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Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Obama's Health Plan: The Debate Goes On

Experts React to the President's Speech on Health Reform

The Public Option continued...

But D'Angelo says if the president truly wanted to be bipartisan, he would start over on a new health reform bill. "He didn't find the middle ground.''

Obama was perhaps at his most forceful when he singled out rumors that health reform would lead to government encouraging euthanasia -- "that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.''

That rebuke was ''probably something he needed to say,'' Hobson says.

Obama also denied that reform would give insurance to illegal immigrants -- a statement that was greeted by a shout of ''you lie'' from Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

The president later said he would continue to seek common ground. "If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.''

But not to people who misrepresent his plan, he added.

It's encouraging that Obama is open to any ideas, D'Angelo says, but he notes that Republicans already had introduced alternative bills. "I don't think he made any progress. I don't think he'll get bipartisan support.''

Though reform will achieve savings in Medicare, Obama also said he would protect the program for people 65 and older and the disabled. The aim was to shore up support from a wavering audience, seniors, who have shown increasing worry over health reform. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found seniors are more likely to see Medicare as worse off than better off under health care reform (37% to 20%).

Rising Health Care Costs

The speech acknowledged the enormous problem of rising health care costs. "We will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined,'' Obama said. "Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close."

But the address didn't lay out many details on how it would restrain those costs, which have risen much faster than inflation.

There wasn't much, if anything, surprising in Obama's speech, experts say. Even the malpractice proposal he's hinted at before, Brown says.

"What was new was his very passionate commitment to getting it done,'' Brown says. "What he cannot do is back off and let others lead this debate. The test will come in the days ahead.''

This is still the beginning of the debate on health reform, adds D'Angelo.

If you have questions or comments about speech or health care reform in general, please visit the WebMD Health Reform board.

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