Obama: Honesty Needed in Health Debate

Obama on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009. CBS

President Obama is challenging his critics on a national health care overhaul, accusing them of making "phony claims" about the legislation.

"This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I'm glad that so many are engaged," Mr. Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are."

Mr. Obama said illegal immigrants would not be part of the health care overhaul, taxpayers would not be mandated to fund abortions and he does not intend a government takeover of health care - all claims that critics have made at contentious town hall-style meetings with members of Congress.

He also took a swipe at "death panels," an idea former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin introduced on her Facebook page.

"As every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called death panels - an offensive notion to me and to the American people," Mr. Obama said. "These are phony claims meant to divide us."

Mr. Obama's liberal base was angered this past week after he seemed to suggest he would be fine with a plan that lacked a government-run health insurance option.

"This is one idea among many to provide more competition and choice, especially in the many places around the country where just one insurer thoroughly dominates the marketplace," Mr. Obama said. "Let me repeat: It would be just an option; those who prefer their private insurer would be under no obligation to shift to a public plan."

In their weekly address, Republicans accused Mr. Obama of misrepresenting his proposal.

"As opposition to the Democrats' government-run health plan is mounting, the president has said he'd like to stamp out some of the disinformation floating around out there," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. "The problem is the president, himself, plays fast and loose with the facts."

Price said that the whole plan should be scrapped and lawmakers should start over with a plan that makes sure patients - not Washington or insurance providers - are the top priority.

"We all know that when the government is setting the rules and is backed by tax dollars, it will destroy, not compete with, the private sector," said Price, a physician. "The reality is, whether or not you get to keep your plan, or your doctor, is very much in question under the president's proposal."

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On the Net:

Mr. Obama: www.whitehouse.gov

GOP: www.youtube.com/RepublicanConference
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