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Obama outlines plan for universal healthcare system

WASHINGTON - United States President Barack Obama on Thursday set out a broad plan to replace America's patchwork healthcare coverage with a universal system, the goal that has long eluded US presidents.

Mr Obama, whose speech was preceded by testimony from a cancer patient, said: "After decades of inaction, we have finally decided to fix what is broken about healthcare in America. We have decided it's time to give every American (affordable) quality healthcare."

The political firefight that is about to engulf the US in the next few months is over the 45 million people who have no health insurance that Mr Obama wants to bring into the system.

One of the main doctors' groups warned on Friday that Mr Obama's plan would lead to inflated health-insurance costs. There are testimonies from thousands of uninsured people relating horror stories of experiences trying to obtain medical help.

There are gripping stories from people with insurance who found the companies failing to pay out for treatment. Others complain insurance companies refuse to give them coverage because they already have a medical condition.

The President hopes to have legislation implementing health reform on his desk by Oct 1 and said he would not tolerate "endless delay" by Congress.

Mr Obama specifically chose to deliver his speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin because it has a healthcare system in place that is more extensive and cheaper than elsewhere in the US.

He proposed the establishment of a health insurance exchange, which would set up a government-backed insurance scheme in competition with private insurance companies.

The scheme "would allow you to one-stop shop for a healthcare plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose what's best for you. None of these plans would be able to deny coverage on the basis of a pre-existing condition. All should include an affordable, basic benefit package," he said.

"And if you can't afford one of the plans, we should provide assistance to ensure you can."

The scale of the opposition became clearer when Republicans rejected his plan outright, and some Democrats expressed scepticism. The American Medical Association, which represents doctors, opposed it, as did private insurers. THE GUARDIAN

From TODAY, World – Weekend, 13/14-Jun-2009

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