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Obama, Republicans Trade Charges on Health Care


U.S. President Barack Obama says critics of his health care reform proposals are circulating "outrageous myths." Opposition Republicans counter that it is Mr. Obama who does not have his facts straight.

As President Obama loses ground in the debate on overhauling health care, he is using his weekly Internet address to challenge what he calls "phony claims" by his critics.

"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," he said.

The president is refuting claims made by critics at public meetings with lawmakers. He says taxpayers would not be required to fund abortions, he does not intend a government takeover of health care, and his plan would not cover illegal immigrants.

"Let's start with the false claim that illegal immigrants will get health insurance under reform," said the president. "That's not true. Illegal immigrants would not be covered. That idea has never even been on the table."

Mr. Obama is specifically targeting the notion of so-called "death panels," which former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said on the Internet would decide whether terminally ill senior citizens would live or die.

"And 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. These are phony claims meant to divide us," he said.

In the Republican Party response, Congressman Tom Price from the Southern state of Georgia says Mr. Obama is not telling the exact truth about health care.

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

Congressman Price, who is also a medical doctor, rejects the president's claim that his initiative would not put excessive power to make medical decisions in the hands of the government.

"Unfortunately, the plan being promoted by the White House would give Washington the power to make highly personal medical decisions on behalf of patients, on behalf of you," he said.

The United States is the only major industrial nation that does not have a comprehensive national health care plan for all its people.

Mr. Obama and his family will spend the next week on vacation, at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland and on the Atlantic resort island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

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