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Obama Goes Hunting for Health Votes in Ohio

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio -- With a fresh sense of urgency, President Obama sought to reassure seniors Monday about health care legislation approaching a final vote in Congress, pledging it would make preventive care cost-free and close a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage. 

"This proposal adds almost a decade of solvency to Medicare," Obama said in a visit to a senior center. 

Obama's trip to Ohio marked his third out-of-town foray as he tries to build support for long-stalled legislation to remake the health care system. Administration officials have predicted the legislation will clear the House by the end of the week, but Democratic leaders had not yet released the measure as the president's helicopter lifted off from the White House grounds. 

Even so, the House Budget Committee arranged a mid-afternoon meeting to begin a series of events expected to culminate in a House vote within days. 

Obama asked Congress more than a year ago to approve legislation that extends health coverage to tens of millions who lack it, curb industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, and begin to slow the growth of health care nationally. 

Legislation seemed to be on the cusp of passage in January, after both houses approved bills and lawmakers began working out a final compromise. But those efforts were sidetracked when Republicans won a special election in Massachusetts.

"I know we've got some seniors with us today," said the president, his jacket off and shirt sleeves rolled up. "So let me just tell you directly: this proposal adds almost a decade of solvency to Medicare." 

He said it also would close a gap in prescription drug coverage know as a doughnut hole. "This proposal will over time help reduce the costs of Medicare that you pay every month. And this proposal would make preventive care free so you don't have to pay out-of-pocket for tests that keep you healthy." 

Obama did not discuss details, but officials have said the gap in prescription drug coverage would close over a decade. 

Protesters arrived hours early, lining several blocks leading to the senior center. They stood in a light drizzle, waved to passing vehicles and held signs including "Don't stick me with your Obamacare," "Start over," and one decorated with 12 skull and crossbones and the message, "Obama care, it's to die for."