WASHINGTON — The White House scrambled to unify Democrats behind a single health care appeal Wednesday — lower costs, plenty of choice — amid concerns Republicans could scare votes away with images of a ghastly system run by bureaucrats. A key senator pushed to enforce an offer from care providers to trim $2 trillion in costs over the next decade.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he wanted to build cost-saving mechanisms the industry is devising into sweeping health care overhaul legislation his committee is writing.
His comments Wednesday came as President Barack Obama went on TV for a third straight day to push for passage of health care legislation he hopes will extend coverage to 50 million uninsured people. Standing at his side at the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi renewed a promise to bring legislation to the House floor by August.
"We've got to get it done this year," Obama said. "We don't have any excuses; the stars are aligned."
The developments underscored a quickening drive toward health care overhaul legislation in Congress.
Obama has asked the health insurers, doctors, hospitals and others who brought the much-ballyhooed — but vague — $2 trillion cost-saving idea to the White House earlier this week to produce specifics by June 1.
"I met with them today and reminded them of their pledge to the president," Baucus said, adding that he'd aim to give their plans the force of law.
He spoke to reporters after he and other Senate Democrats met with White House political adviser David Axelrod as the White House pressed to get the party behind a unified message on health legislation.
Senators emerged with an agreement on emphasizing affordability and choice. The issue of coverage for the uninsured would be tied to affordability for all, as when uninsured people drive up costs when they go to emergency rooms for routine care.