WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said Saturday the health care meeting he's holding next week with Democratic and Republican lawmakers will test their ability to solve not just this problem, but other problems, too.
Republicans said lawmakers must scrap current proposals and start over, lest the meeting turn into a charade.
"After debating this issue exhaustively for a year, let's move forward together," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Next week is our chance to finally reform our health insurance system so it works for families and small businesses. It's our chance to finally give Americans the peace of mind of knowing that they'll be able to have affordable coverage when they need it most."
A starting point for talks at Thursday's meeting at Blair House, across the street from the White House, is a yet-to-be-seen version of two health care bills passed separately by the Democratic-controlled House and Senate.
Speaking for Republicans in their weekly address, Michigan Rep. Dave Camp said people want Obama and the Democrats to "scrap their misguided plan of a government takeover of health care" and start over by taking a step-by-step approach.
"For those families and small businesses looking for a sign that Washington is ready to wake up and find common sense on this issue, next week's White House health care summit may not be it," said Camp, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, one of several congressional panels that helped draft the House version of the overhaul bill.
He charged that the newest bill was being written in secret and said that "if the starting point for this summit is more of the same backroom deals and partisan bills, then this meeting will likely be a charade."
Obama said the session, to be televised by C-SPAN, will test whether the executive and legislative branches of government can work together. He said people are fed up with a partisan sourness that is causing gridlock.
"What's being tested here is not just our ability to solve this one problem, but our ability to solve any problem," Obama said.