- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

President Obama on Wednesday praised the Democrat-controlled Congress for its success in submitting legislation on health-care reform that fulfills his first-year goal of cutting medical costs and providing coverage to 46 millions uninsured Americans.

“We cannot kick the can down the road any further,” said Mr. Obama, who was joined at the Rose Garden news conference by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd and members of the American Nurses Association. “Those who would oppose our efforts should take a hard look at just what it is theyre defending. Over the last decade, health-insurance premiums have risen three times faster than wages. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are skyrocketing.”

This morning, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed a $600 billion health-care reform bill.

On Tuesday, House Democrats released a $1.5 trillion bill that requires all Americans to have coverage. Like the Senate bill, it includes a public-insurance program that would compete with private insurers.

Congressional lawmakers are trying to hold full floor votes on the health-care legislation before the August recess. Mr. Obama want to sign a bill soon after Congress returns from the recess.

The Senate’s Affordable Health Choices Act passed 13-10, along party lines, and would expand coverage for most Americans by requiring them to get insurance and require employers to contribute to the cost.

“Here’s what else reform will mean for you: youll save money,” Mr. Obama said. “If you lose your job, change your job, or start a new business, you’ll still be able to find quality health insurance you can afford. If you have a preexisting medical condition, no insurance company will be able to deny you coverage.”

Republicans said they were excluded from working on the bill, which fails to meet Mr. Obama’s goals.

“There are ways we can cover all Americans,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican. “It’s just regrettable we were not allowed to be at the table.”

Democrats say the plan was a bipartisan effort that included roughly 50 hours of debate and more than 160 Republican amendments.

Mr. Obama said the bill was pass as a result of the “unyielding passion and inspiration” of Mr. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

He also said both proposals will “take what’s best about our system today and make it the basis of our system tomorrow — reducing costs, raising quality and ensuring fair treatment of consumers by the insurance industry.”

Mr. Obama began the press conference by acknowledging his “long-standing bias” toward nurses.

“When Sasha, our younger daughter, contracted a dangerous case of meningitis when she was just 3 months old, we were terrified,” he recalled. “But it was the nurses who were there with us, explaining what was going on, telling us it would all be OK. “So I know how important nurses are, and the nation does too. Nurses arent in health care to get rich; theyre in it to care for us from the time they bring new life into this world to the moment they ease the pain of those who pass from it. If it werent for nurses, many Americans in under-served and rural areas would have no access to health care at all. Thats why its safe to say few understand why we have to pass reform as intimately as our nations nurses.”

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