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Health care issues: Hold off for a better economy?

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A look at key issues in the health care debate:

THE ISSUE: Why can’t President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats wait until after the recession is over to try to reform health care?

THE POLITICS: The recession is likely to take years to abate, but the 2010 midterm elections aren’t far off. Obama and the Democrats who control Congress campaigned last year on a promise to extend health insurance to all and to curb the cost of care. By the next Election Day, the party in control wants a hefty list of accomplishments to point to, topped by having passed the most sweeping social change in a generation. There is no pocketbook issue more compelling than health care reform. It is intensely personal because it affects the health and financial welfare of voters and their families. Democrats are counting on the passage of health care overhaul to fuel optimism and persuade voters to keep them in power. Republicans are working hard to raise doubts about the emerging legislation — how it might add to an already huge federal budget deficit, increase insurance premiums or increase taxes.

WHAT IT MEANS: Obama’s name won’t be on the ballot next year, but his credibility as an effective leader rests substantially on whether he can deliver on his signature promise. Members of Congress, whose names will be on the ballot, will have to decide where their political fortunes lie in the debate.

_ Laurie Kellman

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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