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Obama Stresses Urgency of Health Care Overhaul

President Barack Obama on Thursday portrayed health care reform as an extreme urgency, echoing some of the same dire language that he used to demand action on his multibillion-dollar economic stimulus bill.

“We are here today to discuss one of the greatest threats not just to the well-being of our families and the prosperity of our businesses, but to the very foundation of our economy — and that is the exploding cost of health care in America today,— Obama said as he opened up his White House health care summit in the East Room. “There’s a lot of desperation out there.—

Obama, who said legislation must be passed this year, asserted that health care reform is a “fiscal imperative— that will help the budget deficit.

“The same soaring costs that are straining our families’ budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government’s budget, too,— he said. “Making investments in reform now, investments that will dramatically lower costs, won’t add to our budget deficits in the long term; rather, it is one of the best ways — in fact maybe the only way — to reduce those long-term costs.—

Obama noted that Medicare costs are consuming the federal budget while Medicaid costs are shackling the states.

Obama said he is open to a variety of ideas on how to overhaul the health care system — and indeed, Thursday’s forum includes people from a variety of interests with a wide spectrum of views. But the president also appeared to assert as a given something not everyone agrees with: That legislation must provide for universal coverage.

“This time, there is no debate about whether all Americans should have quality, affordable health care —the only question is, how?— Obama said.

“The purpose of this forum is to start answering that question — to determine how we lower costs for everyone, improve quality for everyone and expand coverage to all Americans.—

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