Obama declares time to fix health care is now

By PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. - President Barack Obama went to the nation's heartland Thursday to challenge critics of his proposed health care overhaul, asking: "What's the alternative?"

Obama has run into opposition from fellow Democrats in Congress and the nation's largest doctors' association.

Dismissing criticism, Obama attempted to sell his proposals directly to Americans. He did not directly respond to the American Medical Association's president, who remains unconvinced of the wisdom of the White House's call for a public health plan. Instead, Obama broadly described his critics as naysayers.

"I know there are some who believe that reform is too expensive, but I can assure you that doing nothing will cost us far more in the coming years," Obama said. "Our deficits will be higher. Our premiums will go up. Our wages will be lower, our jobs will be fewer, and our businesses will suffer."

The president's warnings come as reservations have been expressed by health care providers, Congress - led by Obama's fellow Democrats - and the public. During the brief ride from the airport to a town hall-style meeting, Obama passed several hundred protesters. Many held signs such as "NObama" and "No to Socialism."

White House aides brushed off the protests and instead focused on the president's message of the day: Inaction on health care overhaul is too dangerous to put off and would cost money the country simply doesn't have.

"I will not welcome endless delay or a denial that reform needs to happen," the president said in a speech that contained no new policy proposals but instead repeated oft-repeated generalities.

Obama has set an August deadline for an overhaul that has vexed Washington for decades.