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Obama Puts Forward Last-Ditch Health Care Plan

Obama Puts Forward Last-Ditch Health Care Plan

Associated Press/AP Online

February 22, 2010

WASHINGTON – Making a last-ditch effort to save his health care overhaul, President Barack Obama on Monday put forward a nearly $1 trillion, 10-year compromise that would allow the government to deny or roll back egregious insurance premium increases that infuriate consumers. The White House immediately demanded an up-or-down vote in Congress on the plan, or something close to it. But it’s highly uncertain that such sweeping legislation can pass. Republicans are virtually unanimous in opposing it, and some Democrats who previously supported a health care remake are having second thoughts in an election year. After a year in pursuit, Obama may have to settle for a modest fallback version of what once was his top domestic priority.

Release of the plan on the White House Web site comes just four days before Obama’s one-of-a-kind, televised health care summit with Democrats and Republicans. The White House said the plan would provide coverage to more than 31 million Americans now uninsured without adding to the federal deficit.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats cautiously welcomed the plan, while Republicans gave a thumbs down.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement she looks forward to reviewing the plan and discussing it at the summit. “We must pass comprehensive, affordable health insurance reform, and I am hopeful that Thursday’s meeting will help us achieve this goal,” she said, reaffirming her commitment.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio dismissed the proposal, saying, “the president has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of health care based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected.”

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The plan is Obama’s most detailed proposal since he took up the health care overhaul effort a year ago. At the time, he sought to avoid the problems former President Bill Clinton encountered when he issued Congress a detailed prescription in the 1990s. Now Obama is being criticized for having been too deferential to lawmakers.

White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said the plan is an “opening bid” going into Thursday’s summit. It would cover more than 31 million Americans now uninsured – but also includes a new tax on investment income that Republicans object to.

“The president is coming into the meeting with an open mind,” said Pfeiffer. “If the Republicans do, too, our hope is that we can find some areas of agreement. If the Republicans bring good ideas to the table we will find ways — look for ways to incorporate those into our proposals.”

Weeks ago, the president and congressional Democrats were on the verge of an historic step – a long-sought remake of the nation’s health care system after a half-century of unsuccessful attempts by scores of politicians. Then Republican Scott Brown stunned Washington with an upset win in the Massachusetts Senate race, denying Democrats their 60-seat majority and reversing any political momentum.


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