U.S. President Barack Obama made an unprecedented move Thursday, appearing on a conservative radio talk show program to answer questions from Americans about his controversial health care reform plan.
"Broadcasting from the cradle of liberty, this is the Michael Smerconish Program," said the program host.
The White House transformed its Diplomatic Reception Room into a radio studio Thursday, as President Obama took to the airwaves to promote his health care plan. He spoke directly with listeners of a nationally-syndicated radio program hosted by Michael Smerconish.
"I guarantee you, Joe, we are going to get health care reform done," said President Obama.
Talk radio is a powerful vehicle for promoting political and social agendas in the United States. Conservatives have used the airwaves lately to aggressively attack Mr. Obama's policies.
The fiercest critics are spreading what the White House considers to be myths about health care reform. Mr. Obama directly addressed the rumors on the radio, including the idea that U.S. taxpayers would cover illegal immigrants' health care costs.
"Everybody who's listening out there, when you start hearing that somehow this is all designed to provide health insurance to illegal immigrants, that is simply not true and it has never been the case," said Mr. Obama.
The president noted, however, that hospitals would still accept illegal immigrants with emergency cases.
"There is a basic standard of decency where if somebody's in a death situation or a severe illness, that we're going to provide them emergency care," said President Obama.
Health care services in the U.S. are very expensive. The government helps cover the costs of people who are poor. But most people are not covered by those programs. Some buy private insurance to reduce the costs, but 46 million Americans are uninsured, making doctors' visits a luxury.
The president has proposed a public health insurance option to reduce the costs. On the radio program, he dismissed speculation that the government is trying to take over the health industry.
"The important thing that I think I have to make absolutely clear - nobody would be obligated to choose the public option," he said.
Americans will continue debating the plan on the airwaves, as Congress takes up the issue when it reconvenes in September.