WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama broadened his pitch for healthcare reform to Americans who have health insurance on Saturday, reminding them that they risk losing the coverage they have under the current system.
A Treasury Department report found about half of Americans under age 65 -- the age that the government Medicare insurance coverage starts -- would lose healthcare coverage at some point in the next 10 years, Obama said in his weekly radio address.
If you're under the age of 21 today, chances are more than half that you'll find yourself uninsured at some point in that time. And more than one-third of Americans will go without coverage for longer than one year, Obama said.
Many Americans are wary of the need for insurance reform because they have health insurance through their employers, and Obama has said repeatedly that his program would not force them to change their insurance or doctors.
But polls have shown many are wary of reform because they do not believe they would benefit from a government program to ensure that all citizens have affordable insurance coverage, and worry that it would boost the burgeoning U.S. budget deficit and raise their taxes.
The insurance industry has also fiercely opposed plans for a government-run insurance program -- the public option -- that is part of Obama's plan.
Criticized by some supporters for doing too little to sell his plan to the public even as his approval ratings slipped during the summer, Obama seems to be throwing his full weight behind his top domestic policy priority.
He sought to take control of a debate that has been bogged down in Congress amid a flood of criticism and disputes by outlining his vision for overhauling the $2.5 trillion industry in a high-stakes address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
Obama followed up the speech by meeting with nurses on Thursday, and travels to Minnesota on Saturday for a rally on reform. He is expected to discuss healthcare during meetings on the economy with workers in Ohio and an address to the AFL-CIO labor union on Tuesday, and is scheduled to hold another rally on reform in Maryland on Thursday.
CONVINCING THE SKEPTICAL
Obama's address was well reviewed, but appeared to have changed few minds in Congress, which must pass any healthcare reform bill. Obama is trying to win not only the support of Republicans, but also that of some conservatives within his own Democratic party.
The plan would cost $900 billion over 10 years, Obama said, But he has not provided specifics on how it would be financed. Some opponents, citing different cost analyses, say that estimate is impossibly low and would mean cuts to benefits provided to the elderly.
The most significant detail is the cost of his plan -- and its impact on our long-term budget deficit, Senator John Cornyn said in the weekly Republican radio address.
When you start counting in 2013, the first full year of implementation, the cost of the House bill comes to about $2.4 trillion over 10 years, according to the Senate Budget Committee, Cornyn said.
The Treasury study used data collected on about 17,123 Americans and found that 48 percent were without health insurance for at least a month at some point from 1997-2006. Forty-one percent went without health insurance for at least six months during the 10 years, although the six months were not necessarily consecutive.
Thirty-six percent were without healthcare coverage for at least 12 months during the 10-year span.
Extensive research indicates that going without health insurance -- even for a limited period of time -- reduces access to needed health care, negatively impacts health outcomes, and increases the likelihood of financial devastation, the report said.
(Editing by Anthony Boadle)