Obama offers concession on health law

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President Barack Obama has offered to bring forward the date by which US states can frame their own health care plans, in an apparent concession to critics of his historic reform law.

Obama's mammoth health reform legislation, passed after a monumental political effort last year, aimed to expand health coverage to most Americans, cut down on abuses by private insurance giants and cut ballooning costs.

But Republicans have branded the law, the most sweeping social legislation for decades, as a government power grab and are challenging it in the courts, and the bill continues to divide public opinion ahead of the 2012 election.

At a meeting with governors at the White House, Obama said he would let states opt out of his law in 2014 instead of 2017 -- if they could come up with plans to fulfill the same goals as his effort.

"If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does -- without increasing the deficit -- you can implement that plan," Obama told the governors.

"We'll work with you to do it. I've said before, I don't believe that any single party has a monopoly on good ideas. And I will go to bat for whatever works, no matter who or where it comes from."

Under Obama's plan states could make the decision to opt out of the federal health care reform requirements by 2017.

But three senators, Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, as well as Scott Brown of Massachusetts introduced a plan, which Obama backed, to bring forward that date to 2014.

The president warned however that his concession would not allow states and governors who opposed his law for political reasons, to simply roll it back.

"I am not open to re-fighting the battles of the last two years, or undoing the progress that we?ve made," Obama said.

Republican critics of the health care law are mounting multiple legal challenges, alleging the federal requirement for Americans to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.

Many observers believe that the fate of Obama's signature domestic achievement will eventually be decided by the US Supreme Court.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans emboldened by their mid-term election victory in November, have voted in the House of Representatives to repeal Obama's bill.

But they lack the votes in the Senate to overturn it, and even if they could build a majority against the law, Obama could veto any repeal legislation.

But Republican House Majority leader Eric Cantor said Monday that opposition to the law by state governors made his party's case that the legislation was unworkable.

"We are seeing how that act is troubling states in a real way as far as they are trying to figure out (their) fiscal situations," he said.

"The ObamaCare law is an impediment to job growth. It is something that seems to be an impediment to states now to get their fiscal house in order."

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