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Obama vows action on healthcare

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Obama promises 'clarity' on US healthcare

President Barack Obama has said he intends "to get something done this year" on healthcare reform.

In an interview for ABC News ahead of his key speech to Congress, he said he was open to new ideas and would not be "rigid or ideological".

Mr Obama said the speech would offer "a lot of clarity about what I think is the best way to move forward".

Members of Congress are preparing to fight over the details of the reforms, as they return after the summer recess.

The president is expected to speak about the politically divisive option of having a publicly run insurance scheme.

We're not being rigid and ideological about this thing, but we do intend to get something done this year
Barack Obama

When asked if Americans will find out in his speech whether or not he is willing to sign a healthcare reform bill without a public scheme, he said:

"Well, I think the country is going to know exactly what I think will solve our healthcare crisis."

Mr Obama said the speech will be directed at the American people, as well as members of Congress.

HEALTHCARE IN THE US
46 million uninsured, 25 million under-insured
Healthcare costs represent 16% of GDP, almost twice OECD average
Reform plans would require all Americans to get insurance
Some propose public insurance option to compete with private insurers

"The intent of the speech is to make sure that the American people are clear exactly what it is that we are proposing," Mr Obama said.

"And B, to make sure that Democrats and Republicans understand that I'm open to new ideas, that we're not being rigid and ideological about this thing, but we do intend to get something done this year."

In the Senate, Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus has drawn up a new compromise proposal.

And in the House of Representatives, a prominent Democrat has signalled he will not support any bill that includes a publicly run insurance scheme.

Passing a healthcare bill is Mr Obama's top political priority for 2009.

Earlier in the year he called on both chambers of Congress to pass healthcare bills before the summer recess, so that they could spend the autumn reconciling their different versions.

But neither house met Mr Obama's deadline, amid disagreements over the specifics of healthcare reform.

Bipartisan

In the Senate, the Health Committee approved a plan that would have forced all Americans to get health insurance, while providing subsidies to the less well-off.

It would also have given Americans without employer-provided coverage the chance to sign up for a new publicly-run insurance scheme, the so-called "public option".

But the other senate committee with responsibility for health legislation - Mr Baucus's Finance Committee - was unable to agree on a bill.

Mr Baucus was keen to win support from Republicans as well as Democrats for a bill, but the Republicans on the committee, and some moderate Democrats, objected to the proposals to create a "public option".

Now, Mr Baucus has drawn up a new "framework for consideration", without a public option, which he hopes will attract bipartisan support.

In the House of Representatives, Democratic leaders made an informal agreement with moderate Democrats - the so-called "Blue-Dog Democrats" - before the summer recess on a healthcare bill that included a public option.

But one of the architects of the deal, "Blue Dog" Mike Ross, announced on Tuesday that he could no longer support a bill that contained a public option because his constituents appeared to oppose this overwhelmingly.

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