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Crucial Week for Obama, Congress on US Health-Care Reform


President Barack Obama has an intense week ahead as he and leaders of his Democratic Party in Congress prepare for a crucial vote on health-care reform. The president used a speech in the Midwestern state of Ohio to drive home his points about the importance of passing health care legislation.

U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Strongsville to deliver his latest speech on the urgency of health-care reform. Ohio is home to Natoma Canfield, a cancer patient who says she gave up her health insurance because of sharp premium increases.

It is a story President Obama and aides have spotlighted, including an instance in which the president sat down with insurance company executives at the White House, reading them a letter Canfield had sent him.

The president told the audience in Ohio that Natoma Canfield's story, and that of other Americans facing hardships because of medical bills they cannot pay, is the reason to reject Republican Party calls to oppose his health-care reform.

"When you hear people saying that this is not the "right time", you think of what she is going through," said President Obama. "When you hear people talk about, well what does this mean for the Democrats, what does this mean for the Republicans, I do not know how the polls are doing. When you hear people who are more worried about the politics of it then what is right and what is wrong I want you to think about Natoma and the millions of people across this country who are looking for some help and looking for some relief, that is why we need health-insurance reform, right now!

Notoma Canfield, who is now receiving chemotherapy in a hospital, was represented at the health-care rally by her sister Connie Anderson.

"We have seen what will happen without reform," said Connie Anderson. "Premiums will continue to rise, insurance companies will not be held accountable for their abuses, and hard-working Americans like my sister Natoma will suffer."

The president delayed his Asia-Pacific trip by three days to remain in Washington for these crucial final days of the health-care reform drama.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is aiming for an end of week vote in which the chamber would approve a $875-billion version of health-care reform the U.S. Senate approved last December.

It will then be up to a delicate arrangement with the Senate to pass a separate package of changes to the legislation, using a procedure opposed by Republicans that would allow approval with only a simple 51-vote majority, rather than 60 votes.

A key challenge Democrats have faced is opposition from some party conservatives who objected to abortion-related language in the Senate measure.

The president has also faced complaints from far left Democrats who have pressed from the start for a government-managed health insurance option. One such lawmaker, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, flew with the president aboard Air Force One to Ohio.

Republicans continue their unanimous opposition to the president on health-care reform.

In the weekly Republican address to the nation, newly-elected Senator Scott Brown presented his party's position that most Americans oppose the president and would like him to focus on job creation.

"Nothing has distracted the attention and energy of the nation's capital more than this disastrous detour," said Scott Brown. "And the surest way to return to the people's business is to listen to the people themselves."

Democrats face the prospect that failure to approve President Obama's major agenda priority could open them to significant losses in mid-term congressional elections in November. Republicans say passing the legislation would cause a public backlash that would lead them to gains in the House and Senate.

But White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has said the administration would be happy to have the 2010 mid-term election be about the achievement of health-care reform.

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