Two days before he makes the most pivotal speech of his young administration, President Barack Obama on Labor Day pledged to union members and their families that his health reform platform would steel Americans against budget-busting costs and change how insurance companies do business.
Obama speaks to Ohio crowd about healthcare plan
The president, however, did not commit to a public health plan, which has become the focus of the reform debate. Nor did he shed much new light on what has become his signature domestic policy issue, instead saying he would save details of his reform plan for a Wednesday night speech to Congress.
“I don't want to give anything away,” he said, playing to the friendly Cincinnati crowd. “I want you all to tune in.”
The speech, fiery at times, harkened back to when Obama was on the campaign trail and seemingly separated himself from other candidates each stop at a time. He was at times funny and poignant, bringing up some early wins of his presidency at one point before recounting a campaign-changing stop in South Carolina at another.
Though largely focused on the economy, health reform was the main undercurrent. Obama said that he still wants a public health plan, but focused more broadly on insurance industry reform.
“I want a health insurance system that works as well for the American people as it does for the insurance industry,” he said. “They should be free to make a profit. But they also have to be fair. They also have to be accountable.”
The administration lost momentum throughout August as opponents to the Democratic-led effort to reshape the healthcare system hammered away daily at legislation already passed by three House and one Senate committee.
The Senate Finance Committee, with it's attempt to fashion a bipartisan plan, has signaled that it's close to releasing draft components of a health reform bill.
The Wednesday speech is seen as Obama's chance to try to salvage his reform platform.
“(E)very debate at some point comes to an end,” Obama said. “At some point, it's time to decide. At some point, it's time to act. Ohio, it's time to act and get this thing done.”
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