LAS VEGAS — Residents of this struggling tourist mecca vented their frustrations about health care to President Obama at a town hall meeting Friday, giving the president a fresh opportunity to make an impassioned plea for the overhaul effort now stalled in Congress.

Obama appeared with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who faces a tough re-election battle this year. In a city that has felt the economic decline more deeply than many other places, Obama argued that he and Reid are focused on the economy, jobs and housing.

But the questioners he called on repeatedly brought Obama back to the subject of health care – a topic he seemed eager to discuss just days before he hosts a gathering of Republican and Democratic leaders, a televised summit aimed at restarting debate on health care.

One woman asked whether the overhaul would benefit volunteer health clinics that have popped up across Nevada to provide free care for residents who have no insurance. A dentist asked about how it would affect coverage for dental care. A disabled flight attendant described the despair that has come with having no insurance.

Obama sounded once again like the health-care fighter his administration rolled out last summer in town hall meetings and speeches across the country. He challenged Republicans to come to the summit Thursday with a plan to fix the health-care system – or get out of the way.

”So show me what you’ve got,” he said, addressing the GOP directly. ”But don’t let the American people go another year, another 10 years, another 20 years without health insurance reform in this country.”

The effort to pass comprehensive health-care legislation screeched to a halt last month when Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race cost Democrats their filibuster-proof majority.

The White House plans to post its preferred version of a health-care overhaul online by early next week. In his comments at the town hall, Obama said he and Reid and others are ”going to move forward the Democratic proposal. We hope the Republicans have one, too.”

Republicans have been highly critical of the upcoming summit, deriding it as political theater and declining to say whether they will attend.

Meanwhile, a Reid spokesman Friday opened the door to the use of the fast-track budget procedure known as ”reconciliation” to revive the so-called public option, a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private plans. Reconciliation bills cannot be filibustered in the Senate – meaning they need just 51 votes to pass – but rules limit their contents to provisions that affect the federal budget. A public option was included in the House version of the health bill but not in the legislation the Senate passed before Brown’s election.

”If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care, Sen. Reid will work with the White House, the House, and members of his caucus in an effort to craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles and secure enough votes,” spokesman Rodell Mollineau said in a statement.


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