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September 12, 2009

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Obama pitches health reform with warning for the insured

UNITED States President Barack Obama broadened his pitch for healthcare reform to Americans who have health insurance yesterday, reminding them they risk losing the coverage they have under the current system.

A Treasury Department report found about half of Americans under 65 - the age the government Medicare insurance coverage starts - would lose healthcare coverage at some point in the next 10 years, Obama said in a radio address.

"If you're under the age of 21 today, chances are more than half that you'll find yourself uninsured at some point in that time. And more than one-third of Americans will go without coverage for longer than one year," Obama said.

Many Americans are wary of the need for insurance reform because they have health insurance through their employers, and Obama has said repeatedly that his program would not force them to change their insurance or doctors.

But polls have shown many are wary of reform because they do not believe they would benefit from a government program to ensure that all citizens have affordable insurance coverage, and worry that it would boost the burgeoning US budget deficit and raise their taxes.

The insurance industry has also fiercely opposed plans for a government-run insurance program - the "public option" - that is part of Obama's plan.

Criticized by some for doing too little to sell his plan to the public even as his approval ratings slipped during the summer, Obama seems to be throwing his full weight behind his top domestic policy priority.

He sought to take control of a debate that has been bogged down in Congress amid a flood of criticism and disputes by outlining his vision for overhauling the US$2.5 trillion industry in a high-stakes address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

Obama followed up the speech by meeting with nurses on Thursday, and traveled to Minnesota yesterday for a rally on reform.

The plan would cost US$900 billion over 10 years, Obama said, but he has not provided specifics on how it would be financed.


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