WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama told the nation Saturday his health care overhaul is financially sound, but a new analysis by congressional budget experts of emerging House legislation said it would increase deficits by $239 billion over a decade.
"I want to be very clear: I will not sign on to any health plan that adds to our deficits over the next decade," the president said in his weekly address. "And by helping improve quality and efficiency, the reforms we make will help bring our deficits under control in the long-term," he added.
It was the sixth consecutive day Obama sought to keep the focus on his chief domestic priority in the face of mounting resistance on Capitol Hill, including conservative Democrats. Republicans also renewed their criticism.
An update by the Congressional Budget Office said the overall cost of the House bill would "result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period." The estimate included the cost of higher Medicare fees for doctors, an important ingredient of the measure for the American Medical Association. The AMA, which represents physicians, endorsed the bill late last week.
The CBO analysis said the bill would result in a reduction in the deficit from 2010 to 2014, before it began to add red ink in gradually increasing amounts for the next five years.
Obama has said consistently the current drive for health care could be the last for the foreseeable future if it does not succeed.
"This is what the debate in Congress is all about: whether we'll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under and more Americans lose their coverage," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Or whether we'll seize this opportunity — one we might not have again for generations — and finally pass health insurance reform this year, in 2009."
Republicans were not swayed.
"The president and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. "Why? Because the more Americans know about it, the more they oppose it. Something this important needs to be done right, rather than done quickly."