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
"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.
Medical professionals backing reform are among those "who know the system the best," 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 almost $230 billion in Medicare payment cuts to doctors over the next decade, according to
the Los Angeles Times. 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.
The Senate Finance Committee, which is widely expected to clear health care reform legislation this week, has so far rejected a public health care
insurance option. Four other congressional committees - including three in the House of Representatives - have approved it.
Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, has said there is not enough support in the Senate to pass such a provision.