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Obama Addresses the Nation, Congress on Healthcare Reform

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The following are Associated Press reports concerning President Barack Obama's speech Wednesday:

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says Americans aren't getting their money's worth when it comes to health care.

He says the nation spends much more on health care per person than any country in the world, without being any healthier.

In his speech to Congress Wednesday night, Obama said the high costs take a toll on big and small businesses alike. He says some employers are making their employees pay more for insurance, or dropping their coverage. And Obama says those who still have health insurance end up paying what he calls a "hidden and growing tax" for those who don't.

He adds that if the cost increases aren't slowed, Medicare and Medicaid will end up costing more than every other government program combined.

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In his appeal to Congress for health care reform, President Barack Obama isn't ignoring calls for changes in medical malpractice laws.

Obama told lawmakers and a national TV audience Wednesday night that he wants to look at a "range of ideas" to "put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine."

Obama says some in Congress believe medical malpractice reform can help bring down health care costs. He says he doesn't think it's a "silver bullet," but that he knows that doctors practicing "defensive medicine" can lead to unnecessary costs.

He says he's telling Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to move ahead with demonstration projects to see what changes would work best.

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President Barack Obama says the charge that Democrats want to set up death panels as part of health care overhaul is a "lie, plain and simple."

Obama, in a speech to Congress on Wednesday night, denounced radio and cable TV talk show hosts and prominent politicians who alleged that his administration planned to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to "kill off senior citizens." He called the allegations "cynical and irresponsible."

The charges were launched by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and debunked by nonpartisan organizations. They claimed that Democratic legislative proposals would set up the so-called death panels to determine who gets treated.

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President Barack Obama says individuals would be required to carry basic health insurance under his overhaul plan and businesses would have to offer workers health care or pay for part of insurance cost for their workers.

Obama said those who could not afford coverage would have a hardship waiver, and 95 percent of all small businesses would be exempt because of their size and narrow profit margin.

The president acknowledged there are "significant details to be ironed out," but that a broad consensus exists for a plan that covers everyone.

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President Barack Obama is including a proposal from his Republican rival last year as part of his health care reform plan.

In his Wednesday night speech to Congress, Obama said he wants to help Americans who can't get insurance because they have pre-existing medical conditions. He said the government should offer them low-cost coverage to protect them against financial ruin if they become seriously ill.

Obama said it was a "good idea" when Sen. John McCain proposed it during the presidential campaign. He adds that it's still a good idea, and "we should embrace it."

Amid applause from his colleagues, McCain smiled and gave Obama a thumbs-up.

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President Barack Obama says a not-for-profit public option needs to be available as part of any health care overhaul. He says it would keep insurance companies honest.

Obama told Congress Wednesday night that the public option would be part of an insurance exchange for last-resort coverage. Obama said the Congressional Budget Office estimates that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up for the option.

Obama said the public option would not be subsidized by taxpayers, but would be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.

The president said public option would pressure private insurers to keep policies affordable and treat customers better, much like public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students.

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President Barack Obama on Wednesday night promised to protect Medicare and reassured the elderly that Medicare funds would not be used to pay for a health care overhaul.

The president said the plan would eliminate billions of dollars in waste and fraud and what he called the "unwarranted subsidies" that go to insurance companies. In his words, these companies "do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care."

Under the president's plan it would be the job of an independent commission of doctors and medical experts to identify more waste in the coming years.

Obama said Medicare is a sacred trust that must be passed on to future generations.

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The nastiness of August reached from the nation's town halls into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as President Barack Obama tried to move his health care plan forward.

South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" after Obama had talked about illegal immigrants.

It wasn't the only interruption during Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives. Earlier, Republicans laughed when Obama acknowledged that there are still significant details to be worked out before a health overhaul can be passed.

Wilson's outburst caused Obama to pause briefly before he went on with his speech. Overhead in the visitors' gallery, first Lady Michelle Obama shook her head from side to side.

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President Barack Obama says an option to private insurance should be part of any health care overhaul. He says it would keep insurance companies honest.

Obama told Congress Wednesday night that the government-run option would be part of an insurance exchange for last-resort coverage. Obama said the Congressional Budget Office estimates that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up for the option.

Obama said the public option would not be subsidized by taxpayers, but would be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.

He said the public option is a way to ensure affordable health care through competition, but he's open to other ideas.

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Sen. Edward Kennedy expressed confidence that a health care overhaul would pass this year in a letter delivered posthumously to President Barack Obama.

In his speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, Obama said Kennedy's letter was among many he had received from "Americans counting on us to succeed."

The letter was written in May, shortly after Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, to be delivered upon his death. Kennedy died Aug. 25.

The president said Kennedy wrote that health care is decisive "for our future prosperity" and above all was "a moral issue."

The senator's widow, Vicki, listened to the speech in the visitors' gallery of the House with first lady Michelle Obama.


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