U.S. President Barack Obama has launched a reinvigorated campaign to
reform health care in the United States, an issue that has become his
top domestic priority. Mr. Obama found a receptive audience on Monday
at a labor union picnic in the Midwestern state of Ohio.
After weeks in which opponents of health care reform dominated the media spotlight, supporters got their say. And President Obama renewed his call to change the nation's health care system.
"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," Mr. Obama said.
Two days before a speech to a joint session of Congress on health care, the president gave a preview in his remarks to union workers gathered for their annual Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The event was hosted by America's largest union federation - the AFL-CIO - and billed as the biggest Labor Day event of its kind in the country.
Labor unions are among the biggest supporters of health care reform. And the boisterous crowd in Cincinnati cheered the president's message.
"The Congress and the country have now been vigorously debating the issue for many months. The debate has been good, and that is important because we have got to get this right. But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point, it is time to decide. At some point, it is time to act," said Mr. Obama.
Union leaders want to make sure that any reform effort includes the creation of a government-run health insurance program to compete with private insurers.
Whether to include a so-called "public option" has become a core issue in the reform debate.
Supporters say it is necessary to keep the system competitive, and make health care more affordable and accessible to all Americans.
The president made clear he is sympathetic to their view.
"I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs," said Mr. Obama.
But opponents argue that a public option could lead to government control of all health care in the United States.
President Obama stressed that the millions of Americans whose medical care is covered through private insurance have nothing to fear and much to gain from reform.
"I want an insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry. They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair," Mr. Obama said.
The picnic was the only public event on the president's Labor Day schedule. But before and after his trip to Ohio, he conferred in private with top aides about the major speech on health care that he will deliver to Congress and the nation on Wednesday night.