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Obama Takes Health Care Message to the West

— President Barack Obama will make his latest pitch to the public on health care reform at two town hall meetings in Montana and Colorado, seeking to overcome opposition to the $1 trillion overhaul plan.

The two meetings on Friday and Saturday come as poll numbers show concern about the U.S. budget deficit and Republicans contend that the health plan would be an expensive mistake, especially during a recession.

Even some health care supporters have faulted the president for relying too heavily on others to make his case, and faulted the White House for letting health care opponents dominate the discussion. Some past town hall meetings have turned into yelling matches among protesters.

"It's OK if the fringes believe certain things, but you don't want their ideas creeping into the mainstream," said Darrell West of the Brookings Institution in Washington, Reuters reported.

But the administration contends that Mr. Obama's efforts are paying off and winning converts and blasts opponents for using scare tactics, such as saying reform would create "death panels" to decide whether the elderly would receive treatment, according to Reuters.

"I do believe that the president feels strongly that when he makes his case, it helps the case for overall health care reform," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Congress plans to return Sept. 8 from a month-long recess to resume work on health care, tackling three overhaul bills -- two in the Senate and one in the House -- that seek to make major changes to insurance industry rules, expand coverage to an estimated 46 million uninsured, and hold down costs.

Senate Finance Committee leaders say they will continue to work during the August break, but no formal action will be taken until September.

Committee Democratic Chairman Max Baucus and senior Republican Charles Grassley have said a group of six committee leaders is near agreement on a bipartisan bill, reported Reuters. The way to pay for the nearly $1 trillion 10-year plan is one of the final outstanding issues.

House leaders, meanwhile, have said they want to bring their health overhaul bill to a vote in September.

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