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Obama Presses For Healthcare Reform

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Washington–President Obama today launched the end game on healthcare reform legislation, saying he wants a vote on the bill in Congress by the end of the month.

At the same time, a healthcare analytical group this afternoon issued an investment note that raises the odds that a healthcare bill will be enacted this year “to slightly above 50%.”

The note, by analysts Ira Loss and Beth Mantz Steindecker of Washington Analysis said that, “Over the past few weeks, it appears that the market has moved up its odds on passage of healthcare reform, but only to a low probability.”

The analysts added that, “We think the prospects are higher…based on our reading of the political tea leaves, some vote counting and our gut instinct.”

The analysts acknowledged that the Democrats currently lack the votes in both the Senate and the House, but said, “We think they will be able to secure the necessary votes needed to enact healthcare reform.”

The analysts said the problem appears not to be in the Senate, but in the House where there are sub-groups of Democrats uneasy with passing healthcare reform.

“Yet, Democrats have so much invested in this that they will be damned if they do, damned if they don’t, come November,” Loss and Steindecker, said.

The way forward is likely to play out over the next four to eight weeks, the analysts said in the note to investors.

While the Democratic leadership is purportedly hoping to wrap up healthcare reform by March 18, when the President departs for Indonesia and Australia, the more likely target date is by March 29, when the week-long Easter recess begins, the analysts said.

They said the Democrats’ strategy involves the House passing the Senate’s healthcare bill from last December and the House and Senate using the reconciliation process to pass a sidecar bill “fixing that underlying legislation, as a way to appease House Democrats.”

In remarks at the White House today, President Obama said that “at stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem.”

He added that “the American people want to know if it’s still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead.”

Obama added that as long as he holds office, he intends to provide that leadership. “I don’t know how this plays politically, but I know it’s right,” he said. “And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.”

The president acted a day after sending a letter to the Republican congressional leadership saying he would incorporate several suggestions voiced at a Healthcare Summit last week into his final bill.

Officials of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers said in reaction to the president’s proposals that it is “pleased” that the latest plan would include initiatives to expand tax-favored health savings accounts and provide state grants for alternatives to resolving medical malpractice disputes in his revised proposal.

“But, we still have grave concerns regarding the President’s proposal to tax unearned income, including annuities,” NAIFA President Tom Currey said.

“The price for health reform should not come at the expense of responsible consumers,” Currey said. “It would be counterproductive to penalize consumers who plan for their retirement needs by taxing annuity income.”