Obama pushes health care reform amid opposition ‘scare tactics’


Washington : President Obama has accused the opposition of scare tactics against a proposed health care overhaul, saying failing to fix problems in the current system would be the scariest outcome of all.

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Addressing a supportive town hall meeting in New Hampshire Tuesday, Obama welcomed a “vigorous” debate as part of the democratic process, but said people should talk “with each other and not over each other.”

He criticised “wild misrepresentations” by special interests trying to undermine health care legislation before Congress.

In particular, Obama rejected rumours that a health care bill passed by a House committee included setting up so-called “death panels” to decide if senior citizens get treatment.

He called spreading such rumours a long-standing practice by opponents of health care reform, such as “those who profit under the status quo.”

“What is truly scary, what is truly risky, is to do nothing,” Obama said, noting that premiums paid for health care coverage were rising three times faster than wages and that the government-run Medicare programme for senior citizens would run out of money within a decade.

He repeated past guarantees that a health care overhaul won’t force anyone to give up health insurance they like and won’t cut Medicare benefits, and he stood by his election pledge that he won’t raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year.

At the same time, Obama defended his call for a government-funded public health insurance option to compete against private insurers. He said such an option would hold down rates, rejecting accusations it amounted to a government takeover of health care because private companies can’t compete with a government-funded plan.

Obama and Democratic leaders have accused opponents of health care changes of organizing protests intended to drown out the debate, while Republicans respond the public anger is a genuine response to what they call excessive and misguided legislation.

Congressional action on a health care overhaul has slowed because of strong Republican opposition. Neither chamber met Obama’s goal of passing a bill before their August recess.

In particular, Republicans and some Democrats reject the proposed public option, which they believe will lead to a government takeover of the health care system and prove too costly.