WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama used economic arguments on Wednesday to pitch healthcare reform to middle-class Americans but offered few new ideas to galvanize action from either skittish Democrats or a divided Congress.
* Obama, whose approval ratings have slipped in polls, appealed to middle-class Americans who “may be wondering, ‘What’s in this for me? How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?”
He used the phrase “middle class” more than a half dozen times, pledging to ensure “that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.”
But the broad message was familiar: people will be able to keep the health insurance they have, they can keep the doctors they have and insurance companies won’t be able to drop people’s coverage if they become ill.
Asked directly what Americans may have to give up to get better healthcare, Obama made it sound easy.
“They’re going to have to give up paying for things that don’t make them healthier,” he said, although he also said he supported taxing the wealthiest to meet some of the bills.
* Obama covered little that is likely to encourage Congress or his divided Democratic party to step up the pace for reform, which some fiscal conservatives argue is already being rushed.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement he looked forward to “being able to move a healthcare proposal this year on a truly bipartisan basis.”
Obama laid out two conditions for a reform bill he could sign — one that does not add to the deficit and one that slows the growth of healthcare costs.
But McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart, citing recent estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, said the House of Representatives bill praised by Obama met neither criteria.
*Obama sought to make the case for speed, saying failure to act would have real consequences for many Americans.
“I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs. And they ask me, “Can you help?” Obama said. “So that’s part of my rush.”