WASHINGTON - PRESIDENT Barack Obama will ask for US$634 billion (S$972 billion) over 10 years in his 2010 budget to pay for his plans for wholesale healthcare reform designed to give all Americans affordable coverage.
An Obama administration official said that the massive healthcare fund would be financed by raising taxes on the highest earning Americans and by savings made in existing healthcare programmes.
The size of the figure was the latest sign of the new president's intent on healthcare reform, a fiercely polarizing political issue that has bedeviled Democratic presidents for decades.
It was not clear how much money Mr Obama would request for total healthcare spending in his 2010 budget.
In his last budget in 2009, former president George W. Bush allocated an estimated US$736 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, according to government figures. That allocation was spread across areas including care for low income and elderly patients and preventative medicine and scientific research.
On Tuesday, in his debut speech to a joint session of Congress, Mr Obama vowed to begin comprehensive reform of the troubled health care system this year and to begin a major initiative to find a cure for cancer 'in our time.'
'The cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and our conscience long enough,' he said.
'So let there be no doubt, health care reform cannot, it must not, wait and it will not wait another year,' he said. Healthcare reform is a partisan issue in US election campaigns and was the cause of several contentious exchanges between Mr Obama and his erstwhile Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton, who is now his secretary of state.
As there is no umbrella state health system, the current health structure in the United States is a patchwork of private insurance companies, often funded through employers, and government programmes for low income and elderly patients.
But an estimated 45 million Americans have no health insurance at all, and that number is expected to rise to 54 million by 2019 if changes aren't made to the system, according to the Congressional Budget Office.