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Page last updated at 20:37 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Obama continues healthcare push with attack on insurers

Barack Obama: "It's time to give you, the American people more control over your own health insurance"

US President Barack Obama has criticised insurance firms for denying coverage to some and raising rates for their remaining customers.

The attack comes as he engages in a last push to have Congress adopt his proposals to reform America's mostly-private healthcare system.

Healthcare has been a priority for Mr Obama but the legislation has been blocked by the Republican minority.

More than 40 million Americans lack health insurance.

Mr Obama said insurers calculated that it was more profitable to drop sick customers and raise rates for the remaining ones.

"Every year, they drop more people's coverage when they're sick and need it most. Every year, they raise premiums higher and higher," he said to an audience at Arcadia University in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

MARDELL'S AMERICA
Mark Mardell
The speech and the others that will follow it are intended to create a sort of moral momentum to mow down the political roadblocks

"When is the right time for health insurance reform? I think it is right now."

The White House wants Congress to pass the president's proposals before he leaves on an Asia trip on 18 March and before the Congressional Easter recess at the end of the month.

He repeated his call for Congress to vote by a simple majority on the latest version of his $950bn (£621bn) plan to cover uninsured Americans and lower premiums.

He said the proposed reforms had incorporated the best ideas from the Democrats and the Republicans.

Both chambers of Congress have passed healthcare bills, but they now need to pass a unified version of the legislation for the president to sign it into law.

OBAMA'S COMPROMISES
Tax revenues: Medicare tax on high earners rises to 2.9% from 2.35%
Affordability: Adoption of provisions from both House and Senate bills to help low- and moderate-income families
Pre-existing conditions: Insurers would be barred from excluding such people from 2014
Regulation: Young adults up to age of 26 can stay on parent's plan
Medical malpractice: Republican proposal to give grants to states to resolve disputes and reduce lawsuits

The Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives but no longer have the 60-seat majority required to defeat blocking tactics by Republicans.

Mr Obama wants the House to pass the Senate version of the bill plus some changes to issues that have concerned House Democrats.

It is unclear if the proposals have the support of enough House Democrats to succeed in a mid-term election year in which healthcare is a controversial issue.

Republicans say the president's proposals would lead to higher taxes and massive government involvement in healthcare.

Mr Obama said his plan would reform insurance so sick people could not be dropped by insurers and that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered; insurance would be affordable; and growing healthcare costs would be kept in check.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
BusinessWeek Obama Criticizes Insurers in Bid to Sell Health Plan (Update2) - 1 hr ago
San Francisco Chronicle Obama hits road to make case for health reform - 3 hrs ago
Reuters UK TAKE-A-LOOK-U.S. healthcare reform - 16 hrs ago
Japan Today Obama pitches health plan in spirited appearance - 21 hrs ago
Canada.com Obama slams private health insurance companies - 22 hrs ago


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