Obama hits at healthcare critics in address

President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address to refute the claims of his most strident critics who assert that healthcare reform legislation will lead to a government takeover of healthcare and euthanasia.

“That’s simply not true,” declared Obama. “The defenders of the status quo and political point-scorers in Washington are growing fiercer in their opposition."

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Obama sought to challenge his detractors as part of a final push to pass “real health insurance reform.” Neither the House nor the Senate drafted final floor versions of the health bill before they broke for August recess.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce committee did pass their healthcare reform bill, overcoming a stalemate that lasted weeks. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) set a Sept. 15 deadline for his body to draft a bipartisan proposal to fund the legislation.

The delay of the bill past Obama’s original recess deadline seems to have emboldened his critics. House members who endorsed the existing healthcare reform proposals have faced hostile crowds at local town hall meetings last week with some even turning violent.

Obama used his address to silence his “misleading” naysayers and re-take control of the healthcare reform message.

“This isn’t about putting government in charge of your health insurance; it’s about putting you in charge of your health insurance,” Obama said, stressing that Americans could keep their insurance coverage and doctors under his plan.

Obama covered key improvements to healthcare included in his plan, such as providing insurance to 46 million Americans who have none and placing new requirements on existing insurance plans to cover more routine checkups and patients who have pre-existing conditions.

In an attempt to erase the image of raucous healthcare protests, Obama painted a picture of “unprecedented level of agreement” between Congress, insurance companies, drug makers, advocacy groups, and professional associations.

Obama specifically mentioned the AARP, the American Medical Association, and the American Nurses Association as crucial backers of his health reform plan.

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The president also linked the success of his healthcare plan to job creation and overall economic recovery. Obama has consistently driven home this message when speaking about his economic agenda.

“We must lay a new foundation for future growth and prosperity, and a key pillar of a new foundation is health insurance reform – reform that we are now closer to achieving than ever before,” Obama said.

Obama also used the better-than-expected jobs report as indication that momentum is on his side. He said slowed job losses are “a sign that we’ve begun to put the brakes on this recession and that the worst may be behind us.”

The U.S. Labor Department reported yesterday that 247,000 Americans lost their jobs compared to 443,000 in June. Economists had predicted that 320,000 would become unemployed in July. The unemployment rate dipped to 9.4 percent in July from 9.5 percent in June.

The president concluded his address by framing the health insurance debate as a choice between two sides: those who defend the failing “status quo” and people who want reforms that will help individuals and families acquire better quality health insurance.

“There are those who are focused on the so-called politics of healthcare; who are trying to exploit differences or concerns for political gain. That’s to be expected. That’s Washington. But let’s never forget that this isn’t about politics. This is about people’s lives,” he said.