The yearlong fight over health care reached a fever pitch Monday as President Obama took his call for change to the political swing state of Ohio, slamming insurance companies and repeating his call for a final congressional vote on his sweeping reform plan.
The president’s push came as the House of Representatives prepared for an expected vote this week on the roughly $875 billion bill passed by the Senate in December. Under the strategy adopted by congressional leaders, both chambers of Congress then would pass a series of changes designed in part to make the legislation more acceptable to House Democrats.
If enacted, the reform proposal would be the biggest expansion of federal health care guarantees since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid more than four decades ago. The plan is expected to extend insurance coverage to 30 million-plus Americans.
The Senate bill would reduce federal deficits by about $118 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
“We need health insurance reform right now,” the president said at a campaign-style rally outside Cleveland. And “this is like a patients’ bill of rights on steroids.”
In the end, the president said, “this debate is about far more than politics. … It comes down to what kind of country we want to be.”
Obama brought up the story of a self-employed Ohio woman named Natoma Canfield who, according to the president, was repeatedly hit with large premium increases after being diagnosed with cancer.
Canfield eventually was forced to drop her coverage. She was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
“When you hear people say ‘start over,’ I want you to think about Natoma,” Obama said. “When you hear people saying that this isn’t the ‘right time,’ you think about what she’s going through. … There but for the grace of God go any one of us.”
The president said the “status quo on health care is simply unsustainable. We cannot have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people.”
Obama’s trip to Ohio was the latest in a series of speeches designed to bolster sagging public support for his health care proposal. The president delivered similar remarks in Pennsylvania and Missouri last week. On Friday, he agreed to delay an upcoming trip to Indonesia and Australia to help make a final pitch to wavering rank-and-file Democrats.
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