President Barack Obama warned on Saturday the country's powerful insurance industry was determined to thwart a dramatic improvement in patients' rights as it lobbies against his signature healthcare reforms.
"They want to preserve a system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people," Obama said in his weekly Internet and radio address.
Arguing that measures incorporated in healthcare bills now before Congress add up to a "Patient's Bill of Rights" that has been a long-sought ambition of reformers, Obama urged senators to stop obstructing progress toward this goal.
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"Let's bring this long and vigorous debate to an end. Let's deliver on the promise of health insurance reforms that will make our people healthier, our economy stronger, and our future more secure," Obama said.
Obama has asked the Senate to finish by year's-end to prevent the issue from spilling into the campaign for November 2010 congressional elections. Opinion polls show the bill losing public support, with majorities now opposed to it.
Senate Democratic leaders are fighting to line up the 60 votes that they need to overcome delaying tactics by their Republican opponents and get a vote on their version of the healthcare reform bill.
This move would allow the process to advance to a "conference" to reconcile it with a proposal already passed by the House of Representatives, after which both chambers would vote again to make it law.
The healthcare bills would significantly expand coverage for currently uninsured Americans, and would also prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people on the basis of pre-existing health conditions.
Opponents of reform say it will drive up the costs of coverage for many Americans and represents an unwelcome government intrusion into the private sector.
Obama said that healthcare reform would cut costs and shield patients from corporate abuse.
"The protections currently included in both the health insurance reform bill passed by the House and the version currently on the Senate floor would represent the toughest measures we've ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable," Obama said.
"The insurance industry knows all this. That's why they're at it again, using their muscle in Washington to try to block a vote they know they will lose," he said.
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