U.S. President Barack Obama is stepping up his campaign for health-care reform as concerns rise in Congress about the cost and scope of various proposals before the legislature.
Reforming the nation's health-care system is a priority for the president. He says it is mandatory for the nation's long term economic health.
"Even as we rescue this country from this crisis, I believe we have to rebuild an even better economy than we had before. That means finally controlling the health-care costs that are driving this nation into debt," he said.
But the legislative process has proven extraordinarily difficult, with lawmakers squabbling over the size and cost of reform.
Mr. Obama is stepping up the pressure with a series of direct appeals to the public and a formal press conference Wednesday, which is expected to be dominated by the health care debate.
He is also dispatching top aides to speak out on national television. During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday program, White House budget chief Peter Orszag sought to ease fears that health-care reform could cause the federal budget deficit to skyrocket.
"The president has said that the bill has to be deficit neutral," he said.
But Congressional auditors say the Democratic party-backed proposals currently making their way through the legislature will raise the deficit without having an impact on soaring health care costs.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told NBC's Meet the Press this legislation is still a work in progress.
The good news is the House and Senate are actively working and share the president's goal that overall costs have to come down for everyone."
Sebelius stressed the stakes are high.
"It may be the single most important issue to get our economy back on track, and the status quo can not work," said Sebelius. "It does not work. It is bankrupting this country."
But Republicans in Congress warn the Democrats are reaching too far, too fast. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Meet the Press that more time and thought needs to go into health care reform.
"This is the same kind of rush and spend strategy that we saw on the stimulus bill," said McConnell.
McConnell said the bills making their way through Congress are not good for the country. He warned they would result in far too much government interference in the health-care system in the United States.