- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009

President Obama urged doctors to take the lead in promoting his health care program as the contentious debate enters a critical new phase, with differing versions of reform legislation apparently heading to the full House and Senate for lengthy debate and votes.

Mr. Obama invited 150 doctors to the White House Rose Garden Monday, urging them to spread the word that the changes he is proposing are crucial to improving patient care and easing the burdens associated with insurance company red tape. Clad in white lab coats, the doctors several times interrupted the president’s remarks with applause.

“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 — the doctors and nurses of America,” Mr. Obama said.

“These men and women here would not be supporting health insurance reform if they really believed that it would lead to government bureaucrats making decisions that are best left to doctors,” he said. “They wouldn’t be here today if they believed that reform in any way would damage the very critical and sacred doctor-patient relationship.”

The White House did not provide the doctors with any explicit instructions for building support. But among the doctors present were representatives from several major medical organizations that have been vocal on the issue on Capitol Hill. They included leaders of the American Medical Association, the National Medical Association, the Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the Doctors for America, the American College of Pediatrics and the American College of Cardiology.

With the Senate Finance Committee having largely completed its work on the legislation, the health care debate faces critical fights on the House and Senate floor. Key Senate Democrats and the White House will now begin to sort through the differences between the Senate Finance Committee bill and a more liberal one passed by the Senate’s health committee before sending a clean version to the Senate floor.

As the debate stretches into mid-October, the White House is hoping doctors will emerge as a powerful outside voice in support of the president’s plan.

The president’s political arm, Organizing for America (OFA), is helping with the effort. Shortly after Mr. Obama finished speaking, the organization sent out an e-mail to reporters highlighting events that doctors had been hosting around the country.

“These events are part of OFAs continued efforts to highlight the views of doctors and other medical professionals in the debate for reforming our nations health insurance system this year,” said the e-mail from the group, which is run by the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Obama thanked those gathered under a brilliant blue sky Monday “for agreeing to fan out across the country and make the case about why this reform effort is so desperately needed.” He added, “You are the people who know this system best. You are the experts. Nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do.”

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