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Obama: Health Reform Closer Than Ever

President Obama today lauded the progress Congress has made advancing health care reform but pressed legislators to keep working -- and to try for bipartisanship.

"This progress should make us hopeful," Mr. Obama said from the White House Rose Garden, "but it can't make us complacent. It should instead provide the urgency for both the House and the Senate to finish their critical work on health reform before the August recess."

The House of Representatives introduced its health reform proposal yesterday, while a key Senate panel voted on its own version of reform yesterday. Mr. Obama called the Senate bill "a major milestone."

"It's a plan that was debated for more than 50 hours and, by the way, includes more than 160 Republican amendments -– a hopeful sign of bipartisan support for the final product, if people are serious about bipartisanship," he said.

Both bills include a health insurance exchange -- a marketplace that will allow families and small businesses to choose their plan -- and a public health insurance option. The president said both versions "take what's best about our system today and make it the basis of our system tomorrow – reducing costs, raising quality, and ensuring fair treatment of consumers by the insurance industry."

With representatives from the American Nurses Association by his side, Mr. Obama said, "we are now closer to the goal of health reform than we have ever been."

He said nurses know as well as anyone how much health care reform is needed -- and that they would benefit from legislative changes that would allow them to spend less time on paperwork and less time with patients suffering from preventable diseases.

"If we make their jobs just a little bit easier, we can attract and train the young nurses we need to make up a nursing shortage that's only getting worse," he said. "Nurses do their part every time they check another healthy patient out of the hospital. It's time for us to do our part."

Americans who already have health insurance, the president said, will not only be able to keep their plans under his reform proposal but also save money.

"You won't have to worry about one illness leading your family into financial ruin," he said.

The president warned opponents of reform to take a "hard look" at the status quo, which he called unsustainable.

"We're going to get this done," Mr. Obama said. "These nurses are on board. The American people are on board. It's up to us now."

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