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Obama agenda: One last big try

"More than a year after taking office, President Obama yesterday released his own health-care plan -- with a trillion-dollar cost, no public option and higher taxes on the wealthy," the New York Post writes. "Obama's advisers called the plan a 'starting point' for negotiations with Republicans at a health summit the president is hosting Thursday, although the GOP slammed him for pushing old ideas, liberals said it doesn't do enough, and conservative Democrats felt they were left hanging."

The Boston Globe's centerpiece is a photo of a pensive-looking Obama with the headline: "One last big try on health." Its lead: "President Obama launched a final drive for a sweeping health care overhaul yesterday, offering a proposal that the White House hopes will help unite squabbling Democrats and, if necessary, could be used to bypass Republicans altogether."

The New York Times on the details: "The bill, which the White House estimates would cost $950 billion over a decade, aims to fulfill Mr. Obama's goals of expanding coverage to millions of people who are uninsured, while taking steps to control soaring health care costs. It sticks largely to the version passed by the Senate in December, but offers some concessions to House leaders who have demanded more help for middle-class people. Mr. Obama's measure would, for example, eliminate a highly criticized special deal to help Nebraska pay for a proposed Medicaid expansion, and would instead provide more help for all states to pay for their new Medicaid enrollees. It would delay enactment of a controversial tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance plans and, in a nod to the concerns of older Americans, do away with the unpopular "doughnut hole" in the Medicare prescription drug program."

The Washington Post says the "decision -- to go big one last time, rather than small -- emerged quickly inside the White House after senior advisers to President Obama concluded privately that his goals for comprehensive changes to the health-care system could not be done piecemeal. And after initially reeling from the surprise election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate in Massachusetts, Obama's chief political strategists came to believe that voters would punish Democrats more severely in this year's elections for failing to try, they said."

"President Barack Obama offered House Democrats nearly $80 billion in sweeteners Monday to get them to sign on to the Senate's version of health care reform," Roll Call reports. "And while the concessions are significant, it's not clear yet whether they will be enough."

The Boston Globe's editorial page weighs in and notes, "For all the Republican rhetoric criticizing health reform as a government takeover of health care, the House and Senate bills really went out of their way to keep the free market in play." And it argues: "Obama's plan could benefit from one sensible Republican proposal - reform of medical malpractice to reduce nuisance suits and defensive medicine. And there are ways that Republicans could coalesce support around reforms that would preserve the free market and obviate the need for Obama's proposed review board. But so far, the chief Republican contribution to the debate has been to try to stop reform in its tracks to keep Obama from achieving universal insurance. On Thursday, Republicans can continue on that course or join with Obama in both limiting health cost increases and extending coverage to 31 million Americans."

Obama's Day: Obama and Joe Biden have lunch, then Obama meets with US Trade Rep. Ron Kirk, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary Gates, and then has dinner with business leaders at the White House.