Obama: Health care overhaul coming soon

August 16, 2009 5:34:09 AM PDT
President Barack Obama says he's confident his drive to overhaul health care will succeed. The president writes in Sunday's New York Times about "health insurance reform" and says his attempt to overhaul the system is closer to reality "than we have ever been."

Obama cites support from the American Nurses Association, the powerful American Medical Association and the AARP for big changes. He also says there's "about 80 percent" agreement in Congress on shaping the overhaul.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama invoked his own anguish over the death of a loved one as he challenged the debunked notion that Democratic efforts to overhaul the nation's health care would include "death panels."

"I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it's like to watch somebody you love, who's aging, deteriorate and have to struggle with that," an impassioned Obama told a crowd as he spoke of Madelyn Payne Dunham. He took issue with "the notion that somehow I ran for public office or members of Congress are in this so they can go around pulling the plug on grandma."

"When you start making arguments like that, that's simply dishonest - especially when I hear the arguments coming from members of Congress in the other party who, turns out, sponsored similar provisions," Obama said.

In a debate in which he often sounds professor-like, Obama spoke with a rare bit of emotion that seemed to counter that of vocal health care opponents as he referenced the beloved grandmother who helped raise him and who he called "Toot." She died of cancer at age 86 on Nov. 2, two days before he won election to become the nation's first African-American president.

He talked about her death while answering a question about misinformation being spread about Democratic health care efforts during a town hall style gathering in a high school gymnasium.

"Health care is really hard. This is not easy. I'm a reasonably dedicated student to this issue. I've got a lot of really smart people around me who've been working on this for months now," he said. "There is no perfect painless silver bullet out there that solves every problem, gives everybody health care for free. There isn't. I wish there was."

But he said that because there's no perfect solution to solving health care, opponents "start saying things like we want to set up death panels to pull the plug on grandma."

The president is seeking to put to rest claims that the health care overhaul he seeks would set up "death panels" to rule on life-sustaining care for ailing seniors. It would not, and Obama has stressed that point repeatedly over the past week.

Obama reiterated his contention that the Democratic health care legislation would not create "death panels" to deny care to frail seniors. Obama has explained that the provision that has caused the uproar would only authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, living wills, hospice care and other issues, if the patient wants it.

Conservatives have called end-of-life counseling in government health care programs like Medicare a step toward euthanasia and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has likened the idea to a bureaucratic "death panel" that would decide whether sick people get to live. Those claims have been widely discredited but the issue remains a political weapon in the increasingly bitter health care debate.

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