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Obama asks clergy's help in pushing reform

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama urged religious leaders Wednesday to support healthcare reform, saying America has a moral obligation to provide care to all citizens.

"This debate over healthcare goes to the heart of who we are as a people," he told religious leaders in a conference call carried on the Web site faithforhealth.org. "Nobody in America should be denied basic healthcare because he or she lacks health insurance."

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He asked clergy to "spread the facts and speak the truth" to refute misinformation among reform opponents "bearing false witness" by saying, among other things, the government plans to set up "death panels" to decide whether elderly citizens receive necessary care.

Obama also noted no reform plans would force people to switch doctors or insurance, and none of the plans calls for a government takeover of healthcare, required federal funding for abortions or cuts to Medicare.

"These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation: that is, that we look out for one another; that is, I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper," the president said. "And in the wealthiest nation in the world right now we are neglecting to live up to that call."

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He said reform he envisions would forbid insurance companies to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, revoke coverage because a patient gets sick or place "arbitrary" caps on benefits.

Obama said the biggest contributor to the deficit is spending on Medicare and Medicaid, and billions now funneled to insurance companies could go toward care and discounts on drugs for seniors.

He took no questions.

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