A day after a key Senate Democrat unveiled an $856 billion plan to overhaul the nation's health care system, President Obama spoke to college students at the University of Maryland about the need for reform.
"When you're young, I know this isn't always an issue you have at the top of your mind," Obama told the cheering students. "You think you are invincible."
Although Obama did not expressly endorse the bill introduced by Max Baucus, D-Mt., he praised Baucus' leadership and said lawmakers are closer than ever to reaching an agreement.
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"It's been nearly a century since Teddy Roosevelt first called for health care reform," he said. "I may not be the first president to take up health reform, but I intend to be the last, with your help."
Noting that University of Maryland only recently began requiring all students to have coverage, Obama told an enthusiastic audience that he remembers what it is like to be young.
But, he said, an illness can leave uninsured young people buried in debt. "Think about adding on top of the debt you already have for college another $10,000, $20,000, $30,000 or even $50,000."
Baucus on Wednesday brought out the much-awaited Finance Committee version of an American health-system remake — a landmark 10-year measure that starts a rough ride through Congress without visible Republican backing.
The bill by would make major changes to the nation's $2.5 trillion health care system, including requiring most people to purchase insurance coverage or pay a fine and prohibiting insurance companies from charging more to people with more serious health problems.
The Baucus bill does not include the new government-run insurance plan — or option — that Obama has backed, though in other ways, including its overall cost and payment mechanisms, the bill tracks closely with the priorities Obama laid out in his speech to Congress last week.
Still,, it is not just Republicans who are likely to oppose it. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean salled the bill an "outrage" and a "giveaway" to insurance companies.
"This is the worst piece of health care legislation I have seen in 30 years," thundered Dean, a physician and former governor of Vermont.
The bill would be paid for with Medicare cuts and new fees on insurers, as well as a tax on the most expensive health insurance plans. It would impose fines on people for not having coverage, although the poor would be exempt from the fines.
Get more: MSNBC