Politics & Elections
Obama calls for honest health care debate
WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is challenging critics of his push to overhaul the health care system to stop making "phony claims" about proposals now the subject of intense coast-to-coast debate.
"This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I'm glad that so many are engaged," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. "But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are."
"So today, I want to spend a few minutes debunking some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the Internet, on cable TV and repeated at some town halls across this country," the president said.
Obama said the overhaul would not cover illegal immigrants nor use taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, and he does not intend a government takeover of health care - as critics have claimed at contentious town hall-style meetings with members of Congress.
He also took a swipe at "death panels," an idea former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin introduced on her Facebook page.
"As every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called death panels - an offensive notion to me and to the American people," Obama said. "These are phony claims meant to divide us."
Obama angered his liberal base this past week after seeming to suggest he would be OK with a plan that didn't have a government-run health insurance option.
"This is one idea among many to provide more competition and choice, especially in the many places around the country where just one insurer thoroughly dominates the marketplace," Obama said. "Let me repeat: It would be just an option; those who prefer their private insurer would be under no obligation to shift to a public plan."
Obama said: "this one aspect of the health care debate shouldnt overshadow the other important steps we can and must take to reduce the increasing burdens families and businesses face."
Republicans, in their weekly address, accused Obama of being the one misrepresenting his proposal.
"As opposition to the Democrats' government-run health plan is mounting, the president has said he'd like to stamp out some of the disinformation floating around out there," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. "The problem is the president, himself, plays fast and loose with the facts."
Price said the whole idea should be scrapped and lawmakers should start anew with a plan that ensures sure patients - not Washington or insurance providers - are the top priority.
"We all know that when the government is setting the rules and is backed by tax dollars, it will destroy, not compete with, the private sector," said Price, a doctor. "The reality is, whether or not you get to keep your plan, or your doctor, is very much in question under the president's proposal."
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