* Obama says summit must not become 'political theater'
* Seeks to regain control of healthcare debate
* Criticizes insurers' huge profits
(updates with proposals to come out Monday)
By Ross Colvin and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 The White House will unveil
its latest healthcare reform proposals on Monday ahead of a
bipartisan summit that President Barack Obama hopes will
advance the stalled legislation, a senior administration
official said on Saturday.
Obama urged Democrats and Republicans on Saturday to find
common ground at a summit he will host on Thursday to help
rejuvenate efforts to overhaul the $2.5 trillion U.S.
healthcare system, one of his top domestic policy priorities.
The administration official said the White House would
publish its updated proposals on Monday but declined to outline
The plan is expected to combine features of two Democratic
bills passed by the Senate and House of Representatives,
according to congressional aides and healthcare advocates.
They are expected to reflect common ground negotiated over
the past several weeks by Democratic leaders in Congress.
Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address to take
aim at health insurance companies, saying the "status quo is
good for the insurance industry and bad for America."
Democrats are struggling to push healthcare legislation
over the finish line in the face of sagging public support and
solid Republican opposition bolstered by recent election
victories in Massachusetts, Virginia and New Jersey.
"As bad as things are today, they'll only get worse if we
fail to act. We'll see exploding premiums and out-of-pocket
costs burn through more and more family budgets," Obama said.
Since the start of the year, Obama has sought to regain
control of the healthcare debate, revive flagging enthusiasm
for the overhaul among some Democratic lawmakers, and inject
new momentum into the process.
Democrats have majorities in the Senate and House but are
expected to lose seats to the Republicans in the mid-term
congressional elections in November. The passage of a
healthcare bill could boost Democrats' election hopes.
Obama said he had invited members of the Democratic and
Republican parties to the healthcare summit to share ideas on
how to bring down healthcare costs, which he has repeatedly
warned threaten to cripple the U.S. economy.
"I hope they come in a spirit of good faith. I don't want
to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side
simply reciting talking points and trying to score political
points," he said.
"Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common
ground in an effort to solve a problem that's been with us for
Republicans, who have accused Obama of trying to push
through a government take-over of the healthcare system, have
said they will attend but fear the White House is setting a
trap, possibly preparing to blame them if the healthcare effort
"Nearly one year ago, the president moderated a healthcare
summit that kicked off a national debate that has led us to
where we are today: a partisan bill devoid of support from the
American people and a diminished faith in this government's
capacity to listen. Let's not make the same mistake twice,"
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.
The administration, congressional Democrats and advocacy
groups have also been turning up the rhetorical heat on health
insurers that in recent weeks announced huge premium increases
against the backdrop of sizable profits and growing numbers of
Obama echoed the criticism, saying the five largest
insurers had made record profits of more than $12 billion even
as millions of Americans lost their coverage.
(additional reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Paul