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Obama Zeroes in on Consumer Protections in Health Reform

5192097While the main battle over health care reform -- creating a government-run insurance plan versus some other coverage mechanism -- is coming to a head between conservatives and liberals in the Senate, President Obama is pressing ahead today with his call for health insurance reform -- focusing on the consumer protection elements of reform that face less controversy.

At his two events in North Carolina and Virginia today, Mr. Obama will emphasize that reform will create more security and stability for families, including those that already have health insurance, according to White House officials. He will focus on eight specific consumer protections expected from a reform package: an end to discrimination for pre-existing conditions, a cap on out-of-pocket expenses, an end to cost-sharing for preventive care, prohibiting insurers from dropping coverage for serious illness, the elimination of gender discrimination, an end to annual or lifetime caps, an extension of coverage for young adults and guaranteed insurance renewal.

The White House will continue its push through e-mail campaigns and messaging on social networking sites, officials say.

Health care reform hinges on the support of Americans who already have health insurance, Drew E. Altman, president and chief executive of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Washington Post. "This debate will turn on people like this trying to answer the question 'Will this benefit my family?' " he said.

The president will be able to appeal to that audience with the specific set of consumer protection reforms he will discuss today. His remarks regarding broader reform proposals have been lacking in detail as he waits for Congress to decide on a specific plan.

Meanwhile, speculation about what the overall reform package might contain has muddled Mr. Obama's message. That much was clear at his tele-town hall meeting with members of AARP on Tuesday when a woman asked if Medicare reforms would force people to choose how they want to die.

"Nobody's going to be forcing you to be making decisions on end of life care," the president responded.

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