ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Obama states his case for health-care reform

WASHINGTON -- Declaring that the "time for bickering is over," President Obama sought to revive the prospects for the passage of far-reaching health-care reform by seizing ownership Wednesday night of an initiative he has largely left in lawmaker...

WASHINGTON -- Declaring that the "time for bickering is over," President Obama sought to revive the prospects for the passage of far-reaching health-care reform by seizing ownership Wednesday night of an initiative he has largely left in lawmakers' hands.

In a televised address to a joint session of Congress, Obama prodded them to quickly enact comprehensive legislation that would impose strict new insurance protections, expand government health programs for the working poor and begin pilot projects aimed at reducing medical malpractice lawsuits.

"The time for games has passed," the president said of his signature domestic policy issue. "Now is the season for action."

Casting himself squarely in the political center with direct appeals to the middle class, Obama laid out his case for a 10-year, $900 billion plan that would build on the current employer-based health system with new requirements on individuals and businesses to contribute to the costs of coverage. And on the controversial issue of a new government-run insurance option, he maintained his flexibility.

"If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen," he said. "My door is always open."

ADVERTISEMENT

After being urged by allies in recent weeks to be more assertive, Obama condemned what he called the "partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government."

Public support for comprehensive health-care reform has dwindled over the past month as vocal opponents dominated the headlines with talk of socialized medicine and accusations that Obama was embarking on a "risky experiment" with the nation's medical care.

"Out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned," he said.

"I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it," he said. "I will not 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 the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now."

While repeating his belief that a public option provides needed competition for private companies, he pleaded with his "progressive friends" to remain open to other ideas that could accomplish the same goals.

But he pledged: "I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice."

At one point Obama embraced an idea put forth by his presidential rival, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Before Obama stepped to the podium, Republicans declared themselves open to "common-sense reforms" but blasted what they expected to hear.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It's time to start over on a common-sense, bipartisan plan focused on lowering the cost of health care while improving quality," Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., said in the Republican response. "Replacing your family's current health care with government-run health care is not the answer. In fact, it'll make health care much more expensive."

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.