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Obama to Push for Health Care Reform in National Speech Wednesday 


Watch President Barack Obama's speech on Health Care reform on VOANews.com Live at 0000 UTC (8:00 pm EST)

U.S. President Barack Obama will go before members of Congress and the American people Wednesday, to deliver a major address on his health care reform plans. The president wants to regain momentum on the issue after facing several months of intense opposition from both parties.

President Obama will try to rally public support for his proposal to reinvent the way Americans pay for health care.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says the president will speak directly to the American people about his vision for health care reform.

"I think he will lay out clearly what health reform means to Americans, and I think he will clear up any confusion about what is not in health care reform," said Gibbs. "And lastly, I think he will answer many of the big questions about how we move forward on health care reform, and what he considers reform to truly be."

Almost all Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats, have criticized Mr. Obama's planned health insurance overhaul.

The president met with the leaders of the Democratic-controlled Congress on Tuesday, as lawmakers returned to Washington from their summer recess. The top legislators said afterward that health reform still has strong support on Capitol Hill.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said progress is being made on the issue.

"We have plenty to work from, to pass comprehensive, affordable, accessible, universal health care," said Nancy Pelosi.

And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he thought a deal could be reached.

"We think we are up to 90 percent of things that are agreed upon," said Harry Reid. "We have 10 percent that we have to work on, and we can do that."

In his speech, Mr. Obama is expected to campaign for what is called the public option - a government-run health insurance plan which would compete with private insurers.

The proposal has received almost no Republican support in Congress. Republican critics have said it amounts to a government takeover of health insurance. Some public meetings on the issue have included emotional protests, and the president's approval ratings have eroded.

Mr. Obama's own party is split on the issue, with liberal Democrats insisting on the public option and moderate Democrats rejecting it.

Democratic Senator Max Baucus is proposing a compromise which would instead create non-profit health insurance co-operatives to compete with private insurers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama wants Congress to move forward. In a Labor Day speech before union workers on Monday, Mr. Obama said it is time for lawmakers to end the debate over health care and pass legislation for him to sign.

"It's time to do what's right for America's working families and put aside partisanship, stop saying things that aren't true, come together as a nation, pass health insurance reform now - this year," said Mr. Obama.

Senator Reid says he believes Mr. Obama's address to the nation will help put the health care reform effort back on track.

"I have every belief that when he finishes his speech tomorrow, the American people will be able to put aside some of the ridiculous falsehoods that have been perpetrated these past few weeks, and focus on what we are going to do that is positive for this country," he said.

After the president's speech, the Republican response will be given by Representative Charles Boustany, a heart surgeon from the Southern state of Louisiana.

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