President Barack Obama left the door open to a new tax on healthcare benefits Wednesday, and officials said top lawmakers and the White House were seeking $150 billion in concessions from the nation's hospitals as they sought support for legislation struggling to emerge in Congress.
"I don't want to prejudge what they're doing," the president said, referring to proposals in the Senate to tax workers who get expensive insurance policies. Obama, who campaigned against the tax when he ran for president, drew a quick rebuff from organized labor.
Obama also fielded a pointed personal question during an ABC News town hall at the White House on Wednesday. The prime-time program was the latest in a string of events designed to build public support for his plan to slow the rise in healthcare costs and expand coverage to the nearly 50 million uninsured.
Orrin Devinsky, a neurologist at the New York University Langone Medical Center, challenged Obama: What if the president's wife and daughters got sick? Would Obama promise that they would get only the services allowed under a new government insurance plan he's proposing. Obama wouldn't bite.
If "it's my family member, if it's my wife, if it's my children, if it's my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care," Obama said.