Obama Presses Case for Health Care Reform
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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.
This week, President Barack Obama went before Congress and the nation to better explain his health care proposals. He said they would provide security and stability to people who have insurance, and make it possible to insure millions who do not.
Individuals would be required to have basic health insurance, the way most states require automobile insurance. Large businesses would have to either offer their workers health care or help cover the costs. Insurers could not deny coverage to people who already have a condition, or cancel coverage if people get sick.
Reaction to the speech suggested that it may have done more to unite the president's own Democrats than to gain Republican support. But the Democrats will need party unity if they try to pass reform legislation on their own.
Liberal Democrats support the proposal for a self-supporting government insurance plan to compete with private ones. The government already insures Americans who are retired, poor, disabled or military veterans. The president says offering this choice would keep insurance companies "honest" and lead to better prices and quality.
But insurance companies and conservatives in Congress say the so-called public option would mean unfair competition. Opponents also say it would lead to restrictions on care.
In his speech Wednesday night, President Obama said the idea is only one part of his plan and should not be used as an excuse.
BARACK OBAMA: "I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. [Applause] I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out. [Applause]"
He estimates the cost of the plan at around nine hundred billion dollars over ten years, but says it would not add to the federal deficit. Most of it, he says, could be paid for by reducing waste in the existing health care system.
The Census Bureau says more than forty-six million Americans, about fifteen and a half percent, did not have health insurance last year. On Thursday the president noted estimates that nearly six million more have joined the uninsured since the recession intensified last September.
Also Thursday, Mr. Obama said he accepted an apology from Representative Joe Wilson. The South Carolina Republican shouted "You lie!" during the speech to a rare joint session of Congress.
Three committees in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate were asked to develop bills. The House committees have approved versions that will need to be worked into a single bill.
One Senate committee has completed action. That leaves the Finance Committee, which is expected to consider a proposal next week. Three Democrats and three Republicans have been negotiating a bill for several months.
Vice President Joe Biden says he expects health care legislation to be completed by November.
President Obama notes that it was Theodore Roosevelt who first called for health care reform nearly a century ago. "I am not the first president to take up this cause," he said, "but I am determined to be the last."
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Mario Ritter.