Obama hits back at health reform critics
US President Barack Obama on Saturday hit back at health care reform critics, saying the debate about his proposals should not be "dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions."
"This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I'm glad that so many are engaged," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are."
The president rejected charges that his reform would allow illegal immigrants get access to US health insurance.
He said it was also false that coverage for abortions would be mandated under his proposals.
And he insisted that allegations that his reform would institute so-called "death panels," or commissions that may deny medical services to gravely ill people out of budgetary considerations, were "an offensive notion" to him and the American people.
The president wants Congress to approve his health care reform proposals by the end of the year in order to fulfill one of his key campaign promises -- providing health care to the 46 million Americans, some 15 percent of the population, who currently do not have any medical coverage.
Obama's health care plan includes a government insurance option, which has been fiercely criticized by Republicans.
The US president also hopes to cut in half runaway healthcare expenditures which, if unchecked, are forecast to gobble up one-fifth of US gross domestic product by 2013.
But he has met increasing resistance from both Republicans and even some among his own Democratic Party worried about the costs of such a reform.
In his address, the president argued that reform has never been easy. "There are always those who oppose it, and those who use fear to block change," he said.
But he expressed confidence that in the end, Americans will "rise above" their differences and move forward.