Obama to give major health speech

Correspondents say Mr Obama will use the speech to regain the initiative on healthcare, after a summer dominated by opponents.

Passing a healthcare reform bill is Mr Obama's top policy priority for 2009.

The House of Representatives looks set to pass a bill, but US senators have yet to agree on the details of reform.

Town hall meetings

Although Mr Obama has given a number of speeches on healthcare reform at town hall meetings throughout the US, his address to Congress will be his most high-profile intervention in the healthcare debate since he entered the White House.

Mr Obama made a strategic decision to let lawmakers take the lead on drafting a healthcare bill, and urged each house of congress to pass a bill before the beginning of August. But negotiations in the Senate stalled, and although Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives struck a deal with moderate Democrats, paving the way for passage of a bill, neither chamber managed to come up with a bill before the beginning of the August recess.

During the recess, the airwaves were dominated by angry scenes at healthcare town hall meetings, as opponents of the bill expressed their discontent with some of the proposals for reform.

Lawmakers are set to return to work on 8 September.

Some 46 million people in America currently do not have health insurance, and rising healthcare costs are a major contributing factor to America's spiralling budget deficit.

But there is disagreement about how to go about reforming the system.

The deal the Democrats in the House of Representatives reportedly reached would mandate all Americans to take out health insurance, with subsidies for the less well-off paid for by a tax on families earning more than $350,000 a year.

The House bill would also offer Americans who do not get coverage through their employer the chance to join a publicly-run scheme.

But in the Senate negotiations have stalled, with moderate senators expressing opposition to both the tax and the public plan proposed by the House.

Both chambers need to agree on a bill before it can become law.


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