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Obama Seizes on Momentum From Wednesday’s Health Care Speech

Building on momentum from Wednesday's address to Congress, President Obama pressed ahead with health care agenda. Kwame Holman reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    President Obama pressed ahead today for a new consensus on health care reform. He moved to build on last night's address to Congress, which drew reaction across the board, and it also drew one big apology.

    NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman has our lead story report.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The president picked up where he left off last night, renewing his call for urgent action on health care reform. He spoke first to a nurses' group at the White House.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We don't need more partisan distractions. If there are real concerns about any aspect of my plan, then let's address them. If there are real differences, let's resolve them. But we have talked this issue to death, year after year, decade after decade, and the time for talk is winding down. The time for bickering has passed.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    To bolster his case, the president cited new data on rising poverty in the recession. The Census Bureau reported the number of those without health insurance topped 46 million last year; that was up more than half a million, as people lost health coverage along with their jobs.

    The plan Mr. Obama outlined last night aimed to drive down those numbers at a cost of $900 billion over 10 years. Among other things, it would mandate that all Americans carry health insurance and pay for it, in part, by taxing insurance companies on the most expensive plans.

    The Obama plan also creates an insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses shop for coverage. And it bans the practice of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

    The president also touted a public option in the plan, but did not insist on it. In response, the head of the main insurance industry group, Karen Ignagni, said again the industry supports reform, but not the public option.

  • KAREN IGNAGNI, America’s Health Insurance Plans:

    I think one of the most important points about the government-run program is you have leading provider, hospital systems stepping up and saying, "We may go bankrupt under these proposals." So I don't think that's a direction that the country can build on if we're going to create more affordability, more health security.

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