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Obama says health care overhaul needs more work

UNITED States President Barack Obama said yesterday that the health care overhaul plan working its way through the United States Congress needs more work amid signs that his top policy initiative, already rejected by Republicans, was running into deeper trouble with his own Democrats.

Obama was to meet a group of Democratic lawmakers to discuss how to pay for the nearly US$1 trillion reforms after a key congressional panel canceled yesterday's votes on its version of the legislation while talks continued with a group of fiscally conservative Democrats.

Asked whether he would sign any of the bills now being considered in Congress, Obama told NBC's "Today" show: "Right now, they're not where they need to be."

But Obama said he was confident the final legislation would drive down spiraling health care costs over time.

While he has been pushing Congress to land plans to overhaul the US$2.5 trillion health care industry on his desk by October, recently he has been saying he wants it by the end of the year, which would still lock in changes before lawmakers focus on the 2010 mid-term elections.

The plan working its way through Congress seeks to set up a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers, expand coverage for the 46 million uninsured, and hold down soaring health care costs.

The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee met into the early hours on the plan, but its chairman, Henry Waxman, canceled yesterday's session to go to the White House with the panel's Democrats.

An aide to one of the fiscally conservative Democrats, known as "Blue Dogs," said the group might ask Obama to slow down the health care push. "The landscape will change after that meeting," the aide said. "Blue Dogs are very concerned about the financial implications of bill. There's not enough reform made or cost-cutting," one Blue Dog source said.

The Blue Dogs account for 51 of the 256 Democrats in the House and for seven members of the committee - enough to defeat legislation if they vote with Republicans.


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