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What Obama Said

WASHINGTON - The health care debate in Congress has been plagued for months by misinformation and bickering by Democrats and Republicans trying to define how the changes being proposed would affect hospitals, doctors and patients.

President Obama tried to cut through what he called "this blizzard of charges and counter-charges" in an address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

Here's a closer look at some of his statements in the context of what's happening on Capitol Hill:

The statement: "Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have."

The context: A Gallup Poll report this month showed that 87% of people with private insurance rate the quality of their care as "good" or "excellent." Obama needs to convince those people that the health care system needs change and ease fears they could lose their coverage.

Although it is true that the bills in the House and Senate do not directly force people to change their current coverage, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts some employers may change coverage options, which means some employees would indirectly be forced out of their current plans.

The statement: A government-run insurance plan would "keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better."

The context: Democrats, including Obama, argue that a public option would provide competition. Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, say a taxpayer-backed insurance plan would put private companies out of business.

Though Obama said Wednesday that he supports the idea, he was careful not to make it an ultimatum. The White House knows it may not get the votes to create a public insurance plan, and that's why Obama has never said he'd veto legislation that didn't include it.

Support has been waning for the public option in recent weeks. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., reinforced the growing sense that even some Democrats are pulling back from the idea when, hours before Obama's speech, he said it "cannot pass the Senate."

The statement: "There are those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false."

The context: Some Republicans, including Rep. Steve King of Iowa, have charged that Obama's plan would offer insurance to millions of illegal immigrants. The issue was raised repeatedly during town-hall-style meetings on health care during the August recess. But current federal law bars illegal immigrants from getting government-funded health care, and versions of the bill pending in the House and Senate also prohibit it.

The statement: "The only thing this plan would eliminate (in Medicare) is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies."

The context: Top on the list for cuts is the Medicare Advantage program, which allows seniors to purchase Medicare coverage through a private insurance company. Critics, including Obama, have said the program has been able to offer lower premiums than regular Medicare because it is subsidized by taxpayers at a rate 14% higher per patient. The Congressional Budget Office says eliminating the disparity would save $150 billion over 10 years.

The statement: "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits - either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize."

The context: This isn't the first time Congress has considered a "trigger" to protect against cost increases. When Congress passed a plan to subsidize the cost of prescription drugs in 2003 known as Medicare Part D, lawmakers included a trigger to protect against drug companies submitting huge bills to the government. If the bills got too large, a government plan would be offered to promote competition. Despite big costs, the trigger was never pulled.

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