20090909 obama health reform 18
President Barack Obama speaks during Organizing for America's national health care forum at the Democratic National Committee Headquarters in Washington, D.C. - 


Kai Ryssdal: Sixteen years ago this month President Clinton made the trip from the White House to the Capitol to rescue his health-care plan. Barack Obama is set to do the same thing tonight, all the while hoping for a better outcome.

The president is expected to make the case once again for the public option, a government-run health insurance plan. To do that he's probably going to have to be more specific than he has been about what a heath-care overhaul might cost, what it might look like, and then he's going to have to tell us how we're going to pay for it. Tamara Keith has our preview.

TAMARA KEITH: Will there be a public plan, or won't there? Will the president accept a bill without one? Ah, the suspense just keeps building.

Thomas Mann is a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution.

THOMAS MANN: I recommend to pundits, to journalists, to everyone to relax.

Mann says this will all get worked out eventually, when the House and the Senate reconcile their bills. But in his speech tonight President Obama isn't giving up any ground on a public plan. He's expected to lay out how it would work. He'll also reassure everyone that they can keep their doctors or a health plan they like. In short, Mann says the speech needs to clarify and energize.

MANN: To return to the reform effort a sense of excitement about doing something that's absolutely essential and likely constructive for our future.

Republicans aren't likely to hear much they support. But pleasing them doesn't seem to be much of a priority anymore. Today Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the last committee trying to work out a compromise with Republicans came close to admitting defeat.

MAX BAUCUS: I very much hope and do expect Republicans will be on board, I don't know how many. But if there are not any, I am going to move forward in any event.

Republicans or no, Baucus said his bill will not contain a government-run insurance plan.

In Washington, I'm Tamara Keith for Marketplace.