President Obama enlists doctors in healthcare reform campaign

President Barack Obama speaks from the Rose Garden during an event with medical doctors at the White House today in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

President Barack Obama speaks from the Rose Garden during an event with medical doctors at the White House today in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Calling them the most credible experts on American healthcare, President Obama this morning called on doctors to help pass healthcare legislation that caps patients’ out-of-pocket expenses and reins in insurance costs.

Obama spoke to doctors from every state gathered in the Rose Garden of the White House to help the Democratic president kick off an important week in the healthcare effort on Capitol Hill, as they applauded his pledge to help them spend more time dealing with patients.

“Every one of you here today took an oath when you entered the medical profession,” Obama said, and “it was not an oath that you would spend a lot of time on the phone with insurance companies. You took an oath so you could heal people. The reforms we’re proposing will help you live up to that oath.”

As he tries to build momentum to pass his plan, the president spoke of the agreed-upon tenets of Democratic plans, such as capping patient costs, running an open marketplace for health plans and requiring that insurance companies cover the costs of preventive healthcare.

The president didn’t address the question of whether he will push for the creation of a public plan, a government-run alternative that people could choose if they didn’t like any of the private options, even though behind the scenes his administration is testing its political viability. The White House is talking to moderate lawmakers about whether they can include some version of a public option in the merger between House and Senate bills without dooming the final product.

Popular support becomes more important for the president and his allies every day. The Senate Finance Committee wrapped up work on its bill last week and, after evaluation by the Congressional Budget Office, the chamber will vote on a measure and begin the work of blending it with a measure that passes the House.

In an attempt to fuel the moment, Obama invoked the critical support he has from doctors and from the American Medical Assn., which has expressed qualified support for his reform agenda.

With doctors from every state seated before him this morning, Obama was mindful of the ticking clock.

“We have now been debating this issue of health insurance reform for months,” he said. “We’ve heard all the arguments on both sides of the aisle. We have listened to every charge and countercharge.”

“But when you cut through all the noise and all the distractions that are out there,” the president said, “some of the people who are most supportive of reform are the very medical professionals who know the healthcare system best — the doctors, the nurses of America.”

The president’s remarks were televised on cable television, as are most such addresses from the Rose Garden. But the White House is hoping to get the message conveyed in an even more important venue: the doctor’s office.

“Nobody has more credibility with the American people on this issue than you do,” Obama told the physicians this morning.

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