Obama plans broader push - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Obama pitches health care plan

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WASHINGTON. - President Barack Obama has told Congress that he's not the first president to take up health care reform, but that he is determined to be the last. Obama says the system has reached the breaking point and places middle-class Americans at risk of bankruptcy. He's urged lawmakers to stop "bickering" and take the steps necessary to pass an overhaul.

Among other things, Obama says Americans will be required to have basic health insurance under his plan and he says insurance companies could not deny coverage for so-called preexisting conditions.

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Americans who have suffered from high costs and from insurance company practices will be seated in first lady Michelle Obama's box in the House gallery tonight, as President Barack Obama launches a new pitch for health care reform.

According to a senior official, Obama will again make the case for a public insurance plan as a way to provide greater competition, but he won't insist on it.

Tonight's speech is just the start of a broader effort to win passage of health care reform. Obama also has a rally scheduled Saturday in the Midwest.

A new poll indicates that public opinion isn't going his way. The Associated Press-GfK poll finds that 52 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Obama's handling of health care.

The same survey shows that 49 percent now disapprove of his overall performance as president. In July, just 42 percent disapproved of how he was handling his job.

In advance of tonight's speech, the Senate's top Republican says Americans want "sensible, step-by-step reforms." Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says the country doesn't need what he calls "more trillion-dollar grand schemes."

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