WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama scored two major endorsements for his health overhaul push Thursday and trumpeted the news as House Democratic leaders pushed toward a vote Saturday on far-reaching legislation remaking the U.S. health care system.
"I am extraordinarily pleased and grateful to learn that the AARP and the American Medical Association are both supporting the health insurance reform bill that will soon come up to vote in the House of Representatives," Obama said in an unannounced visit to the White House briefing room.
AARP is "no small endorsement," Obama said of the 40-million-member strong seniors' lobby.
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"We are closer to passing this reform than ever before," Obama said. "Now that the doctors and medical professionals of America are standing with us, now that the organizations charged with looking out for the interests of seniors are standing with us, we are even closer."
The AMA, however, qualified its support of the bill. The organization's president, Dr. James Rohack, said the bill is not perfect, but it meets enough of the organization's goals to deserve its support. But he also said it's also critical for Congress to fix a Medicare payment formula that if left unchanged would lead to a 20 percent cut in fees to doctors next year.
Obama spoke as House Democratic leaders sought to resolve final disputes before bringing their 10-year, $1.2 trillion health bill to the floor on Saturday. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said leaders expect to have the 218 votes needed to pass the sweeping bill, which would extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured people and ban insurance companies from turning people away.
Hoyer acknowledged the vote could be tight, though, and timing of action in the Senate is uncertain.
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