama said.
"Fixing what's wrong with our health care system is no longer a luxury we hope to achieve - it's a necessity we cannot postpone any longer," said the president, who attended D-Day ceremonies in France on Saturday.
The first bill containing language to put in place his health care goals has begun circulating on Capitol Hill. Draft legislation from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee would require employers to cover their employees or pay a penalty, and would guarantee coverage for all.
That parallels Obama's goals of lowering costs, ensuring choice, and providing coverage to some 50 million uninsured Americans.
Obama articulated those goals again in his radio address and in a videotaped message prepared for supporters at the community meetings.
"Any health care reform must be built around fundamental reforms that lower costs, improve quality and coverage and also protect consumer choice," Obama said in the radio address.
He said he supports a plan that would not add to the budget deficit, touching on a major issue that remains unresolved little more than a week away from the first scheduled votes in Senate committees.
Congress still hasn't figured out how to pay for a health overhaul that could cost $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion or even more over a decade. Obama has put forward some ideas, including cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Others he's suggested, including limiting some tax deductions rich people can take, have already gotten shot down on Capitol Hill.
And despite Obama's stated preference for a bipartisan solution, that's looking hard to achieve.
Although he didn't mention the issue in his radio address, Obama supports a new public insurance plan that would give all Americans the opportunity of getting government-sponsored care.
Private insurers are adamantly opposed, fearing they'd be driven out of business, as are most Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke in the Senate almost every day this past week against the concept and reiterated the point in an interview with radio reporters Friday.
"The key to a bipartisan bill is to not have a government plan in the bill, no matter what it's called," said McConnell, R-Ky. "When I say no government plan, I mean no government plan. Not something described some other way, not something that gets us to the same place by indirection. No government plan."
Obama barely mentioned such opposition in his address.
"When you bring together disparate groups with differing views, there will be lively debate. And that's a debate I welcome," the president said. "But what we can't welcome is reform that just invests more money in the status quo - reform that throws good money after bad habits."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)