President Barack Obama says the U.S. Senate is closer than ever to passing health reform legislation. The president spoke to reporters after meeting with Democratic senators.
President Obama says some differences remain among Democrats, but he says he is cautiously optimistic that lawmakers from his party will agree on health care legislation.
"From the discussions we had, it is clear that we are on the precipice of an achievement that has eluded Congresses and presidents for generations," said President Obama.
Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent who usually votes with the Democrats, has threatened to oppose the bill. Lieberman said Sunday he would vote with the Republicans to reject the bill if it includes a proposal to expand Medicare, the government health care plan for older people. Democrats are reported to be ready to drop that part of the legislation, but Mr. Obama says the bill will address Medicare.
"This plan will strengthen Medicare and extend the life of that program," said Mr. Obama. "And because it gets rid of the waste and inefficiencies in our health care system, this will be the largest deficit reduction plan in over a decade."
Mr. Obama has said if Democrats do not pass health care soon, they will never again have as good an opportunity to do so.
The president also says the health care situation will become much worse for many Americans if legislation is not passed urgently.
"Every day that goes by, another 14,000 Americans lose their health care coverage," he said. "A recent study shows that in the next decade, half of all Americans under the age of 65 will be without coverage at some point."
Mr. Obama has made reforming the nation's health care system a top domestic priority. Passage of the bill could help his fellow Democrats in the November, 2010 congressional elections. Republicans strongly oppose the president's proposals and have consistently voted against Democratic-sponsored health reform legislation.
The United States is the only developed nation that does not have a comprehensive health care plan for all its citizens.