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Obama cites Republican support for health care

PRESIDENT Barack Obama pointed yesterday to support from some prominent Republicans for overhauling the US health care system, despite fierce partisan opposition in Congress.

Obama has made the issue his top domestic priority, staking his presidency on pushing through the most sweeping makeover of the US health care system in a half-century.

While Republicans in Congress have been remained essentially unanimous in their opposition to his proposals, a number of governors and former lawmakers have recently come out in favor of overhauling health care, even though they differ on some specifics.

"The historic movement to bring real, meaningful health insurance reform to the American people gathered momentum this week as we approach the final days of this debate," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet video address, calling it an "unprecedented consensus.."

The consensus "includes everyone from doctors and nurses to hospitals and drug manufacturers," Obama said, also noting that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Bill Frist, all Republicans, and former Health and Human Service Secretaries Louis Sullivan and Tommy Thompson, who both served in Republican administrations, have called for a health care to overhauled.

"These distinguished leaders understand that health insurance reform isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but an American issue that demands a solution," Obama said.

The United States is the only developed nation that does not have a comprehensive national health care plan, leaving nearly 50 million people without health insurance. Most Americans rely on private insurance offered by their employers, and others buy their own policies or go without, paying steep medical bills out of pocket. The government covers the indigent and the elderly.

Democrats have made significant strides since early September, when they returned to Washington after an August spent absorbing noisy conservative attacks over health care.

Obama said he recognized the issue remains divisive among members of Congress.

"There are some in Washington today who seem determined to play the same old partisan politics, working to score political points, even if it means burdening this country with an unsustainable status quo," Obama said. That "status quo" includes rising health care costs, diminishing coverage and arbitrary decisions by big insurance companies, he said.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell denied a consensus was emerging.

"I've spoken about reform 44 times on the Senate floor on the need for health care reform," McConnell said. "But higher premiums, higher taxes, and more government? That's not reform."

In the Republican Party's weekly radio address, Sen. George LeMieux of Florida acknowledged deep problems with the health care system, but cautioned "the solution should not be worse than the problem we are trying to solve."

"We in the Congress have a duty to tackle this problem, but the solution we settle upon should not be rushed," LeMieux said.

Democrats maintain Republicans are simply trying to delay action.


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