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Obama sells health care plan to doctors

PRESIDENT Barack Obama has made another strong pitch for overhauling the health care system in the United States, calling it "a ticking bomb for the federal budget."

Obama went before the American Medical Association in Chicago yesterday to declare that the existing system leaves too many Americans uninsured and forces "excessive defensive medicine" by doctors worried about malpractice lawsuits.

Obama told his audience that he was open to requiring all Americans to have health insurance. But he emphasized that the plan he envisions would permit continuing help for those who cannot afford it on their own. Obama said a "health care exchange" would be set up for the uninsured to choose a plan.

Without such a change, Obama said the US economy could end up in the same shape as the failed General Motors and Chrysler auto makers.

The nation's doctors, like many other groups, are divided over the president's proposals to reshape the health care system. The White House anticipates heavy spending to cover the almost 50 million Americans who lack health insurance and has taken steps in recent days to outline just where that money could be found.

For instance, Obama wants to cut federal payments to hospitals by about US$200 billion and cut US$313 billion from Medicare and Medicaid.

He also is proposing a US$635 billion "down payment" in tax increases and spending cuts in the health care system.

Obama's appearance before the 250,000-physician group was his latest effort to persuade skeptics that his goal to provide health care for all is worth the US$1 trillion price tag expected during its first decade.

Republicans and some Democrats have said they are nervous about how the administration plans to pay for Obama's ideas.


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