President Barack Obama will tell Congress on Wednesday the time for bickering is over and call for quick action on a comprehensive healthcare overhaul that would dramatically transform the U.S. insurance market and health system.


Austin Morrill of Annandale, Virginia holds signs before the start of a town hall style meeting on healthcare reform at the South Lakes High School gymnasium in Reston, Virginia, August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Larry Downing

In excerpts of his high-stakes, nationally televised speech to the U.S. Congress scheduled for 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT), Obama says lawmakers are closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been and issued a warning to critics.

I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it, he said in the excerpts. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out.

Obama hopes his speech will rejuvenate his flagging push for an overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system, which has bogged down in Congress amid a flood of criticism.

The excerpts included a series of concrete proposals he said should be included in any final bill passed by Congress, including creation of an insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses could shop for policies.

Obama said he would prohibit insurers from dropping coverage for sick patients and capping coverage in a year or lifetime, would place a limit on out-of-pocket expenses, and require insurers to cover routine check-ups.

Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do, Obama said. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

In the Senate, months of bipartisan Finance Committee talks by the so-called Gang of Six negotiators moved into the final stages earlier in the day as the panel's Democratic chairman, Max Baucus, said it was time to proceed with or without Republicans. (ID:nN09165073)

Baucus told reporters he would push ahead with a bill next week modeled after proposals he distributed recently to members. That plan would levy a fee on insurers to help pay for coverage but would not include a government-run health insurance option, which he said cannot pass the Senate.

Three committees in the House of Representatives and one other Senate panel have completed work on a healthcare bill, leaving the Senate Finance Committee as the final hurdle before each chamber can take up the issue.