WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama kicked off a crucial week in the health care reform debate Monday by castigating political opponents for spreading distortions about his plan.
The president made his remarks during a White House appearance with doctors from all 50 states. His latest public appeal came shortly before a key congressional committee is expected to vote on its version of health care reform legislation and set the stage for heated debates in the full House and Senate.
“At this point we’ve heard all the arguments on both sides of the aisle,” Obama said. He ripped opponents for pushing “crazy claims about death panels” and “misleading warnings” about an impending government takeover of the health care system.
Doctors wouldn’t support a reform agenda if they believed it would lead to government interference in the doctor-patient relationship, Obama argued.
“When you cut through all the noise and all the distractions that are out there, I think what’s most telling is that some of the people who are most supportive of reform are the very medical professionals who know the health care system best: the doctors and nurses of America,” he said.
The White House has made a concerted effort to win the support of doctors in the health care debate. Earlier this year, the powerful American Medical Association, the country’s largest physician organization, came out in support of passage of reform legislation.
The AMA was courted in part through a promise to reverse more than $200 billion in Medicare payment cuts to doctors over the next decade. But the organization has reflected deep divisions in the medical profession by joining conservatives in refusing to back Obama’s call for a government-funded public health insurance option. Many doctors consider it a threat to consumer choice and the current private insurance-based system.