Obama pitches health care plan in front of doctors

Oct 05, 2009 By CHARLES BABINGTON , Associated Press Writer
Doctors, wearing lab coats, who were audience members, take photos in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2009, prior to President Barack Obama making remarks on health care reform. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP) -- On the cusp of a key legislative push, President Barack Obama on Monday filled the Rose Garden with doctors supportive of his health care overhaul, saying "nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do."

Obama's White House event gave him another chance to frame the debate on his terms as his top domestic priority enters its most critical phase with legislation moving toward floor debates in the Senate and the House.

The Senate Finance Committee is expected to clear its long-debated, intensely scrutinized bill this week. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said a vote originally expected by Tuesday has been pushed back, because the Congressional Budget Office is still crunching cost and coverage numbers.

The latest version of the Finance bill will cover fewer people, after senators last week softened penalties for not carrying health insurance. Stabenow said she expects it will cover 92 percent or 93 percent of Americans, down from about 95 percent in earlier versions. The penalties were reduced because there's not enough money in the $900-billion, 10-year bill to provide subsidies for all middle-class households.

White House budget director Peter Orszag acknowledged the tension between keeping down costs and the goal of providing coverage for all.

"There's no doubt there's a trade-off," he told reporters and editors from The Associated Press in an interview Monday.

After Finance finishes its work, Senate Democratic leaders will meld it with a more liberal-leaning version passed by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The House also must combine differing versions of its own bills before opening floor debate.

Such details - and the excruciating choices they can involve - were absent from Obama's photo opportunity with physicians.

For a visual plug from some medical pros, the White House arranged for the president to have some 150 doctors representing all 50 states arrayed in the sunsplashed lawn area just outside the West Wing. To make sure no one watching at home or catching news footage later would miss the point, the physicians wore their white medical coats for the cameras.

"When you cut through all the noise and all the distractions that are out there, I think what's most telling is that some of the people who are most supportive of reform are the very medical professionals who know the health care system best," said Obama, flanked by four doctors on stage for good measure.

But Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., an orthopedic surgeon for 25 years, said many doctors, nurses and patients strongly oppose Obama's proposals.

They are greatly alarmed at proposed cuts in Medicare, which is the main source of health care for many people in Wyoming and elsewhere, Barrasso said in an interview Monday. He said doctors and hospitals also want provisions to protect them against "abusive lawsuits" by people claiming malpractice.

Obama broke no ground in his comments. He outlined the tenets of his health reform plan: expanded and affordable health coverage options for tens of millions of people, strengthened protections for those who already have insurance, and more time for health professionals to help patients with preventative and healing care.

Obama said the country has heard all sides of the debate over the last few months and the time to act is now.

"I want to thank every single doctor who is here," Obama said. "And I especially want to thank you for agreeing to fan out across the country and make the case about why this reform effort is so desperately needed. You are the people who know this system best. You are the experts."

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Effectiveness of campaigns addressing violence against women and girls examined

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

White House frames health care as economic problem

Jun 02, 2009

(AP) -- A Senate chairman who will have a major role in writing health care legislation said Tuesday he hopes to convince President Barack Obama that taxing some employer-provided benefits will help control ...

Obama, Dems press unified message on health care

May 13, 2009

(AP) -- The White House scrambled Wednesday to get Democrats behind a unified message of affordability and choice on health legislation amid concerns that Republicans could scare the public with images of ...

Obama lauds industry offer to cut health costs

May 11, 2009

(AP) -- President Barack Obama on Monday portrayed the health care industry's promise to cut $2 trillion in costs over 10 years as "a watershed event" in the long search for a solution to the millions of ...

Obama: Statistics show need for overhauling health

Sep 10, 2009

(AP) -- Trumpeting nurses' support for a health care overhaul while lamenting a worsening toll of uninsured, President Barack Obama kept up the pressure Thursday for congressional action.

Obama refuses to rule out surtax for health care

Jul 21, 2009

(AP) -- President Barack Obama is defending his relentless campaign for a health care bill before Congress's August recess, saying "the default in Washington is inaction and inertia." The Republican Party chairman assailed ...

Recommended for you

AMA: Hospital staff should consider impact of CMS rule

9 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Hospital medical staff members need to consider the impact of a final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that revised the conditions of participation for hospitals ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.