Obama steps up push for healthcare reform this year
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama stepped up his push for healthcare reform in the face of resistance on Capitol Hill, telling state governors on Wednesday "we need to get it done this year".
Obama, in a television interview aired early in the day and again later after meeting a group of state governors, insisted he was convinced the government could overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system this year.
"Yes, absolutely," Obama said on ABC's "Good Morning America," "We're going to get it done."
Obama, who has invested substantial political capital in the healthcare reform issue, was to hold a televised town hall-style question-and-answer session at the White House Wednesday evening. The event was to be taped at 8 p.m. EDT and aired on ABC News later in the evening.
The United States spends some $2.5 trillion annually on healthcare, or about 16 percent of its gross domestic product, but trails many developed countries on important measures of health. Some 47 million Americans are uninsured and have little access to the healthcare system.
Obama's campaign-style push for his reform plan comes amid strains among the diverse interest groups, from doctors to insurance plans, that have so far bonded together to seek a healthcare overhaul.
Insurers and doctors have expressed concern about Obama's push for a public insurance option to compete with private insurers, while others have objected to the cost of the trillion-dollar program and a proposal to pay for it in part by raising taxes on some employer-paid insurance benefits.
"Obama says public option, he means government-run health care," Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement. "Without question, the government takeover of healthcare will diminish individual freedom and quality in our health care system."
WAIT AND SEE ON TAX HIKES
In an interview with ABC News, Obama declined to say if he would sign a bill that taxes healthcare benefits to pay for healthcare reforms.
"I'm going to wait and see what ideas they come up with. I suspect that when they start seeing what the options are, they might end up concluding that the options we're presenting are the best ones," he said.
Obama said he would prefer to reduce tax deductions for the wealthiest to pay for the overhaul.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee met behind closed doors to discuss the cost of the bill and possible compromises needed to gain some Republican support.
Committee Chairman Max Baucus said it was "long road" to reaching agreement because of the complexities of the sweeping legislation. Panel members are trying to bring 10-year cost estimates down to less than $1 trillion from a $1.6 trillion early estimate for the package.
Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, who is a member of the Finance panel and also chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the package total now stood at about $1.2 trillion.
The cost savings were mostly achieved through reducing proposed subsidies for people who would purchase their insurance through a proposed new insurance exchange, a kind of clearinghouse where people would compare policies and costs.
The five governors who met with Obama were part of a group of nine governors who hosted regional forums on healthcare reform earlier this year.
"We want comprehensive healthcare reform and we want it this year. We want universal healthcare as much as possible," Washington state Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire said after meeting on Wednesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The goals of both Democrats and Republicans "should be the same: to make healthcare better in America. How we get there will be the subject of our discussion," said South Dakota Republican Governor Mike Rounds.
(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer, Richard Cowan and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Eric Walsh)
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this