Sunday, June 07, 2009

Obama to Forge a Greater Role on Health Care -

WASHINGTON — After months of insisting he would leave the details to Congress, President Obama has concluded that he must exert greater control over the health care debate and is preparing an intense push for legislation that will include speeches, town-hall-style meetings and much deeper engagement with lawmakers, senior White House officials say.

Mindful of the failures of former President Bill Clinton, whose intricate proposal for universal care collapsed on Capitol Hill 15 years ago, Mr. Obama until now had charted a different course, setting forth broad principles and concentrating on bringing disparate factions — doctors, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, labor unions — to the negotiating table.

But Mr. Obama has grown concerned that he is losing the debate over certain policy prescriptions he favors, like a government-run insurance plan to compete with the private sector, said one Democrat familiar with his thinking. With Congress beginning a burst of work on the measure, top advisers say, the president is determined to make certain the final bill bears his stamp.

“Ultimately, as happened with the recovery act, it will become President Obama’s plan,” the White House budget director, Peter R. Orszag, said in an interview. “I think you will see that evolution occurring over the next few weeks. We will be weighing in more definitively, and you will see him out there.”

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