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Obama makes his case for health reform

At his news conference Wednesday night, the president addressed healthcare, the economy, and the arrest of black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

President Obama responds to questions during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday.

Ron Edmonds/AP

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It was Professor Obama who showed up in the East Room of the White House Wednesday night, offering lengthy answers to reporters – and the TV audience – on healthcare, the economy, and the arrest of black scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

President Obama, a onetime university instructor, did not break any new ground in his signature drive for health reform. Instead, he sought, through painstaking explanations, to convince Americans that the effort is essential to everyone, including those who already have insurance.

"This is not just about 47 million Americans who have no health insurance," Obama said in his opening statement. "Reform is about every American who has ever feared that they may lose their coverage."

Obama also raised the specter of healthcare costs that, if the reform effort fails, will continue to rise faster than the overall rate of inflation, absorbing a growing percentage of consumer paychecks and fueling the growth of the federal deficit. The status quo, he said, is unacceptable.

The president also expressed awareness of the public's growing fears, as reflected in polls showing that a majority of Americans now oppose Obama's handling of healthcare. One major area of concern is the cost of reform.

"The American people are understandably queasy about the huge deficits and debt that we're facing right now," he said.

In a plan that the administration expects would cost $1 trillion over 10 years, Obama says two-thirds of those costs will be covered by reallocating money that is being wasted in federal healthcare programs. The remaining one-third must not come from the middle class, he asserted.

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