Obama pleads for healthcare overhaul

June 15, 2009 7:11:50 PM PDT
President Barack Obama pitched healthcare reform to a tough audience on Monday-- the very people on the front lines of the system. He spoke to doctors at an American Medical Association meeting in Chicago. The president said bluntly he opposes limiting malpractice awards; he got booed for that.

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ABC7's Mark Matthews talked with folks who have no insurance and the underinsured since they are really the crutch of the healthcare debate. How do you get everybody covered and keep the costs down? The president told doctors they need to be part of the solution.

President Obama knows his proposed government funded public healthcare option is a deeply divisive issue, so he took his plan to one of the most skeptical audiences of all -- the American Medical Association.

"I need your help doctors because to most Americans you are the healthcare system," says President Obama.

The AMA says health care reform is needed but it opposes any public option that requires physicians to participate, explains Medicare or pays Medicare rates. Though the AMA's president praised the presidents overall goal.

"The AMA is working and has been working to cover the uninsured to make insurance more affordable," says AMA president Nancy Nielsen, M.D.

At a clinic in San Francisco's Bayview neighborhood women coming in for a free cancer screening told ABC7 what they thought defined affordable.

"I believe like $20 a month. Yeah that's affordable," says San Francisco resident Wanda Green.

Green admitted she's paying hundreds of dollars a month now for medical costs.

"I just got a print out, I think I spend about $300 a month or something like that," says Green.

Green didn't make the connection that health insurance that cost less would be a better deal and community health worker Veronica Shepard says that's common.

"She should already be subsidized just because she doesn't have. She shouldn't be penalized for not having," says Shepard.

ABC7's political analyst Professor Bruce Cain, Ph.D. says "The real problem is the poor people that you were interviewing don't have either the electoral influence or the influence though lobbyists or the money to make their case."

Professor Cain says the un-insured, who are at the center of this issue, are outgunned by hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, drug makers, even middle class voters who don't want to pay for the poor. That's the fight the president faces.

"This is a test of whether we Democrats and Republicans alike are serious about holding the line on new spending and restoring fiscal discipline, but let there be no doubt the cost of inaction is greater," says President Obama.

Professor Cain believes the president's chances of passing health care reform are no better than 50/50. On the positive side, Cain says the president's willingness to compromise is a big key, but still getting something on the table by August will be a very big challenge.

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