Obama urges action on health care

President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol to urge passage of his national health care plan with Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

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 did the same thing this evening, although he's hoping it's going to turn out better. Tamara Keith is on the Marketplace health desk this evening. Hi, Tamara.

Tamara Keith: Hi, Kai.

Ryssdal: Tamara, this was the moment that a lot of people have been waiting for -- the president coming out and saying this, specifically, is what he wants. So, what does he want?

Keith: Well, he spent some time debunking criticisms saying he doesn't want death panels, he doesn't want to hurt Medicare recipients, and he doesn't want to insure illegals. What he does want to do, he said, is provide more security and stability for those who have health insurance. And provide health insurance for those who don't have it. And then as an added bonus he'd like to slow rising health-care costs that are making all of our insurance payments more expensive, and everything else more expensive.

Ryssdal: Nothing too much there, I guess, the president's talking about. What about this public plan? You know, you reported earlier this evening with great anticipation on the psuedo-suspense over whether the public plan would be in or out. Is it in or out?

Keith: Well here's the funny thing. It was in his speech on page six on my printout. Page six of eleven. So basically he didn't get to it for the first half of his speech, and then when he did get to it, he tried to downplay it. I think perhaps because it's been so polarizing. Here's what he had to say:

PRESIDENT OBAMA:It's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public-insurance option of the sort I proposed tonight. But, its impact shouldn't be exaggerated by the Left, or the Right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan. And shouldn't be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles.

Keith: And then he directly addressed both his progressive friends and his Republican friends. And basically told them to get some perspective, that for both of them it isn't as good or as bad as they make it out to be.

Ryssdal: Yeah, and he did in a way make nice with Republicans. I mean, he spoke to their concerns?

Keith: He did. He made a shout out to John McCain and some other senators. He even mentioned that one of his ideas was something that Mr. McCain had proposed in the campaign. And he also specifically addressed malpractice reform. Republicans think that malpractice lawsuits are a big part of the problem because doctors afraid of being sued order up tons of tests and procedures just to say they've done everything. And the president wasn't super specific about what he wants to do, but he says that he's going to start addressing malpractice right now.

Ryssdal: What happens tomorrow then when Congress goes back to work? They will gavel the session in and all of these committees are going to pass whatever he wants? Is that what's going happen?

Keith: That's exactly how it works, Kai. I'm so glad we all figured it out. Well, no, he's going to start meeting with some moderate Democrats on the Senate side and maybe twisting some arms. Or maybe that will be left to Rahm Emanuel. And then on Saturday he's going to rally for health reform in Minnesota. So I think that his campaign continues for this. And the long, deliberative legislative process will roll along.

Ryssdal: Very quickly, Tamara, the Republican response. What do they have to say?

Keith: Yes, they've been calling for a reset button. They want this to start over and to go back to what they actually agree on with the president. And sort of build this from the ground up based on what folks agree on. But I don't see the president pushing the reset button.

Ryssdal: All right Tamara, thanks. Marketplace's Tamara Keith in Washington tonight covering the president's speech. Tamara, thanks.

Keith: Thanks.

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